Executive brief: Battle for the online remote

Bambi Francisco Roizen · March 4, 2011 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/17c5

In one week, CBS buys Clicker and Rovi buys SideReel; Want to know more about Clicker and SideReel?

Two big developments in the online video industry unfolded this week, CBS bought Clicker, while Rovi bought SideReel. Both Clicker and Rovi are creating next-generation TV guides, basically the directories to the online world of content. And, let's not forget that in December of last year, CastTV, a video search engine, was bought by Tribune.

You can check out their news bites on their Vator company profiles, announcing the acquisition.

Here's Clicker's:

Here's SideReel's:


The seemingly frenzied activity over online directories does beg the question: Why now? Quite simply, the landscape for how we're discovering shows online is rapidly changing. For example, in the last six months, many family members and friends have started embracing Netflix as their guide to television, over Comcast cable. Who'd thunk?

Clearly, the market is up for grabs.

In order to understand what's happening in the online video industry, it's good to take a look at the men helping to define it.

VatorNews has been following the progress of both Clicker, founded in 2009, and SideReel, which launched in 2007, for some time. And, we were fortunate to have had interviewed both Jim Lanzone, founder and CEO of Clicker, and now President of CBS Interactive with the sale to CBS, as well as Roman Arzhintar, founder and CEO of SideReel well before their acquisitions. 

Here's our coverage of Clicker:

Clicker acquired by CBS Interactive

TV-tracking site, Clicker, has been acquired by CBS Interactive. The announcement was made Friday, along with the announcement that Clicker Founder and CEO Jim Lanzone has been named president of CBS Interactive, which puts Lanzone in the position of overseeing CBS Interactive's global operations. While the terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, Clicker has raised $19 million to date since its creation in January 2009.  It will be joining CBS Interactive's portfolio of Web properties, including CNET.com, TV.com, CBS.com, CBSSports.com, CBSNews.com, Last.fm, and Gamespot.com.  Combined, the Web properties draw some 200 million unique monthly visitors, making CBS Interactive one of the top ten Web properties in the world and one of the top five in the U.S.

Online video entering the fourth chapter

In this interview, Jim Lanzone, founder and CEO of Clicker, and former CEO of Ask.com, talks about the evolution of online video.

Chaper 1 was circa 2000, when broadband penetration was under 10% and bandwidth cost about $1000 a megabyte. YouTube was Chapter 2, then maybe Hulu was Chapter 3, and now we're entering Chapter 4, according to Jim. It's a chapter that defines what's happening today: Big media companies and content producers are making themselves available and accessible to the public on the Internet. What Clicker wants to do is make those shows easily found.


Discovering oldies with Clicker: 

In this video, Jim explains Clicker's goal. "Video search has existed for years," said Jim. "People don't use video search engines because they're just too scattershot. The video isn't organized in any way," he added. "We took all broadcast programming available, and all the videos off the Web that are equivalent of broadcast, and we put that into a catalog that you can navigate by categories." Often on most video search sites, there are clips, or illegal content. Clicker aims to be a "noise cancellation machine." Clicker will help you find what's legal, what's full length, and take you to the actual page the video is available from the source. 


How will Web guide Clicker make money?

While Clicker is still pre-revenue, Jim explains, his team is exploring a number of business models, including lead-gen, whereby Clicker would receive a fee for directing their audience to sites, such as Amazon, Netflix, HBO, MLB, or more importantly, getting their audience to sign up to those services. Another model is to allow programmers or marketers to pay-for-placement on search-result pages. It's a very similar model employed by today's search engines. In a previous career, Lanzone was CEO of Ask.com, so it's fitting that he'd bring his search experience to Clicker.


Here's our coverage of SideReel:

Rovi acquires SideReel, launches AllRovi.com

Digital entertainment company Rovi announced Tuesday morning that it has acquired TV tracking site SideReel.  The move represents an interesting departure for Rovi, which has made a habit of snapping up enterprise companies like Gemstar-TV Guide International, and Muze, a company that provides media preview and discovery services to retailers.  With its acquisition of SideReel, Rovi is launching AllRovi.com, a YouTube-like video and music site that will utilize Rovi's search and recommendation technology to offer users personalized recommendations based on mood, genre, chronology, favorites and more. AllRovi.com will be the company's first consumer-facing site.

SideReel surpasses 1 million visitors per day.

Despite the many number of video-tracking and video-search engines that have emerged and gone bust, SideReel continues to grow like gangbusters and become profitable. All this on just a relatively little amount of funding. SideReel, which raised $1.5 million in angel funding since 2007, recently hit a milestone of one million visitors per day to its Web site, a place where people track their favorite TV shows and talk about their favorite TV shows. Another similar service is Clicker, a well-funded startup that launched within the past year. So, popular is the site that users go back once every three days, according to Roman Arzhintar, founder and CEO of SideReel, in this recent interview.

Why indexing the long tail doomed video sites

In this interview with Roman talks about the evolution of the video search engines and why some failed and others survived, and where SideReel differed. Starting five years ago, a number of sites helping to organize or index video emerged - from Guba, Grouper, Veoh, MetaCafa, Daily Motion, ClipBlast, Pixsy, Blinkx and Truveo, just to name a few.  Many of these search engines focused on indexing every video, said Roman. "They were focused on the long tail," he said. So, essentially many services spent more time indexing and less time organizing, he explained. For SideReel, the focus was always on high-quality video and the curation of it. 

(Image source: commons.wikimedia)

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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Joined Vator on

Clicker is the complete guide to Internet Television. From television shows, to movies, to web originals and music videos, Clicker makes it easy for you to find the right show, right now.


SideReel, a division of Rovi


Joined Vator on

SideReel makes it easy to track shows you've watched and want to watch, get new episodes as soon as they become available, and share your favorite shows with friends. Get over 24,000 shows, 530,000 episodes and the latest community news, reviews and gossip in one place. If it's online, it's on SideReel.


Jim Lanzone

Joined Vator on


Ryan Howard

Joined Vator on

Ryan is the founder, chairman and CEO of Practice Fusion. He founded the company in 2005 and has grown it into the largest physician-patient community in the US.