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Open Media Network: iTunes for video

omn.gifLast month, we wrote about the launch of OurMedia, the grassroots digital media web site. Now we have a similar venture launching today. It's called the Open Media Network, a non-profit that wants to be a distribution hub for digital media. The site was founded by valley veteran Mike Homer (Apple, Netscape, AOL, Kontiki, etc.).

Homer is calling the service a "Public Broadcasting System'' for the Internet. The site will feature programming from public television and radio stations – such as WGBH, KQED, and KWSU – that are interested in worldwide distribution of their programs via the Internet.  Homer is placing an emphasis on "public service'' content, such as videos from human rights group Witness. "We're doing it because we want to reinvent public television and bring it into the digital age,'' Homer said. But OMN is not limited to traditional "public service' content.  The service will also accept contributions from the public, as well as independent films and podcasts.

Homer also envisions OMN as a distribution channel for commercial content, and collecting fees for artists that want to charge for their work. In fact, that model ultimately could allow OMN to become financially self-sustaining.

To use OMN, users download a piece of software that acts as a program guide, allowing them to select and download video, music, videoblog, podcast or radio broadcast files. For now, the software is only available for Windows Internet Explorer users. But other versions are being developed.

"Think of it as iTunes for video,'' he says.

Unlike OurMedia or Google's new video upload service, OMN doesn't take video uploads. Instead, it asks content producers to publish their content with an RSS feed. "When OMN finds a new item in the feed, it retrieves the file immediately and makes it available to OMN users via grid delivery,'' OMN's web site says. "After the program is cached, the file can be delivered via the grid by OMN. If your feeds have periodic updates, episodes, dailies, etc… you can elect to have your feed be a Season Ticket and OMN will cache the content on the schedule you produce it and automatically deliver it to users that choose to get a Season Ticket to your content."

The service is using technology by Kontiki, where Homer was once CEO and is now chairman.

Homer says that in a few months, the service will allow for TiVo and cellphone viewing and easier, drag-and-drop publishing.

For now, the OMN is being run out of the homes of a handful of people. It's being funded by private contributions from individuals, Homer said. Marc Andreessen as an advisor and board member.



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