Start-ups vie to bring you easy to use guides to TV shows and films on the Web.
There's no shortage of stuff to watch online these days -- TV shows, movies, music videos, and, of course, scads of amateur video clips. Because there are so many choices, it's often tough to find the content you want by just using Google or YouTube. And though popular sites such as Hulu and Fancast work by streaming a limited collection of TV shows, there's so much more floating around on the Web. So, just as TV Guide in its day was the go-to resource for shows, video navigation websites are competing to serve a new generation of couch potatoes. Here is how four leaders stack up.
Launched last November, Clicker catalogs programming available online, including 600,000 full-length TV episodes and 50,000 movies available through free and paid sources. The site, founded by former Ask.com CEO Jim Lanzone, organizes content from 2,000 Web sources. Users search by categories (there are more than 1,400), show titles, or keywords. Results are listed chronologically by episode and organized by season. Each page contains links to sites where a show is available to watch. Clickeris in talks with broadband and mobile providers to become their onscreen guide for Web-enabled TVs.
MONTHLY UNIQUE VISITORS: one million (in the first month of launch)
VideoSurf organizes content based on visual recognition of faces and images in videos, rather than using text-based data such as meta tags. The technology returns a string of snapshots showing frames within a video, much like fast-forwarding through a DVD. Each query generates a visual list of people or characters; from there, a user navigates to videos in which the subject of the query appears. The technology filters out subpar or incomplete videos. VideoSurf trolls content from more than 10,000 sources and has indexed more than 480,000 TV episodes and 25,000 movies. VideoSurf gets revenue from sponsored videos.
MONTHLY UNIQUE VISITORS: 1.5 million
OVGuide debuted in 2006 and was among the first sites to sort the growing pool of YouTube and other online video content. OVGuide's search engine indexes videos based on popularity. The results are further vetted by a quality-control staff that reviews and ranks more than 6,000 video sites for their technical quality. Users can also rate and comment on those sites and the more than 100 million entertainment videos available through OVGuide. There is also a mobile version of the site. Cable channels and broadcast networks pay OVGuide to stream their content.
MONTHLY UNIQUE VISITORS: 15 million
This site offers about 10,000 Web video shorts, based on their popularity on the Web as well as on staff recommendations. The site is organized around playlists -- Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, for example -- and is heavily skewed toward humor. Launched about a year ago, TV1 has a video blogs component on which users can create playlists of their favorite videos. They can then post links to their video blog on their Facebook or Twitter page. The most popular TV1 video blog to date is Bollywood Banter, a roundup of the best of Bollywood film, video, and music. This site is supported so far through Google Ads.
MONTHLY UNIQUE VISITORS: 30,000
THE LINE: As one of the first companies to offer video indexing, OVGuide has the early lead. But as Clicker and VideoSurf come out with search technologies that are more refined, they could pull ahead. Clicker's sleek interface and well-organized results could give it the edge to emerge as the winner down the stretch.