Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Web TV startup sparks interest among investors

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Mollie Spilman, CEO of TidalTV of Baltimore, hopes her startup does for computer videos what iTunes did for music and did for travel destinations: consolidate a variety of content and information and provide it through one user-friendly online source.The company plans to launch its online presence this month, Spilman said.

‘‘You will go to the TidalTV site and watch all kinds of content on your PC from branded broadcast and cable TV. And you will be able to request specific episodes of TV series,” Spilman said. All content will be free, but with commercials produced by TidalTV.

The company is working on providing programming from 25 of the biggest media companies, she said, including news, magazine content and music.

Spilman and Chairman Scott Ferber, both formerly with, have been working for a year on developing the TidalTV concept.

‘‘It is the natural evolution,” she said. ‘‘Media companies such as ABC and NBC are putting some of their episodes online. It makes sense to have an aggregator like TidalTV to come in, similar to what and did for travel, a greater distribution for their content.”

Art Marks, general partner with Valhalla, likes that video industries ‘‘have decided that it’s OK” to distribute via Internet protocol.

Internet protocol TV is a new field for the venture capital company. In addition to TidalTV, Valhalla recently invested a total of $13 million in two other IPTV startups in the region, Avail Media Inc. of Reston, Va., and KZO Innovations of Herndon, Va.

TidalTV has 30 employees in Baltimore, five in sales in New York, one in Los Angeles and four in product development in Austin, Texas, where developer Kevin Haley preferred to stay, Spilman said.

‘‘We believe that this will be a cutting-edge venture and there is nothing else out there,” Spilman said. ‘‘Just like iTunes, it will hopefully impact media behavior. But unlike YouTube, the content won’t be overwhelming. We will only have branded [not amateur] content.” TidalTV will be a Flash-based service that works on a Web browser and users will be prevented from downloading content, she said.

According to the, an online video and television trade publication, TidalTV’s main attraction ‘‘seems to be that it is headed by the co-founder of online advertising network” — Ferber. That company was sold to AOL for $435 million in 2004. Ferber provided TidalTV’s undisclosed seed financing, Stilman said.

—Steve Berberich

Nonfarm jobs increase ‘weakest’ in years

Maryland saw net nonfarm jobs increase by 0.8 percent in January from a year earlier, to 2.63 million, the U.S. Department of Labor reported this week. That was slightly higher than the national increase of 0.7 percent, but it was the weakest state rise in four years.

Education and health services had the largest percentage gain at 2.7 percent. The biggest drop was in the financial sector, 1.9 percent.

Montgomery and Frederick counties saw net jobs decline by 0.2 percent in January from a year earlier. The Baltimore area, which includes both the city and county, had a net gob gain of 0.6 percent.

VerizonFiOS to carryRetirement Living TV 

Retirement Living TV of Columbia, the network dedicated to people 55 and older, has made an agreement with Verizon Communications for its television provider Verizon FiOS to distribute programming.

‘‘Our partnership with Verizon is a critical component of our plans to expand current distribution throughout the U.S.,” said Betsy Brightman, vice president of affiliate relations and distribution for RLTV, in a statement. 

Verizon and RLTV also will be launching jointly run subscriber acquisition campaigns in key Verizon markets. The campaigns will be centered around Verizon’s launch of RLTV with a focus on attracting the 55-plus consumer.

Tedco awards grantsto technology startups

Three Maryland technology startups have each received about $75,000 in grants from the Maryland Technology Development Corp.

CC Biotech of Rockville is working with the National Institutes of Health to commercialize its spiral countercurrent chromatography, used to purify small-molecule drugs in pharmaceutical research synthesis and active ingredients from natural plant extracts.

SentiMetrix of Bethesda provides sentiment-opinion mining and analysis services to U.S. and international businesses and government organizations.

Traxion Therapeutics of Baltimore develops novel drugs to treat intractable pain, particularly neuropathic pain.

This report originally appeared in The Business Gazette.