Akimbo Systems is aggressively establishing partnerships with telcos, cable companies, CE manufacturers and other content distributors to embed the “first Internet video-on-demand service for television” in a variety of devices. Cisco Systems Inc. and AT&T Inc. became investors in the San Mateo-based, iVOD start-up as part of a $15.5 million Series C investment round announced by the company today. Venture capital firm, Blueprint Ventures, also participated in the round, which follows the Kleiner Perkins led $12 million Series B funding two years ago. Akimbo was launched three years ago with $4.2 million in seed funding.
Since its inception in 2003, Akimbo has been steadily growing its content library and building out its distribution network. Akimbo currently boasts “Now Over 10,001 Shows” which are available to consumers via Microsoft Media Center Edition 2005 PC or via Akimbo Player set-top box.
The Akimbo consumer-facing tag line is “your wish is on demand,” and Josh Goldman, Akimbo CEO, believes today’s Cisco led investment will help the company fulfill even more consumer wishes for premium video content delivered over broadband to TVs, on-demand.
I spoke with Goldman by phone this morning for a first hand take on how the company’s latest round of venture financing will enable Akimbo to realize its ambitious development strategies.
AKIMBO EMPLOYS A THREE-PRONG GO-TO-MARKET STRATEGY:
Aggregation and Management of Content or Akimbo Video Collection
Akimbo negotiates video distribution deals with producers and distributors of movies and videos from around the world (from studios to bloggers) and re-encodes the video for DRM protection. Akimbo currently partners with about 200 content providers on a revenue-share basis.
iVOD Service Operator or Akimbo Internet to TV Service
Akimbo holds 12 patent applications featuring more than 150 patent claims. Akimbo uses consumers’ home broadband connection to deliver video content to TVs.
Distribution of Content or Akimbo Personalized Entertainment
Akimbo for Media Center: The Akimbo Service is available for a 30-day free trial at the Online Spotlight area of Microsoft Media Center Edition 2005 PCs. After the month trial period, subscriptions are priced from $9.99 monthly. According to Goldman, Microsoft Media Center represents “10 million seats”; I asked Goldman how many among the 10 million seats have taken Akimbo up on its trial offer: “we are pleased with the interest.”
Akimbo Player Set-Top Box: Akimbo sells its Akimbo Player direct-to-consumer at its Website. The player is currently “on sale” for $69.99 and monthly subscriptions start at $9.99.
Currently, Media Center provides about 75% of Akimbo's users.
While Akimbo will continue to promote distribution via Media Center, its recently announced partnership with RCA/Thomson and Movielink for a co-branded set-top box to be sold at major consumer retailers and its recently announced partnership with AT&T’s Homezone service to provide on-demand video content for Homezone subscribers, will increase Akimbo’s distribution by “millions,” according to Goldman.
Goldman is confident that Akimbo’s Cisco and AT&T relationships will enable it to bring to those millions of people “the best in communications and entertainment, wherever they may be.”
I asked Goldman about his long-term vision for Akimbo.
Q: In five years will Akimbo have had a successful IPO, or will it have been acquired by one of its partners.
A: Akimbo is well positioned to be a strong stand-alone company going forward.
CNET reviewed “Akimbo for Media Center” earlier this month:
Akimbo began life as a set-top box, offering IPTV programming via a broadband Internet connection. After buying the set-top box hardware (originally $199, now $69), Akimbo subscribers would pay a $9.99 monthly fee to download content from more than 100 channels, with additional pay-as-you go fees or add-on subscriptions for so-called premium programming.
Last year, Akimbo launched a software-only, PC-based version of its service, dubbed Akimbo for Media Center. Instead of buying a set-top box, Akimbo is now available under the Online Spotlight tab in Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition OS. The monthly subscription remains the same at $9.99, but you aren't required to pay the initial hardware fee…
Akimbo makes a lot more sense as a PC-based IPTV service than as a set-top box… What Akimbo does do right is specialized content, from yoga and karaoke channels to foreign language programming and global cinema… Anyone with a Media Center PC can access Akimbo by launching Media Center, navigating to the Online Spotlight menu option, and looking in the TV & Movies subsection. Clicking the Akimbo button will bring up the interface and prompt you to either sign up for a monthly subscription or a 30-day free trial…