Akimbo Makes B2B Web Video-on-Demand Play

Internet video firm Akimbo, which initially positioned itself as a content aggregator and even struck a deal with RCA to manufacture a set-top box to deliver content from the Internet to TV sets, is now introducing a turnkey service aimed at content companies that want to deliver video-on-demand through their own Web sites.

Akimbo is billing its new B2B product -- which includes a consumer program guide, download manager, content-publishing system and advertising- and program-rights-management capabilities -- as a “complete Internet VOD solution,” and it signed up male-focused online network MavTV as its first customer.

Akimbo president and CEO Thomas Frank -- who joined the company last March and previously served as chief operating officer of RealNetworks and as a television-production and advertising executive -- said the new B2B solution will leverage the existing technical infrastructure Akimbo developed when it was pursuing its own VOD service, while giving content companies a great deal of flexibility in how they present video on their Web sites.

In doing so, it will compete with Internet-video solutions from firms like Brightcove and, in part, thePlatform.

“Our pricing structure is low, and it’s not dependent on any one business model succeeding,” Frank said. “You can play it your way.”

He added that one of the first things he did upon becoming Akimbo CEO was to scrap the set-top-box plan, as having a stand-alone set-top didn’t make sense. Neither did being a media aggregator -- a point seconded by Akimbo COO Neil Goldberg, a former Warner Bros. acquisitions executive who has also worked for VOD firms Diva Systems and TVN Entertainment.

“We’ve learned what content providers want, which is control,” Goldberg said.

The Akimbo VOD system, which uses Microsoft Windows-based digital-rights management, can handle a variety of business models for Internet-delivered video, Frank said, including ad-supported, transactional, subscription, download-to-own and download-to-burn. It includes a customizable user interface, as well as a fully integrated back-end management system to handle all transactions, billing and advertising.

Akimbo, which was founded in 2003, has roughly 40 employees, with more than one-half devoted to engineering and research and development.

To support the development of the new VOD solution, the San Mateo, Calif.-based firm secured just under $4 million in new financing from venture firms and previous investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers and Zone Ventures.

“It’s a huge vote of confidence,” Frank said.