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25, Jan 2011

Cinemacraft brings TV streaming to mobile devices

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Mobile TV hasn’t seen a huge uptake in its adoption rate despite manufacturers such as LG, Samsung and Dell releasing DTV-enabled products. Accessing TV on a mobile phone is often wrought with infrastructural issues such as network connection, mobile phone capability and the content format. Cinemacraft, a Singapore-based startup, is looking at broadcasting channels to mobile phones, albeit in a different way.

Cinemacraft is a platform application that enables the content publishers to broadcast its channels on various handsets. Through its patented compression and video streaming technology, Cinemacraft aims to be a broadcast network for mobile phones. This includes even the low end devices, and now supports 70 GPRS and 300 3G enabled mobile devices.

Cinemacraft was among the top 15 finalists of the Amazon Startup Challenge and is now in the midst of raising Series A funding. It’s a spin off of the Japanese company, Cinema Craft that provides BD/DVD encoding and film restoration product.

We spoke to Sandeep Casi, founder of Cinemacraft to find out more about this product and the markets it’s targetting.

Q: What is Cinemacraft?

Cinemacraft want to be the broadcast network for mobile devices. So what that means is, if you look at Dish Network - we want to be the same in mobile devices. More and more people consume media on mobile devices, but there’s no broadcast network in that. Everybody is going point to point. What we are trying to do is to create a platform in the backend, and the platform allows content makers to come in and put their channels on it and go to market from day one.

Our core competency is that we rebuilt the whole system (media players and backend systems). We’ve built an end to end solution and then people can just put their channels on top of it and open it up to users.

Our technology is proprietary on the front end, on the streaming side. We can actually go to low end mobile device today. We don’t have any competition in that area today. Nobody can stream media at 30 kilo bits per sec. We can.

Q: What markets are you targeting?

Asia is a predominant market for us, because there’s close to 1.3 – 1.6 billion mobile devices and most of these devices are low end devices. For most of these people, mobile devices are the only consumption devices for them. If you look at TV vs mobile devices in India especially, there are 170 million televisions and 800 million mobile devices.

We are entering into Indonesia as of today. We have signed contracts with Indosat (Indonesia), Maxis (Malaysia), PLDT (Philippines) through our partner company. And so in other markets like Vietnam, Bangladesh, India we are in discussions with telcos.

We have deployments in Japan. We just need to extend it. The company is only 6 months old.

Q: How is the mobileTV uptake in Japan?

In Japan, we already have a mobileTV and it’s called 1seg TV and what that means is there is a hardware tuner already on your device. It’s an analog tuner. That’s been around for some time now.

The reason that we think we are different from that is because, the devices that have 1seg are bulky and heavy to carry. Second is the battery life, it consumes much more life and the third reason is that we can enable TV on the devices without being 1seg. Give us an iPhone, Nokia – we can enable television on that. Basically we use HTTP protocol to stream. So any device that can actually talk HTTP can stream TV. All you need is a small footprint about 50 kilobits that you download from a WAP website then you stream through HTTP.

From our perspective, we don’t look at ourselves as the technology players but more in terms of a broadcast service. And what that means is that we own the technology, encoding, the distribution, front end devices and we also in certain cases own the content. In case of Japanes Anime, we have the rights for it on mobile devices.

Q: What’s the revenue model of Cinemacraft?

There are couple of revenue models we are going after. One is a A la-carte, pay per view model, which works in certain situations. Example, for sports. Then there is the secondary model which is the subscription model. You charge them according to the channels they have subscribed to.

Q: How much are you planning on charging?

It depends on market to market. Across the board, we are probably looking at one US dollar a month.

Q: How big is the team?

At this point in time, there are about five people in Tokyo and all of them concentrate on encoding engineering. I have one person in Shanghai and a outsourced about four and the Shanghai team is basically decoding. And the Singapore people with Ashok (vice-president of engineering) coming in, we are looking to hire about five people. And these people will concentrate on the backend system.

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