A Whole New Lexicon: David Caruso Launches Online Video Company
As a small example of what Lexicon is capable of, Lahr created for Microsoft (and demonstrated for Streamng Media) what he calls a real-time, software-only "YouTube Slingbox" that allows a user to access YouTube video on nearly any mobile phone or device regardless of whether it supports Flash. The solution allows for instant access of any video on demand or live feed from any video source on the internet and rebroadcasts via a personalized channel. "The result is the first ever streaming social experience allowing a group of friends to all tune into a single live internet broadcast, device and OS-independent, and sling video from any source into the live feed allowing everyone turned in to view and experience the same video at the exact same time together," says Lahr.
The ability to watch select YouTube clips is one of the iPhone’s most appealing features, as YouTube’s standard Flash format is supported only on devices that have Flash, which must be licensed from Adobe. "No other solution can convert YouTube videos in real time so there is instant gratification," Lahr says. "Lexicon's transcoding solution empowers the consumer by breaking down the corporate walls created by a format war which only serves to cause consumers pain. At the moment nearly 93% of the cell phones in the world do not support Flash, while the iPhone itself does not support Windows Media. For phones that support streaming video, the Lexicon solution would enable Flash streaming on any phone and, amazingly, Windows Media streaming to the iPhone."
Lexicon also promises to make content easier to find. Caruso emphasizes the need to both globalize and simplify access to content. "If I’m a Seinfeld fan, and I’m in Singapore, I just want to be able to watch the show," he says. "I don’t want to think about different devices and connections. We want to create a solution that takes everything you need and delivers it to you."
The Last Word
So what’s the endgame for Lexicon? Lahr comes back to Caruso’s emphasis on interactivity, but takes it one step further. "Media is not only about video, it’s about immersion," he says, pointing to Second Life as a step in the direction he and the company are headed. He also says that, despite the degree of choice and randomization offered by the internet, truly successful media depends on people sharing the experiences. "You can’t lose the immediacy," he says, referring to the communal aspect of watching an entertainment event like the final episode of The Sopranos, "but you have to increase the ‘access anytime, anywhere’ feeling. How can you stick a foot in both worlds?"
Lahr and Lexicon Digital Communications claim to have the answer. They began slowly unveiling the company publicly at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, through interviews with CNET, G4 TV, and others, with Caruso and Lahr as the public faces and Nein, the self-described "mule" of the group, doing much of the legwork. They’ve also begun assembling an advisory board that includes Robert Raciti, senior VP of the media, communications, and entertainment division of GE Capital, who says that Lexicon can deliver "highly interactive niche content to individuals without the pain of searching and trying to find it." He sees the pairing of Lahr and Caruso as a way to leverage an established brand to advance what he calls a "phenomenal technology."
Which brings us back to where we started. Does Lexicon Digital Communications have all of the elements—technology, content, and business model—necessary to succeed where so many others have failed? "Sooner or later we’ll have to stand by our product," Caruso says, although he won’t say when that product will come to market. "We’ll have to say what we have, and what it costs. And then we’ll have to deliver."