More Scandinavian music news for today following our earlier news that Rdio is officially launching in the Nordics. Soundrop, the Norwegian social music platform made popular through their Spotify app, has brought its "listening rooms" to be embedded on Facebook.
It's a big deal for the company - they're now leveraging multiple sources for content while serving up simultaneous playback, making them less dependent on one licensing provider. Rather than Spotify serving the content, the music on Facebook is handled by VEVO and YouTube. The embedded rooms provide the same simultaneous voting, chatting, and playback experience as in the Spotify app.
There is no doubt about it, the war for online music streaming space is on and its about to get nasty. Prior to today, the competing companies, Spotify, Rdio, WiMP were only getting ready for battle. Counting troops, building war machines and marking territory.
Today, Rdio announced that they have launched free web music streaming in 15 countries, including pretty much every country in the ArcticStartup region with the exception of Latvia, Lithuania and Iceland. Now this is not a big news per say, as we have already covered the fact that they have silently launched first in Denmark and then in other Nordic countries.
Last fall when HBO announced they were coming to the Nordics with a streaming service, the world was clearly jealous. We became the first region to get access to real on-demand content from HBO without being tied to a cable subscription package, providing a convenient way to access new and old HBO TV shows, movies, and documentaries. But after a shaky launch this December, is anyone really excited about it anymore?
For a little bit of a backstory, HBO's August launch announcement was made within a day after Netfix's announcement they were going after the Nordics. There HBO claimed they would would be be live in mid October - clearly before Netflix's launch date. When mid-October came around it became clear the launch was delayed, which was somewhat expected, and the final product in mid-December still seemed to be a rush job.
Spotify has gotten rid of purchased download links, but it doesn't seem to matter one way or another. Spotify's revenue is doing just fine from paid subscriptions and ads to its free service. At a press event in early December, Spotify has released some statistics on its streaming service. Spotify counts over 20 million users as "regular users" and has over 5 million paying customers.
Evolver.fm "did the math" and estimates that Spotify would be churning in an annual revenue of $621 million if it grew no further this year. With Spotify's exponential growth (as shown by doubling its user base last year) they predict that Spotify will hit above the $1 Billion revenue mark for 2013.
Silicon Valley isn't the only place where we see huge numbers thrown around. In Russia, the online video service ivi.ru recently closed a $40 million funding round led by Baring Vostok, a private equity firm. Other investors inculde ru-NET Ltd., Tiger Global, Prof-Media, and Frontier Ventures.
The site is bringing movie and TV streaming to Russia, much like Netflix has done in the U.S. and UK. This news is interesting to put in to context with Netflix and HBO's plans to bring a streaming service to the Nordics by the end of this year, which is a safer bet, but much smaller market by comparison.
HBO has announced it is launching an on-demand streaming service in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. A launch date has been set in mid-October, and will offer the subscription service for less than €10 a month. A more "transactional" video on demand service will also be offered, if you would rather just gram an episode or movie every now and then. The service will be found at hbonordic.com.
The content provided will include all the new HBO TV shows that many over here have probably "borrowed" off the internet, such as Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, True Blood. HBO classics like Sex and the City, The Sopranos, and The Wire will also be offered.
While the live video streaming service may first come across as a neat way to share experiences live with your friends, Bambuser has become a serious tool used by activists to document and stream on-the-ground realities from nearly any phone with a internet connection. The service has played a large role in telling the world what has been happening in Syria during skirmishes and the bombing of Homs, as well as other areas where it has been difficult and dangerous for foreign journalists to get on site.
Perhaps the best proof that Bambuser has become a powerful tool has been governments' response to their service. During the uprisings Bambuser has been blocked in Egypt and Syria, and recently the service was also hit by a DDOS attack from a known botnet. The company says the attack "was apparently aimed mainly at Russian citizen journalist users."
Last weekend's #Occupy protests saw an outpouring of protesters in the streets of cities all over the world. The anger against banks is accessible to anyone affected by the financial crisis, but is now also easily accessible to anyone able to catch a live stream from a protester's smartphone.
The Swedish mobile live streaming service, Bambuser, has seen a large swing in popularity in part due to the Arab Spring and #Occupy protests. This mobile shift feels like a natural progression as the internet has trended towards making news more instant and unfiltered.
As the region's reigning consumer web champion, there can never be enough stories about Spotify. And since today they've released a verison for Android and some new user & track figures, it's a good time as any to wonder what the future might hold for them. Especially in light of Apple's recent acquisition of US based La La Media. Caught on tape at Le Web, Spotify "Consigliere" Shakil Khan announced that they now have 7 million users in 6 countries choosing from 6.5 million tracks and listening for an average of 80-90 minutes per user.
When asked the million billion dollar question about when the service will launch in the US, Khan reiterated the 1Q10 time frame that has been given before. Interestingly, he also said that one of the main delays has been setting up a corporate infrastructure in the US including "business licences and visas," as well as operations and ad sales teams in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. Spotify has used this type of careful building since the beginning, and it is a credit to they way that they think about user experience, considering problems that would result from not being fully prepared as a degradation to the end service. However, with attitudes towards the non-ownership model changing rapidly, there will be an element of first-mover advantage to whomever can launch an insanely great streaming service in the US, and even more so if that first-mover happens to be called Apple. Will Spotify be dead-on-arrival in the US if Apple launches an iTunes streaming service before they're ready?
I was recently given a demo of 23 Video, a Danish online service offering a plug and play web-tv platform to set up ones own web-tv channel.
The first thought that crossed my mind during the demo was the feeling of sligth anxiety that occurs when checking out the roaming costs on the phone bill. If not chockingly high, they're usually more than expected. Even though you had checked out the costs in beforehand and were being sensible using your phone abroad.
How come? Because it's the exact same feeling of uncertainty and confusion one often faces when dealing with streaming costs. It already starts with the business offer letter, usually three pages long with no mention of the actual final cost. And that after a meeting with a sales person who's supposed to know your needs and demands by then. Need a video player, too? Call some more people.
23 Video is determined to kill that mumbo jumbo and all talk about difficulties surrounding online streaming and setting up ones own web-tv channel.
Floobs, a Finnish video streaming service, has shifted its focus to niche audiences by starting to work with local community sports associations. The service covered many sports already from the get-go, but now they have made a conscious choice to put all their weight behind the local-community-sports strategy.
The guys behind the service, Kai Lemmetty and Joonas Pekkanen, had played around with the idea already for a while when trying to figure out how the beat the video streaming giants like Qik, Kyte.tv and Flixwagon in their own game. Now the duo has decided to go with something very Finnish: Sports!
Finland is notoriously sports-crazy: Sports has traditionally been the primary way (and many times the only way) to build success stories in the international arena. A tradition that dates back to the post-war years. Traditional or not, what a better way to beat the US video streaming giants than going where they can't reach. Similarly by working with the amateur associations they can tap into a market that is not interesting enough for the national TV stations. Floobs has already signed many contracts with local sports associations. They have signed up football and floorball association, and planning to expand to table tennis- , skating- and horse riding associations.
The community organizers and local associations are also happy since they now have a forum for those events and games that are too small for the traditional media. They can also take the videos with them to Facebook and to MySpace with a Floobs widget.
A great way to turn what was initially a disadvantage (not located in the eye of the storm in Silicon Valley) to an advantage (going local in your own market).
When I first heard about the service I was sure it would be 100% illegal in Finland. I've learned that the opposite is true. It is true because in theory each user has up to four terabytes of memory (whether they decide to pay for all of that is another thing), which means that the programs will be recorded separately to each user. Therefore assuming one has paid her TV license she is entitled to watch any TV show apart from the paid content. We have also heard that next year TVkaista will add even more channels to its current offering.
The founders build the first version by themselves and now they outsource some redevelopment work to a Finnish PHP house Brain Alliance. The new TVkaista is build on Zend framework. The recording technology and the back end will stay the same. The look and feel and the all new player will be build by WWW². The first updated version will have a new layout as well as whole new front end. New Amazon.com-like recommendation features are coming, but rather iteratively along the road instead of all at once: We should see a new feature coming out every month or so. New features will include 1) seeing what your friends have been watching (via social network like profiles), 2) a Watching List where you can choose what you want to watch from the past programs up to two weeks, 3) Favorites which gives you an easy way to follow a weekly series and finally 4) Saved Programs which enables you to save up to 10 programs to the memory which can be watched beyond the two week limit that you have in your watching list.
TVkaista was able to buy the extensive redesign, since unlike many other startups they are making money from the get-go instead of just burning it. TVkaista has already several thousand users and based on the current pricing, already 1000 users will add up to 120,000 euro a year -a hefty sum for a two year old startup with only a few employees. Since they are already making profit, they would not necessarily need third party investors, but they still have a few Finnish ones what we have heard.
TVkaista was jointly found by Pasi Lahtinen and Fredrik Husberg. Fredrik is also currently TVkaista's CEO. In the past the duo worked in telecommunications industry and thus the idea of TVkaista is a natural next step for them in filling a clear void in the market. TVKaista was set up in 2006 and the first commercial version was launched in the beginning of 2008. One of the major commercial implication is how the platform was build: The platform back end enables a quick set up and replication of the concept, which is ideal for a quick expansion to other countries once the service is fully up and running in one country.
Recently TVkaista opened up the service to iPhone, thus making it possible to watch the programs via wireless WLAN networks and 3G. Along with the easy to use service in a desktop browser, this is another reason why we expect the service to spread like wild fire in the Nordics just like TiVo did in the US market.
We are happy to be able to let our readers try the TVkaista service free of charge for two weeks. To get that, you need to go here. Then type 'arcticstartup' to the field that says 'maksukoodi' and you are set for two whole weeks. Enjoy!
The beta version of new TVkaista will be online in 7 days and new TVkaista should go public sometime in December 2008.