16 May 2000 - "TV is the most recognizable two-letter symbol in the world," said Lou Kerner the CEO of DotTV, a subsidiary of Idealab!, that launched on May 15.
The site has been auctioning off names since its beta launch on April 6. The top bidder, an entertainment industry giant that Kerner declined to name, paid US$100,000 for its domain name.
Kerner declined to disclose total sales, although he would say they've surpassed all projections. He added that at present, there are no plans for a DotTV IPO.
Tuvalu, the real winner
Tuvalu, which sold the rights to its .tv domain to Idealab! of Pasadena, Calif., has already grossed US$17 million from the deal.
According to its agreement with DotTV, the nation of 10,600 people receives US$1 million quarterly, adjustable for inflation, capped at US$50 million over a 10-year period. In addition, Tuvalu has what Kerner called "a significant, double-digit ownership" position in DotTV, plus a seat on the company's board of directors.
That's not bad for a country with an annual budget of US$14 million. "I think it's a great deal for both parties," Kerner said.
Not bad either for a market where the going rate for a domain name was US$35 per year. Even at those prices, Network Solutions, until last year the exclusive registrar for .com, .gov, and .org domains, grossed US$221 million in 1999.
Three DotTV sites have already gone live: German music site Onyx.tv; auction site IbidLive.tv; and something called Surferchannel.tv.
Roughly half of the sales have been to international clients. The hottest auctions so far are for China.tv, Free.tv and Net.tv. With two months to go, the bids for all three are at US$100,000.
MGM has acquired nine domain names, the company announced on Monday: MGM.tv, UnitedArtists.tv, JamesBond.tv, 007.tv, PinkPanther.tv, StargateSG1.tv, ChatroomAmerica.tv, SexWars.tv and AmericanGladiators.tv.
Zee TV, India's leading broadcaster and Hong Kong's TVB have already sewed up their domain names. Sony has purchased domain names for a couple of its cable channels, and so has NBC.
While .tv is a natural top-level domain for entertainment media and broadcast companies, Kerner hopes DotTV will one day become a home for any type of Web content site.
He's most excited about DotTV's deals with Sega Entertainment, Pegasus Communications, a leading provider of Direct TV services, and Microcast, a leader in streaming services technology.
"Don't get me wrong, I think they're all great companies, and I think they're going to be DotTV companies," said Kerner, a former Goldman Sachs analyst who followed the cable and broadcast industries. "But the early adopters are the ones to watch. By the time the big guys do anything, it's passe."