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Technology

Calgary startup rides the streaming-video wave Add to ...

Trevor Doerksen shot a snowboarding film in 1989, but his distributor went out of business. So, Mr. Doerksen had to distribute his film himself. He walked door to door selling his VHS videos to Blockbuster, Canadian Tire and drugstores. And he sold a lot of them.

Today, he still brings video to the masses. He just doesn't do much walking to do it.

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"At that time there was no visual browser," recalls Mr. Doerksen, CEO of MoboVivo, the Calgary-based company he founded in 2005 that offers television and other video content-creators a platform they can brand as their own that allows their customers to stream video to cellphones, tablets, computers and TVs with Internet connections from their websites.

Customers for MoboVivo's technology include CBC, Astral Media and Rogers in Canada, as well as BBC, Showtime and Fox Sports.

The breakthrough for the online video industry is the rapid step forward in capabilities that tablets and smart phones have taken. "We know a lot of people sit in front of their television with these devices. They look up stuff, talk about what they're watching and share experiences and clips in quite a disconnected way," Mr. Doerksen says. "Our apps are unifying that experience."

MoboVivo's apps link a linear broadcast stream with advertising. "So if we focus on unifying that experience for the user, the advertiser and the broadcaster, then it's not just about distribution any more but a broader story of a user experience in viewing, marketing and advertising," Mr. Doerksen says.

In the last quarter of 2010, a lot of significant things happened that affected his industry: eBooks started outselling paperbacks and digital downloads started outselling DVDs, Mr. Doerksen says.

With 7 million iPads in the hands of consumers and several million smart TVs, MoboVivo had hundreds of thousands of video downloads right after Christmas, says Mr. Doerksen. He's seen his company's revenue soar this past year.

He attributes that breakthrough to getting the pricing right. "Licensing and selling software isn't the same as it used to be," says Mr. Doerksen. "We brought the pricing down to a transactional per video model - per video, per platform. We went for a lower number that brought more traction.

MoboVivo differentiates itself from competitors, such as Netflix or Hulu, by white labelling its products. That means they can be used with the customer's brand whether it's an app or a website. This allows the broadcaster, or whatever brand is being promoted, to have a direct relationship with the consumer.

"Our company focuses sales on the media industry, but any company can benefit," says Mr. Doerksen. "If you and your brand aren't on those devices and building a relationship with end users, I fear you're probably not embracing what technology could give your company in the future. That's a mistake."

One story is ShinyArt, a company in the Silicon Valley that delivers video art through an online rental service.

"They came to us and wanted a ShinyArt website - not a MoboVivo or Netflix or YouTube website - so they could deliver art videos into bars in the San Francisco Bay area," says Mr. Doerksen. "Artists submit their videos into our system and the bars display those videos on big screens throughout their establishments. We didn't anticipate that a company like ShinyArt would be able to use our product, but they saw it very easily."

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