New Website Aims to Help Viewers Find Film, TV Content Wherever It's Available

6:01 AM PST 12/16/2010 by Georg Szalai

Fanhattan, launching early next year, will let users browse content or search for titles, genres and the like and provide reviews, ratings, trailers, information on talent and crew, soundtracks and merchandise.

NEW YORK -- Amid the proliferation of online video services, connected TVs and changing release windows, it isn't always easy for consumers to know if and where film and TV content is available. Fanhattan wants to come to their rescue.

The entertainment discovery service, set to be unveiled Thursday, aims to make it easier for people to find content via their computer or TV screens, wherever it's available (including in movie theaters) and in what form -- for rental, purchase or via subscription, for download or in streaming form.

Fanhattan, backed by venture capital firms including NEA, Redpoint Ventures, GreyCroft Partners and BV Capital, will let users browse content or search for titles, genres and the like and provide reviews, ratings, trailers, information on talent and crew, soundtracks and merchandise. It is seeking to team with digital content stores and others to point consumers to them when they have the desired content available.

Think of Fanhattan as the entertainment equivalent of travel information Web site Kayak with IMDb functionality or as the broader 2.0 version of interactive program guides.

"The world of over-the-top content is changing how consumers see their TV and think about entertainment," Fanhattan CEO Gilles BianRosa said. "Fanhattan is the next logical step for consumers -- bringing all TV shows and movies into one rich interface that puts consumers in charge and makes it easy and enjoyable to find the content they love, and then to watch it on their TV or on the go."

Right now, "there are islands of content in the digital age that overlap partially, but consumers are often confused what is available where and in which window," he added.

Set to launch early next year, Fanhattan has described and/or demoed its service to studios, pay TV operators and digital services. BianRosa is optimistic he can strike first business deals with digital content firms and other possible partners soon.

"This is Hollywood meets transparency," he said. "It's a good thing for Hollywood and all its partners."

Unlike Apple TV, the service is open to all digital media stores that want to partner with it, and it allows discovery without some of the concerns that have surrounded Google TV, he said.

To studios, Fanhattan is pitching itself as a partner that provides them with evergreen pages for movies and shows, through which the content can be further monetized. It can also help inform fans of upcoming film releases or TV events and allow fans to interact with big franchises year-round, its CEO said.

For the Netflixes and Hulus and other so-called "over the top" video services of the world, Fanhattan thinks it can drive additional traffic.

Even for cable operators, which have lost subscribers in the past two quarters at levels that have worried investors, the interface could be a partner as operators look to offer their subscribers more value and ways to find what they want whenever they want, BianRosa said.

He suggested Fanhattan would also benefit them, such as by highlighting the value of subscribing to premium networks. "Cable VOD offers are often buried," he added. "And cable companies must make a bigger strategic decision about whether to start making content available outside the cable box. We can provide solutions for them."

Fanhattan expects to make money from fees from partners -- for example, for sending a user to Netflix -- and a possible premium service that interested consumers would have to pay for down the line.

How does the basic service work? When consumers search for a certain movie on Fanhattan, they can click through to more information about it plus see where it is playing -- say, on a premium network or Netflix's streaming service. From there, subscribers to the network or Netflix could view the movie, while others could be enticed to become subscribers.

To offer key information on content and its stars, Fanhattan has acquired Calgary-based the Open Movie Database.

Users of the Fanhattan search interface can browse genres or hot releases or look for all releases with a certain star going all the way back into the past and into the future as far as projects are announced.

Fanhattan will be available over the Web and on TV sets via a free download. The service also expects to be embedded in consumer electronics devices later in 2011.

The company behind Fanhattan is Vuze, which runs the Vuze BitTorrent agent, which allows people to find, download and play video online.

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