Skype Founders to Launch 'Venice Project' Web TV Service

Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, the two founders of the popular voice-over-IP (VoIP) calling service Skype, are expected to launch a new worldwide broadband Internet television service next year that they claim will deliver to its audience, content providers and advertisers “the best of the Internet with the best of TV,” Financial Times online reports.

The service, currently code-named “The Venice Project,” will offer ad-supported programming in “near high-definition,” and users will have access to new tools to allow them to customize their channels and converse with other users about certain programming, according to FT.com.

Friis said the service will employ peer-to-peer technology to use networks of its viewers’ PCs instead of central servers, making it possible to provide content to millions of users while still addressing the security concerns of copyright holders, FT.com reports.

Fredrik de Wahl, The Venice Project chief executive, said digital rights management (DRM) technologies will not be necessary, as bits of information gathered on users’ computers are only “fragments of a stream,” according to FT.com.

The Web TV offering is expected to be available sometime next year, and some 6,000 people are currently testing the service, FT.com reports.

Friis said the aim of the project is to provide new methods for traditional and national broadcasters to reach new audiences, as well as for smaller unknown broadcasters and advertisers to reach the viewers they desire, according to FT.com.

The Venice Project will take a cut of all advertising revenue generated based on whether its sales team sold the ads or whether the party that owns the content acquired the advertisements, and it will also offer incentives to users to persuade them to offer additional personal information to help target specific audiences with ads, FT.com reports.

Friis also said the project may eventually offer a pay-per-view service to enable users to purchase content for viewing whenever they choose; however, it will “start with TV content such as documentaries, drama and music videos,” according to FT.com.

Online auction giant eBay purchased Skype for roughly $2.6 billion in 2005, FT.com reports.

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