Babelgum, developed by Fastweb co-founder Silvio Scaglia, is now available as a free beta download. Beta testers can access around 500 hours of professionally produced content from partners including Reuters and Associated Press.
Scaglia is reportedly courting major Hollywood studios, but said that he especially welcomes niche "long-tail" content from independent producers.
Babelgum claims to rival Joost, the online TV service developed by Skype founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström.
Last week Joost signed a content deal with Viacom (MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount and Comedy Central) and is in talks with ITV and Channel 4.
Both services offer broadcast-quality, full-screen TV programmes over the web via secure peer-to-peer servers. Content is streamed in encrypted form and is not available for download.
Babelgum chief executive Erik Lumer said: "Babelgum combines the 'lean-back' experience of TV with the 'sit-forward' PC world.
"At times you can just sit back and enjoy full-screen, high-quality streaming [and] at other times you use the interactivity and social networking facilities. "
Babelgum content providers will receive US$5 per 1,000 views. According to Scaglia, the money will come initially "out of my pocket", although targeted advertising is due to be added in coming months.
Later this month, Babelgum content owners will get direct access to a secure area of the website for uploading and managing material. There are no restrictions on size of content, which can be digital or analogue.
Scaglia invested €350m of his personal fortune in the venture, which he hopes to boost with a further €130 million ($588 million) earned from Fastweb dividends this year.
The available audience is estimated at 300 million, and the project is scheduled to break even by 2010.
Babelgum courts studios and challenges Joost
By Jane Hoskyn on Mar 12, 2007 9:57AM