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Woomi Begins Worldwide Rollout at CES 2011

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LAS VEGAS—With plans for Google TV on hold in Europe, UK-based Miniweb is poised to secure both headlines and business with its cloud-based services platform Woomi.

Instead of giving consumers open browser-based access to the internet a la Google TV or a limited menu of content such as Netflix or YouTube, Woomi offers a differentiated position by putting the publishers in control.

"We are a marketplace in between content providers and the device world," explains Miniweb's CEO Jerome de Vitry. "We are not streaming video or acquiring rights but act as an agent or retailer enabling our content partners to keep their brand and be viewed on as many TVs as possible."

Its flagship client is Samsung (announced last September) and this month the service goes live across all Samsung smart TVs and Blu-ray players (with a tablet app to follow), beginning in the UK then rolling out to European territories and the U.S. by the end of the year.

Further deals have been signed. Echostar Europe will be launching a new set-top box (STB) in Q1 with Woomi as its main interface for video discovery.

It also has a global deal with Vestel, a Turkish white-label TV manufacturer, and it has signed the largest STB manufacturer in China (DTM) for similar global coverage.

More suppliers, including LG, are being lined up. "We believe that by mid-2011 we will be in a position to address suppliers representing more than half of the TV market," says de Vitry. "No one but us is acting as a marketplace in between the content world, which is very fragmented and the device world, which is equally fragmented."

Launching the Samsung connected TV platform users will see a Woomi icon appear on the home page giving access to content from partners including Chellozone, Playboy, OpenFilm, Blinkx, Videojug, Preview Networks, EZTakes, and Renderyard.

It is deliberately targeting content owners who can't afford to develop apps to the scale they would like to across multiple platforms. Content owners would provide Miniweb with appropriate MRSS feed and metadata in order for their content to appear in Woomi. And they can customize the look and feel of the UI.

De Vitry says Woomi is positioned to offer something that no other company offers for three stakeholders—the end users, the device manufacturers, and content providers.

"For the end user we offer, within a single app, a vast range of content from various providers. They have a single payment mechanism with one registered credit card instead of registering with every single content provider.

"Device makers increasingly want to differentiate their products with access to online content. To date with relatively few content partners such as Netflix that's been a manageable process. However, there are thousands of other video providers who want to get on board and that creates an insurmountable integration challenge for device makers already operating on thin margins. What Woomi does is bring all of these content providers together and then distribute them in an easily navigable space.

"For content providers we recognize that all connected TV platforms are not compatible. It's a painful experience in terms of development and cost for them to be on all the devices around the world. Unlike Google, which is trying to bring the entire web in an unorganized way to the TV screen including all the illegal content which is such a huge threat for the content world, our approach is to allow legal content to be easily accessible by the end user.

"We believe our approach makes sense because it opens the door for many content providers to monetize their content. We believe we are only ones doing that.

Woomi's business model is simple: It takes a commission from all transactions on the platform whether from end user payment or ad revenues. Beginning in March, it will serve ads for content owners who prefer to monetize that route using the ad servers of WPP subsidiary 24/7 Real Media.

A sneak preview of the site is being shown off the exhibit floor at CES at the Hilton suite 2812.

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