The future is here! The contenders in the Internet based personal television service providers are growing daily, and Mogulus is the latest company to enter the fray.
The technology involved in live video streaming has caught up with the idea of everyone having their own personal TV station, and with broadband available almost everywhere, this is now reality. You can now be the star and broadcast your own television station for free from the comfort of your own home.
I recently had the opportunity to meet up with Max Haot, CEO of Mogulus, the newest player in the emerging personal live broadcasting sector. Together with Stickam, Ustream and Operator11, Mogulus is a new web-based service allowing just about anyone to start, at zero cost, their own personal net tv.
Mogulus specific focus, as Max Haot clearly underlines in this interview, is on creating net tv channels that have the look and feel of professional television stations: pro-graphics, an effective control room with a video mixer, the option to send live (”on-net” in place of “on-air” should be the term to be used to refer to such live broadcasting online – thanks Blaxwan) even those following the show at a distance, a full playlist functionality and a lot more.
But, as its own competitors, Mogulus too has to face issues of usability, reliability and of a sustainable business model to make its offering a true winner.
Will Mogulus become the new reference for those wanting to create their own live net TV stations, and what will characterize its offering? Waht features will be there to differentiate Mogulus from its own competition?
These and others were the questions that I posed to Max Haot over a coffee table in Piazza S.Eustachio here in Rome before he jumped back on his next intercontinental flight.
Max Haot had arrived here in Rome a couple of days earlier to join in to the special party-event-live-stream that Italian tv-video-media expert Tommaso Tessarolo had organized for the announcement of his Net TV book.
He was not only kind enough to answers everything I asked but he also did let me live stream and video record everything he said via one of its direct competitors service.
Here’s the record of what we shared together that day:
Robin Good interviews Max Haot of Mogulus
Full English text transcript Video duration: 32′ mins
Robin Good: So Max, where are you based at?
Max Haot: I’m based in New York, so that’s where the Mogulus company is based, and I’ve lived in New York for two years now…and I was in London for ten years, and then in Belgium, where I was born.
RG: And before jumping into the online television world, you have been already exposed to this kind of things I imagine…
Max Haot: Yeah, I started a work experience in London when I was 17, in 1995, and I wanted to be a television director (for TV companies), and when I started I also realized the power of the Internet, and I actually didn’t do any television, and I worked at sites for the bigger sport federations, like Manchester United, European school of golf and so on.
So then I built my career there for ten years.
RG: With this company?
Max Haot: Yes, with this company, IMG. So that’s where I learned about TV and technology, and then basically in 2000 I created a software company, called ICF, and what we did is software for broadcasters to help syndicate video via mobile and broadband operators.
RG: That’s in the UK?
Max Haot: Yes, that was in the UK. So that was my first company, incavated with an IMG. And this was a really professional, software for production company.
We sold it also to Telecom Italia here, so that’s why Telecom Italia uses it for “Rosso Alice”. And then we were providing all of the format conversion support to all the operators, because one mobile operator wants one format and another one wants another format, and it takes a long time to re-format.
Then we sold the company in America to a company called MCI.
RG: In which role did you play?
Max Haot: I was basically vice-president of digital media at Verizon business, which is the business division of Verizon. It’s very big, it’s 50,000 employees and many billions of dollars…and then we started Mogulus this year.
RG: When did the vision come? How long ago?
Max Haot: Well, it’s been there for a long time, but it’s started this year.
Max Haot: Yeah.
RG: But when is it that your idea first consolidated? … when was it that you said to yourself: “I wanna go for this”.
When that moment came, was the first thing to do to go and search for capital? Or did you first attempt to go other ways?
Max Haot: No, I mean I founded the company with some other capital from myself, so that’s really how it started, and then very quickly some relationship-and a friend of mine actually-wanted to invest more money….and so, at the beginning, I wanted to do this very small, with a team of very talented people that I worked with; and then basically we raised up to 1.2 million dollars…so we’re not too big and not too small.
RG: …so your funding support comes from “Private Angels”… is that a company?
Max Haot: Yes, Private Angels.
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RG: And… this is enough funding for you to go on without any money coming in for what..one year, two years?
Max Haot: Yes, until the end of the year. But I’ve invested it already since two weeks ago, and they offer to invest more. So things are good, the same investors want to invest more…
As you know, our Mogulus has two versions: the professional version, where if people don’t want the advert they can pay for usage, or the advert-supported version, which is free. Keep in mind that before you can get advertisers who want to put ads on your tv channel, you need to have a product, ‘cause otherwise they will not.
We only launched Mogulus publicly two weeks ago, we’ve let the first few people in, only two days ago, and so now my job starts in looking at the options of getting advertisers on board, and we’ll see how it goes. So next month is very important.
RG: But why did you choose to go for the small guys… targeting the same audience as Ustream or Operator11… to the naive user Mogulus appears as a competitor (nonetheless, everybody says “Oh Mogulus is fantastic, so many more features), but you know, the others will be awake as well, and they’ll be moving on in features.
So, you’re not that far above, nor that far behind. The question is why did you choose to go for the small guys, instead of going for the medium size or the biggest size market, which would normally appear as a safer road?
Max Haot: What do you mean by “small guys”?
RG: The small guys is everybody who now wants to be the new net-tv, which is generally some kind of unknown outsider who has good ideas, who has some resources to build this (that is my perception, maybe wrong). That is not generally the traditional broadcaster.
So are you going for the small guys because you think they may waken-up the middle and big guys, or because this is a specific business strategy?
Max Haot: The way we look at it is to go after existing medium guys, I would call them; they’re not big-medium companies, they’re not teenagers that just want to play with you.
There’s this group, and this group is really inspired to create valuable media properties, and they’ve started with blogs, some have started with video blogs…and they don’t look at themselves as “players around”, they want to become large media companies.
So our target is really to empower everybody who has already been creating contents and is very serious about it, …that’s really the strategy.
I think that everybody has a different angle, and we want to give you everything you need to make exactly what you see on TVs like RAI or Mediaset, or CNN, and that’s the objective.
That’s what appeals, I think, not to medium guys, but to new coming-up guys, who are really ambitious and want to create but who don’t have enough money to create a traditional TV studio.
On the other hand I’ve been meeting some of the traditional broadcasters who used to be my market, and I think that they are more traditional, a lot of them understand but it’s slower for them to move in that space, so that is why if I went for the broadcasters it would take me a very long time to convince them of the vision and the product, because there’s a lot of traditional ideas, technology and standards that they have to stick with…
RG: …This guy knows what he’s talking about!…
Max Haot: …so, when they slowly get over that I hope they will be interested in the product…we’ll see. We’re not waiting for that.
RG: And are you having the facility to bring in also the community participants, just like some of your competitors can? That is, some people can log in and you as the video show director can allow them to participate live into the show via their own webcams?
Max Haot: Well, the “model today” version has just come out, and you know we’re very new. Two weeks ago we announced the product, only two days ago we let the first 150 people in, and we’ve already 80 channels running…so, we’re very happy.
And the objective is, in the next two months, to create quality channels.
So we want to work with all these people who have applied, and to let them in slowly and build with them quality channels and quality products.
Now the channels there’s nobody that can see them, ‘cause very few people can go in, so slowly we will let the best get their blogs, so that’s the first step in two weeks. And then in July you will see that we will replace Mogulus.com with a website for viewing, and at that time we hope we have some channels that show everybody what can be done.
And if you look at today, we’ve been very happy: we have a dozen hundred applicants, and that will grow the next months, so we aim at having five really good channels in July. This would be a big success for us, and then at that time we’ll open up the doors to everyone.
So, going back to your question about the features, one of them is the audience participation, and we look at it differently: we’ll have a feature on our player which is called “call the channel”, ‘cause it’s like on real TV. They say “please call us” and then you call, and then what happens when you call is that there’s somebody in the channel that sees all the calls coming in and they choose who can go live on the air.
And in the studio we will add (before July basically) a new tab, so somebody in the team, or the person itself, can select the call, and if they don’t pick the calls on time they can leave a video-voice mail.
These features, …I think there’s one other competitor who has them… are really on the road-map.
At the moment the product is showing that we have really good channels, the graphics, the contents, etc…We want to make sure that Robin Good TV will look to normal users like a fully professional television station channel, even though it’s done with a web camera or a portable camcorder.
That’s what our priority is.
RG: Let’s see how good the guy is: what is the feature I miss the most right now?
Max Haot: Recording!
RG: All right! …so what about that one?
Max Haot: We had the choice to bring the product to market earlier without recording, as that is still in testing at the moment. So basically what Robin is talking about is that is that at the moment, on Mogulus.com you can either broadcast your blog or you can put the playlist, which is called the “autopilot” in Mogulus, which is a unique feature that we have.
What you can’t do is when you’re mixing yourself and record you can’t recall that and broadcast it on the playlist again, that’s coming in a couple of weeks. And that’s a great feature,, because nobody wants to produce a great show and see it only once. But anyhow, by the time the channel will be live, that feature will be there.
RG: Good, good.
Max Haot: You will have it very soon.
RG: OK, I will take some pressure off my friend Max, so that he can take some of his appetizer as well, and I think I will let him go as far as questions, because he has been under pressure all this time, he’s come to Rome to relax a little bit, and so why not let him have his time.
I think we are going to look at Mogulus not only for the things Max has just mentioned but also for things that this small companies do not maybe lack, but sometimes overlook.. I’m quite sure Max is aware of it, and that is the usability aspects.
There is a lot improve here, and that may be the very competitive area, in my humble opinion, where you can take a true advantage, because people get discouraged very easily. So, we can wait for better features, but things must be one click instead than three when they can be one click, and they must be obvious.
I think that right there your competition has not done a great job so far, so you should take advantage of this instead of shooting forward for more.
Max Haot: I think, as you say, that usability is the key. We want to allow anybody to be able to launch the channel – that’s the way we look at it. We don’t want this to be for professional, and obviously if it’s made easy anybody can use it.
The other very important thing I want to mention is that what we’re doing is live all the time, because it can change at any point and time.
The other aspect is the graphic, which is unique: today we have one template that you can customize a little bit, but we’ll have many templates…you know, you’ll have a music template which may look like MTV, you’ll have a news template which may look like RAI or CNN.
And because we have Flash technology we can also add interactivity and hyperlinks into the tickers, and then the real surprise is when later this year (we don’t have a date for that yet) we will have a software that anybody who is familiar with Flash could use to develop new custom templates.
At the moment we keep it for ourself, but it’s already done, and very soon we will release it onto our community.
If you look at blogging web-sites, you have templates for your web-site (you don’t have to be a designer), you can make one because you can become a very popular blog, you can make a custom one, and you also have people who make custom ones and they give it for people to use.
We want to applicate the same model for the broadcast graphics and we hope, in a few months, to have so many different options that every channel can look very different. You can have a finance channel, where we integrate with a charting and data…
RG: What about the possibility of translating this same approach to the very young content that your Mogulus producers will be making. That is, part of my content I may tag it as being re-usable by other broadcasters, so they can put in their playlist-that would be very good!
Max Haot: That’s a very good point. At the moment with the Mogulus interface you have an option which is what we call “get video”…
RG: And that’s a great one!
Max Haot: Yes, it will become “get content”, and you have two options today: “from the web”, and we’ll integrate with YouTube, but we’re going to integrate also with Revver, Flickr, and other sort of things you can take images or video from; and then you also have “from my computers”, and there’s a third one coming soon which we will call “The Mogulus store”, which is basically licensed content that we will provide.
Some of it is free, some of it may be with a charge, that is fully licensed, so that if you use content from there, content that comes from the store, it will come with a licence (and it may be free, or it may have a cost), so we hope to work with big media companies that want to put their movie trailers, or their music videos and so on.
And our producers will be able to match it up in their channel 100% secure, 100% copyright safe and, as you say, if you had VOD content and you wanted to give it or maybe charge people, well you can start giving it, then you’ll be able to give it in the Mogulus store and anybody could be able to pick it up for their things-like an iTunes store.
That’s the way we’re going to address that issue… because when you put it in the store, you have to give other people the right to use it.
RG: Yes, one very last question, I promise: in the business where you have the pro-version, do you already know what the prices are going to be like?
Max Haot: What we know is the structure of the price. We’ve been debating whether we should do deals with broadcasting companies, expensive deals, or whether we should do what I call self-service pro: you just put your account or your credit card, and you don’t have to talk to us.
And I think the model we’re going to go towards is the pro-version which is very easy: anybody can get the pro-version, and we will charge per Gigabyte transfer, which is like any what ISP does with CDN.
We don’t have the price yet, but we hope to be very competitive: and that’s why we can make the advertising model work and why we hope we can offer a pro-version.
RG: So the more audience you’ll have the more you would pay?
Max Haot: Yeah, like a plan when you buy a web-server; you can buy a plan and you have a number of Gbyte you can transfer, and if you go over that…same concept!
RG: Yeah, but we all wanna go pro-version! So we usually have a negative feeling, we get flies in the stomach every time we have a meter going…from the taxi on it’s already a stress! (ride) So, it’s nice if you forecast to us such a traffic and then if you go beyond you say “we meter it”.
I think this is more compelling to us small guys, it’s just this bad feeling to have to watch what I’m doing, and also have the feeling that if you do better, you actually pay more.
Max Haot: But I think there’s two points here. Firstly, we think that if you do pro it’s because you’re going to monetize it yourself, and because your monetization is linked to your success, so hopefully the two work together and we hope to make it cheap enough so that if you have advertising that you do yourself on the pro-version, you still make money.
Our objective is for our partners, who are the producers, to make money. So the point is that monetization is something that in the pro-version you can do yourself, and maybe another option will be for the non-pro version (that may be a long time because we want to prove that the business works first, and that there are advertisers).
That’s something we are thinking about, and we have to wait a bit longer, but again: our philosophy is to empower the producer with our platform and monetization, not to take it away from them and charge them.
RG: But you are charging them!
Max Haot: Well, but they’re monetizing up for this!
RG: But you’re hoping they’re monetizing, you’re not charging them like e-Bay…
Max Haot: But then use the non-pro version, because the only difference is the advert!
RG: Yes, but that’s not a small difference!
Max Haot: Well, somebody has to pay for something!
RG: No, but we want to share with you the money we make , so that if we are successful you are too. So that’s something to think about. Even Brightcove, I’m sure you know about it, makes it as easy as possible for me to make money, while not really charging me in advance for making that possible.
Max Haot: But that means inserting the advertising…
RG: If I want. …but there are also other options.
Max Haot: Well, I think that’s what the meter is about, and we have to listen to all users.
RG: That’s what we wanted to hear and he said it now!
Max Haot: So if we bring something that nobody wants, then that doesn’t work for us or for the producers.
RG: Thank-you Max, and daddy and mummy Haot: you’re working in the labs as he said, please be tough! Be very tough and do your job for us. From Robin Good here live in Rome in Piazza Sant’Eustachio, with Max Haot from Mogulus, it’s everything! I will get back to you later on tonight, for now I close my connection. See you soon!
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