Studio4 Networks sold to Knightscove

studio4 networksStudio4 Networks, a company that provides educational video-on-demand (VOD) content delivery, has reached an agreement to be acquired by the Canadian film, DVD and TV production company, Knightscove (TSX on Toronto Stock Exchange) for $3.5MM in Cash and 5.5MM shares of Knightscove stock.

According to Colin Phillips, COO of Studio4 (and also a member of TCA in Los Angeles), the deal is anticipated to close in early December.

Studio4 has 3 on demand networks that provide content on early childhood developmental learning (Studio4 Kids), award winning educational programming (Studio4 Learning) and Health and Fitness programming (Studio4 Fitness). Content is distributed both through Video and Demand and Broadband platforms.Studio 4 Networks is a leading non-theatrical On-Demand network content distributor.

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Studio4 plans to generate revenue through advertisements placed on its networks, sales of ancillary products such as DVDs and through sponsorship and co-branding opportunities.

Studio4 has raised angel funding in the past, and is looking to close its latest bridge round of financing (to series A).

Studio 4’s offerings will complement those of Knightscove Media Corp. which separately announced its acquisition, today (October 3rd, 2007), of the distribution rights to a popular Canadian show (4 million viewers) “Little Mosque on the Prairie” from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (”CBC”), and “Talk to the Hand - Live in Michigan”, the first ever live concert DVD from the contemporary band, the Barenaked Ladies.

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Move Networks raises $34 million

MoveIf you’re watching video online, chances are it’s Flash driven. Although watchable, the quality of Flash video is generally not very high due to the bandwidth constraints HQ video places on viewers.

Move Networks has found a way to change that. Move has developed a video player that allows video to be stored in small bit-by-bit pieces, resulting in much quicker download speeds that allow for fast, high quality streaming video. The company recently closed a $34 million investment round, bringing their total funding to $45 million.

Move Networks’ video looks remarkably better than normal video you’ll find around the web on sites like YouTube. A cool feature of Move’s platform is that it scales depending on your connection speed. For a demo, check out the ABC Move player.

A caveat for Move is that it requires the viewer to download their plugin before they can view anything. However, Move has been signing contracts with major broadcasters whose unique content will definitely help expand its plugin reach: ESPN, Fox Network, the CW, ABC, and Discovery have each made agreements to use Move Network’s software.

While these media companies won’t have much of a problem persuading viewers to take a few seconds to install a plugin in order to view their content, smaller video sites probably won’t be making the jump to Move’s platform soon.

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Interview: Sean Malatesta of India Games

Interview with Sean Malatesta, VP Americas, India Games Ltd.
Contributed by Barbara Bickham, CEO, Techgenii

indiagames logoBarbara Bickham spoke with Sean Malatesta of India Games, regading the company, its global plans, the games they are developing and the challenges of the mobile gaming market. The company has offices in India and Los Angeles.

1. What is your role at India Games?

indiagames chessSean Malatesta is the Vice President for the Americas of India Games. He is in charge of the entire business for the Americas. This includes Licensing, Carrier Relations, Game Creation, Marketing and Sales, and Production. He is also now CEO of IG FUN LLC, the new publishing unit of Indiagames in Europe and The Americas.

2. What are some of the barriers to entry or challenges for your company?

For mobile gaming there is not always a clear marketing path. It is clear, however, that “The Carriers are our retailers.” says Malatesta. The company feels that they need to work with carriers on consumer education. We’re still dealing with discovery issues: Consumers need to know that such product exists and how to get the product from the carrier. This education should be all encompassing; explaining to consumers how to do it every step of the way.

3. Was NBC’s The Office Games widely adopted by consumers?

“Yes. We did Co-marketing with Circuit City, NBC Home Video and In Cinema Advertisements. In the future sales may come easier as customers will understand how to get product.” says Malatesta.

4. Could you tell me more about India Games? Is it a Global Company?

India Games has just gone through a change of ownership; now with UTV an Indian media company. American companies, Adobe and Cisco own roughly 10% each of the company. There are Offices in India, Los Angeles, Beijing and London.

5. What types of Games does the company develop?

indiagames spiderman gameIndia Games has creates many branded and unbranded titles; Hollywood, Action and Casual. Some examples are: Bruce Lee - Iron Fist, NBC’s The Office Games, Predator, Godzilla and the upcoming Rush Hour 3.

6. What about Mobile Video Game Rating?

According to Malatesta, “Not a major concern now. The carriers are our big box retailers and they are doing a good job; carriers are selective about the games that go onto their decks.” The industry is already “self policing”.

7. Any challenges with the handsets and porting games to the different handsets?

India Games believes that it is a part of doing business. As an analogy “It’s like making shoes. One size does not fit all. There are many different shoe types and many different shoe sizes.” states Malatesta.

8. What is the future of Mobile Gaming?

Recognize the medium we are in. This isn’t console gaming; this is mobile phone gaming; it’s got to be simple to understand. Multi-Player games will work well if they play easily, fast and are designed elegantly. 3D games may work best if they are simple and fun. The user needs to be able to easily understand the game, navigate within the game and for have fun playing the game.” says Malatesta.

9. What are the plans for India Games?

India games will continue to market and promote games to enlarge exposure and revenues. Most people think that once the game is placed on deck, that’s the end; It’s just the beginning for marketing and proper retail merchandising. They are working with their retail partners to help consumers understand how to buy the titles that they want.

India Games is working to import and export titles to and from the United States. They have global, regional and local titles. Some of the titles will not import or export well. They work with their partners to co-market or do cutting-edge marketing to get the message out about the new title. “This is not easy and can be expensive; Hollywood does it every week for its movies; it can be an expensive line item.” says Malatesta.

“Again, Carriers are our retailers. Carriers are willing to work more with their partners to promote games content. Innovative creatives, titles and marketing will succeed. The feeling that I get from carriers is that they are very helpful and want to help companies with content on their decks succeed.�? states Malatesta.

With their wealth of titles and success of The Office, India Games is positioned to make mobile games easier for consumers to buy and enjoy.

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Shopatron raises $5 million

Hdr ShoplogoShopatron, a company that connects manufacturers, retailers and consumers through its e-commerce platform, announced today that they have raised $6 million in a series B round. The round was led by Kern Whelan Capital and Rivenrock Capital.

Shopatron, based out of San Luis Obispo, Calif., provides manufacturers with a way to sell their products “directly” online while utilizing retail distributors at the same time. Here’s how it works: Shopatron hosts a branded e-commerce store for a manufacturer, such as popular sunglass maker Spy Optic. When a visitor to the online shop places an order, it is immediately placed in a waiting-to-fill database that is viewed by all participating retailers Spy has chosen to allow in the system. Every day, retailers log in and view a breakdown of every order along with the price the consumer has agreed to pay. If the retailer has the item in stock and is willing to sell at that price, they click yes to “bid” on the item. Shopatron’s system then assigns every order to the closest retailer that bid on it, relative to the consumer’s location. From there, the retail outlet will box and ship the item, or the consumer can opt for in-store pickup. All customer service questions and returns are then fielded by the retailer. If an order receives zero bids, it is then filled directly by the manufacturer for a higher margin.

The platform provides value for all parties involved. It gives consumers the convenience of shopping online along with the personal customer service attention provided by a local retailer. Retailers are able to view a daily list of what customers are looking for, giving them a much clearer idea of sales trends and what items to keep in stock, in addition to the increased business sent to their store from web shoppers. Finally, manufacturers are alleviated of many customer service responsibilities while providing consumers more convenient access to their products.

Shopatron, which manages over 400 manufacturers and 6,000 retailers, plans to use the $5 million to further expand into more markets and perform hirings to flesh out their team.

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