November 18, 2004 Interview: Steve Shannon, Founder and EVP Sales of Akimbo

We spent some time and conducted an interview with a founder of Akimbo, a promising broadband video / content delivery provider that distributes their service using Tivo-like hardware. They are the leader in this hot new space, which believes is going to be a huge market. Think Netflix type model, but with a queue on a hard-drive Windows CE box connected to you TV.

We don't know yet who will eventually win. Microsoft? The vaunted Netflix / Tivo partnership? Cable companies? Or a new startup? Akimbo does have the early buzz and of course is on the case. For more information check out their website.

Tell us a quick company history and background on Akimbo?

Akimbo was founded in August 2002 with the goal of being the first to deliver broadcast-quality VOD over the Internet directly to TVs. After two years of R&D and innovation, the Akimbo Player and Akimbo Service began shipping late last month. [More]

What is your current role?

Founder and EVP Sales and Marketing.

What is Akimboís mission statement?

Akimbo's mission is to be the most popular Internet-based television entertainment service delivered through TVs.

Is HD and progressive scan playback in the cards in the near future? Or is the broadband pipe not fat enough?

It is - no time frame is announced yet though.

Why did you choose Windows CE over Linux?

So we could use windows media format and Windows digital rights management, the latter of which is a requirement of our content partners.

How do you think you compete vs. the impending Tivo and Netflix combination?

By focusing on being the world's best and largest VOD service for TVs. This isn't a side show for us, it is our future.

What is the typical download time for a 2 hour movie?

Anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. Normal would be a little faster than real time with a good broadband connection.

What is the resolution of a typical Akimbo content program?

640x480 is the literal answer. Our content ranges from 700kbps to 1.5mbps. This is VHS to broadcast quality.

How many users do you have?

Not public - very few. We just began shipping a couple weeks ago.

Explain the pricing strategy. ($229 per h/w. $9.95/month + pay per view, etc.)

We sell the hardware at our cost. We charge $9.99/mo for a basic package of video and to fund the daily delivery of the guide itself. We have no advertising revenue. The rest is premium-tier content as is the case with cable, satellite, blockbuster, etc. Right now we are waiving the basic package fee through the end of the year as the content on the Akimbo Service is being ramped up.

Why didnít you try the model of one price of $15 for 3-4 movies a month?

We don't offer studio movies yet. Once we do, we may choose to offer a plan like that. During the first year of our existence, our strategy is to offer video that isn't easily available elsewhere. Foreign language programs, educational programs, sports and cooking lessons and extreme sports are a few examples of the programs that are available now on Akimbo.

Other than CinemaNow do you plan to pursue the other movie studios?

Yes - we plan to have all movie studios on board. Note that we do not have Cinema Now's rental tier yet.

Are you focusing on the direct distribution model or do you plan on partnering with cable companies?

We will embed the service into a variety of 3rd party set-top boxes like satellite receivers, cable boxes, networked DVD players, and media centers. Our first will be the MS Windows XP Media Center.

What are the next major steps for the company?

To add a lot more content, including mainstream video, as well as to gain more distribution by deploying the service into 3rd party hardware.

Thank you for your time.

Thank you.