ZeeVee Enhances Internet Video Portal for Connected Devices, Looks to Power Smaller Cable Providers

3/9/11Follow @xconomy

Littleton, MA-based ZeeVee has reinvented itself again. The startup launched four years ago to provide hardware for “bringing Internet television together and into the living room,” says CEO Vic Odryna. The ZvBox device didn’t exactly catch on in homes, but has found a niche in commercial settings like hotels, restaurants, and casinos. ZeeVee later introduced a PC, then Mac, software program called Zinc for browsing video content from the Web—from sources like Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix—to watch on TVs that connected to computers.

Today, ZeeVee is introducing a glammed up, cloud-powered Zinc to consumers, and is out to help smaller cable content providers better make sense of content on the Web for customers. So rather than offering Zinc as downloadable software, the service is now entirely HTML- and Javascript-based and accessible via any Web browser thanks to cloud-powered storage. The idea is to unify the Zinc experience across a number of connected consumer devices—from tablets to smartphones to laptops and of course, TVs.

“There’s no killer app, no killer device—it should all work together,” Odryna says.

With this update, for example, consumers can research a show or movie on their smartphones, put it in a queue on their customer account, and later watch it on their tablets, laptops, or connected TVs. Zinc also has a mode called “leanback” that can be better navigated through a TV remote’s arrows, rather than a computer or tablet mouse.

ZeeVee has also revamped the way content can be browsed and accessed on its site, Odryna says. Most users don’t naturally think of which platform they want to view a particular show or movie on (i.e. “I want to watch Glee on Hulu and The King’s Speech on Amazon”) but rather the actual content they want to consume. The new Zinc platform aggregates all of the information so users can simply browse it based on a title, in a “simple, clean, kind of Google-esque search bar,” Odryna says.

“Our new system is built to be completely aware of where all the content lives,” says Odryna. It also allows users to filter out Internet content sources that charge money, and enables them to filter content by the type of device they want to consume it on.

Individually, most of these features can be found in other technologies for connecting the TV to Web-based content (like Boxee), or for aggregating Internet video (like CBS’s recently acquired Clicker or Rovi’s Sidereel), Odryna admits. But Zinc is also focused on providing sophisticated content curation that goes beyond simple recommendations, he says.

And the big kicker is what it can do for smaller cable and telecom companies. Cable giants have been able to cut deals with content providers to deliver integrated Web TV and video to home cable devices like set top boxes and connected televisions, but the smaller providers don’t necessarily have the money to build that capability from the ground up. ZeeVee can provide all of the Zinc capabilities to cable service providers, who can then brand the service as their own and decide what functionality and content they want to offer their subscribers.

“Our intent here is we’ve rebuilt this as a platform for service providers,” who are “trying to find their customers an easier way to get to way more video content than they can offer,” Odryna says.

This is going to be the real moneymaker for Zinc, which has so far been offered for free to consumers, Odryna says. ZeeVee can’t name its cable provider customers, but Odryna says the company has gotten “quite a few” to buy its service.

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