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September 20, 2006

WiFi TV to Launch Video Chat Service

By Arthur C. Cole, TMCnet Contributing Editor

New experiences are continuously cropping up on the Internet as entrepreneurs seek to mix and match various data, voice and video services looking for something to capture the public’s imagination.

One of the newest offerings on the Web will be launched this Friday by WiFi TV, which is seeking to bring together the social network appeal of MySpace with the video-swapping aspect of YouTube.

The Live Party Room will be an adjunct to WiFi (News - Alert) TV’s existing VoIP and Live Chat offerings. It will provide users equipped with web cams and microphones the ability to launch interactive video sessions with up to 25 participants.

“There’s been explosive growth of people communicating over the net in the past couple of years,” said Alex Kanakaris, chairman of WiFi TV Inc., during an interview with TMCnet. “We wanted to give people a way to have video communications, but we also wanted to make it available for friends to connect they way they do on MySpace.”

WiFi TV turned to a small company called Consolidated Streaming Inc. to develop a platform that overcame a number of limitations hampering Internet video.

“The limitations of current technology at the time were making it hard to provide not only 24-hour access, but an ability to provide access to more than a few people at a time,” Kanakaris said.

Consolidated Streaming spent more than a year working on the platform, in conjunction with a number of consultants in the U.S., India and Israel. Details of the platform are proprietary, and the company is expected to apply for patent protection in the near future.

WiFi hopes users will be attracted by the ability to combine the different services on its Web site to, for example, create video conferences around particular interests or news events. Video communications can be tied to not only IP voice communications, but text as well.

“We look at it as a supplement to our existing services,” Kanakaris said. “Subscribers already have access to 400 different live television feeds, web cams, traffic cams… With our live chat box, anyone watching a program can intertext with anyone else watching anywhere in the world.”

The site is both subscription and ad-based. WiFi has entered a marketing agreement with AdCall to sell sponsored video channels to business and organizations. The aim is to draw groups that seek to reach a wide audience with targeted programming.

“It’s particularly aimed at churches, schools, and companies that will benefit from having their own TV channel that can reach beyond the local market,” Kanakaris said.

WiFi is a consumer-oriented site, so the company is not planning to launch video-based collaboration tools for enterprise users.

WiFi TV claims to have verified viewers in more than 150 countries, offering country- and category-specific news and information, plus free VoIP service.

“Our target audience is the MySpace generation – 16- to 24-year-olds,” Kanakaris said. “Our largest draws are the music video channels.”

The company was founded in 1995 and went public in 1997.

“Initially, we were focused on internet delivery of standard television,” Kanakaris said. “Our goal now is to make it interactive for a new generation of net users.”


Arthur Cole is a freelance writer specializing in high-tech information and communications. To see more of his articles, visit his columnist page.


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