The sun was still setting when The Observer rounded the corner under The High Line for IAC’s Internet Week closing party, co-hosted by Aereo, a provocative new startup that will allow users to view broadcast content on their computers, smartphones and tablets. Off the drab West Side Highway, the Frank Gehry-designed building shimmered like a landing dock for a space ship–as if the top could twist off and whir its way into the atmosphere. Will Arnett and Wilmer Valderrama walked the red carpet. Dolled-up in pale pink, Allison Williams (the Miranda to Lena Dunham’s Carrie) took Barry Diller’s elbow as she navigated the crowd.
As the origin myth has it, Mr. Diller’s transformation from a Hollywood mogul to Internet soothsayer for this new digital era started with an Apple PowerBook. “No question that his relationship with his little screen, which is irritating to everybody in the room, has altered his life,” his closest confidante and now wife Diane von Furstenberg told The New Yorker some years back.
It was the early ’90s—right around the time Rupert Murdoch refused to make Mr. Diller a principal at Fox, the fabled fourth network Mr. Diller pioneered when competitors insisted that three would do just fine.
Most Fashionable Techies
Dapper dudes, unite: AskMen published a slideshow today of the “Most Stylish Entrepreneurs,” and many fashionable New York businessmen made the list. Hey, at least we’re finally objectifying dude techies the same way we usually do ladies?
“Here is what happens when ambition meets fashion,” declared AskMen in a post partially sponsored by Dell. You’re totally dying to know who made the list, right?
IAC/InterActive Corp chairman Barry Diller testified before the Senate Commerce Committee today about the future of online video. We can’t believe someone thought this was a legitimate question in the era of Netflix and Hulu, but the hearing was actually called ”The Emergence of Online Video: Is it the Future?” Then we remembered who was asking.
“Incumbents have the means and incentives to engage in economic and/or technical discrimination against online video distributors,” Mr. Diller told lawmakers, referring to our cable and broadband overlords. To level the playing field, he said, “I think you need to rewrite the [Telecommunications] Act of ’96. It’s overdue given the Internet. And it needs revision.” Congress, he added, should “prevent cable and telecommunications companies from leveraging their dominance in existing markets” to control emerging technologies.
Hires and Fires
This morning Seamless founder Jason Finger, legend of Silicon Alley, sent an email out to friends with subject line “Back in the saddle. . .” It seems the Silicon
Valley Alley vet has taken up the reins at CityGrid Media and will join IAC’s local listings website network. “I’ve joined IAC as CEO of CityGrid Media,” Mr. Finger said in the email. “CityGrid is the largest content and ad network for ‘local’ and includes several owned and operated websites including Citysearch.com, insiderpages.com and Urbanspoon.com, as well as BuzzLabs.”
Two sets of New York-based broadcast TV stations filed complaints yesterday against Aereo, a new startup that streams live TV from major networks like CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, CW, and PBS, as well as other local channels to any mobile device. The lawsuits, which ask for injunctive relief and damages, argue that Aereo rebroadcasts their TV programming without licensing or consent. (The fact that Aereo, which launches March 14th, charges only $12/month probably doesn’t sit well with them either.)
As AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka explained, Aereo knew these copyright challenges were coming, which is partly why the company recently raised a sizable $20.5 million series A round led by IAC, with participation from existing investors like FirstMark Capital and First Round Capital. Aereo’s position is that its service is legal because the company issues every user their own (thumbnail-sized) antenna, stored in a local warehouse. By structuring it that way, they claim that it’s consumers accessing the content, not Aereo.
A magical thing happened at IAC’s headquarters this morning. A startup called Aereo displayed the most compelling argument for cord-cutting we’ve heard in awhile. It came in the form of a thumbnail-sized HD antenna. Sign up with Aereo and users get the right to license their own antenna, which are stored in a local warehouse. Then, log on via any web-enabled device (smartphones, iPads, even AppleTV) and ta-da, members can access major networks like CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, CW, and PBS, as well as other local channels. Better yet, you also have the ability store up to 40 hours of programming on their remote DVR.
“No cords or cable required,” the company’s press release says pointedly. The service is limited to New York City right now, but only costs $12 a month. Throw in a Netflix account, Hulu, and you’re probably good to go. Happy Valentine’s Day, Dying Cable Industry!
Aereo (formerly called Bamboom Labs) also anounced a $20.5 million series A round led by IAC.
The Third Degree
On the heels of IAC’s impressive year-end financials—showing revenues up 26 percent to $2.1 billion and profits up 75 percent to $174 million—the Financial Times decided to profile CEO Greg Blatt.
Mr. Blatt, if you recall, was put in place as Barry Diller’s successor in December, 2010. A former lawyer at Watchell Lipton, he helped take Martha Stewart Omnimedia public in 1994 and helped IAC spin off online properties like Expedia and Ticketmaster during the company’s “disaggregation period.”
Just because entrepreneurs have an unending well of inspiration for intimate social networks doesn’t mean that users—or revenues—follow. Proust, the social diary service launched by IAC back in July, told users via email today that the site will close on January 31. The company, which tried to emphasize sharing deep, personal memories with close friends and family, offered a data export tool for any content that may have been uploaded, reports AllThingsD.
Proust started in beta in 2010. Since then, however, features like the ability to visualize one’s life history as a timeline, have been adopted by another social network you may have heard something about one time.
When Steve Jobs launched iAd last July, the idea was to provide a mobile advertising platform that took its cues more from television advertising than online advertising, which he deemed “irritating.” As with all things Apple, iAd only works within the walled garden—selling ads within apps on iOS devices like iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches.
Advertisers would pay a premium, but could expect an advertising experience perfectly built for its environment.
According to information from the research firm IDC, however, the sales strategy that works so well to sell Apple devices hasn’t necessarily paid off in the case of Apple’s attempt to dominate mobile ad sales.
CONQUER THE WORLD. Startup Weekend just closed a partnership with the Kauffman Foundation; now it’s announced a two-year agreement with Google. “Google is supporting Startup Weekend through a global sponsorship, which will not only allow for the expansion of current operations, but also enable the global roll-out of pre-Startup Weekend Google developer workshops and vertical specific initiatives in areas such as education and health.”
SAVE AMIT. Seth Godin, Michael Galpert, and Jakob Lodwick have pledged $10,000 each for the first person whose marrow matches that of Amit Gupta, recently diagnosed with leukemia. Party and cheek swabbing session on Friday at New Work City.