Before YouTube became a worldwide smash hit — not to mention a money-hemorrhaging beast — Ian Blaine had an idea: Project Manute.

Blaine is co-founder and CEO of thePlatform, now a Comcast subsidiary that provides Internet video-publishing tools to MSOs and content providers. He recalls that around 2003 he was kicking around the notion of a site that would let anyone self-publish videos on the Web.

The code name was a reference to Manute Bol, the 7-foot-7 Sudanese-born basketball player who played in the NBA in the 1980s and ’90s. “He had this incredible wingspan,” Blaine explains.

But then, “YouTube happened, and we said, ‘We don’t need to go build YouTube,’” Blaine says.

Did he have an “ARGH!” moment when Google snapped up YouTube for $1.65 billion in October 2006? Possibly. Comcast reportedly paid between $80 million and $100 million for thePlatform in June 2006.

Today, Blaine maintains that such a consumer-facing service would have diverged from thePlatform’s business-to-business focus.

And, ultimately, Google’s move ignited the entire Internet video space, he says: “It validated online video in the way that nothing else has.”

Blaine is in New York this week for thePlatform’s customer summit, where the company is unveiling MPX, touted as a “radically re-engineered” version of its core video-publishing system (see Comcast’s ThePlatform Overhauls Video System With ‘MPX’).