Channels.com compiles video from around the Web — including premium TV shows — into a central hub, where you can create playlists and subscribe to the shows you like. The two-year old Palo Alto-based start-up relaunched today with a new design stressing premium content. (The old site was more of a rough RSS service — a tool for subscribing to content on the Web, in this case video — for early adopters.)
Channels.com reckons itself to be “Your Web Video DVR,” but it’s actually more like the “Guide” button on your cable TV remote. From the site, you can browse by genre, date or popularity. You can also search through the site’s ever-expanding index of over 100,000 shows.
Every show can be added to your playlist, which automatically updates itself when new episodes come in. The videos, delivered through RSS from other sites, take on the interface of whatever portal you’re tapping, so content from Fox adopts the same playback interface as what you see on Fox’s Web site.
Founder and chief executive Sean Doherty said Channels.com isn’t working directly with most content providers (some of them link back to the site in exchange for a little promotion), but it plays by their rules. For instance, when Hulu and Boxee got into a back and forth earlier this year, Channels.com took a proactive step and stopped using Hulu’s RSS feeds. It now gets most of Hulu’s content directly from RSS feeds on networks’ Web sites instead.
Doherty sees competition on several fronts. iTunes has a video subscription service, but it’s download based, and doesn’t offer as many shows. The bigger threat, I think, comes from set-top boxes, which are integrating more and more online video and offer a more palatable experience for watching full-length content on a television. TiVo, for instance, lets you add your own RSS feeds. Doherty said he’d love for Channels.com to be part of a set-top box, and the company is having discussions with manufacturers. More details, he said, would have to wait until later.
The site, which has seven full-time employees and has raised $3.5 million in funding to date, doesn’t plan to monetize until next year. At that point, it plans to seek sponsored search results and promotions from content providers. For now, Channels.com is focusing on getting visitors and adding more RSS feeds. It has a lofty goal of indexing every RSS feed on the Web, which could total 2 million feeds over the next year, Doherty said.