Lycos Taps Online Video for Rebirth

Having been left behind in the search and portal race, Internet stalwart Lycos now plans to reinvigorate the brand by turning itself into a broadband Internet video network with a social networking twist. The new service, called Lycos Cinema, is said to be the first to combine the two popular Web 2.0 services.

Online video sites like YouTube and social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook have become media darlings in the middle of this decade, with two of them fetching significant sums of money. YouTube sold to Google for $1.65 billion, while MySpace was bought by News Corp. for $580 million.

While Facebook has yet to be sold, the site is said to be actively looking for a suitor, with Yahoo apparently offering $900 million for it. Although Lycos is not on the auction block -- the company was bought by South Korea's Daum Communications in 2004 for $95 million -- it is hoping to recreate those sites' successes.

"Viewing video online becomes much more engaging and enjoyable when you can create a social experience involving friends and family," Lycos Chief Operating Officer Brian Kalinowski said. "With Lycos Cinema, we move from the flat, disconnected world of Web 1.0 to an all new world of social interaction around online video, essentially the next evolution of chat."

Users would be able to create "screening rooms," where they would be able to watch videos and chat about them in real time. The hosts would have access to pause, rewind and fast forward video streams, and buddy list functionality would be provided. An option to password protect rooms would also be provided.

Videos would use digital rights management and stream in Windows Media. Lycos said this could give content owners a unique opportunity to receive instant feedback and generate new revenue streams.

"Lycos Cinema presents film and television content owners with an innovative new way to bring content to a dynamic, targeted audience," Kalinowski said. The focus would not be on user-generated content, he said, as it is more difficult to monetize.

Instead, the service will use episodic television, film, and video content. Among the 500 videos available at launch are independent films "The Champagne Club" and "Ants," underground films such as "Born 2B Gangsta," featuring Coolio and Ice-T, and classic films including "Night of the Living Dead."

Kalinowski says Lycos has about 1,000 videos licensed so far, expected to expand to 4,000 within the coming months.

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