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Skype founders turn on net TV service

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Those guys behind Kazaa and Skype have started accepting signups for a peer to peer video streaming service they say will deliver high quality full screen TV across the net.

The Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom-backed Venice Project is in internal beta, and should be going to public beta soon. Viewers should be able to watch, well, something before Christmas.

The Venice Project is in discussions with major content providers, including TV companies, and has already truck deals with serious content providers, Friis told El Reg today. The Venice Project will also allow smaller content producers and individuals to upload their content. The service will be supported by advertising.

Friis and Zennstrom's time at Kazaa was marked by trench warfare with the big record companies, but this time they are nailing down the copyright issues before the service goes live.

"This is not a file sharing network," said Friis, adding that “We have a lot of experience with copyright.”. The service will be DMCA compliant, and content providers will be able to “de-authorise” content, he said. At the same time, if users upload illicit material, he said, it can be tracked down and taken off.

From the viewer's point of view, Friis is promising something that combines the best of the TV, i.e. professionally-produced content that tells a story, with the internet's ability to search for and access content on a whim, produce favourites list, forward these to friends along with comments, and the like. Users will create their own channels which could span programmes from the big production houses, independent documentaries, home movies and You Tube-like clips.

"This is a secure P2P network," added Friis. Users simply need to download the client software. Content providers will be able to access tools to upload their content, and crucially, ensure they get a cut of the advertising revenue it generates.

When content is uploaded, files will be atomized, Bittorrent-like, and distributed around the users on the network. However, users will be able to access the content as streams, giving the same sort of viewing experience they would expect from television.

Or at least that's the aim. Right now the service is in an internal beta, so outsiders can't see it. When it goes to open Beta, the company will use a Gmail-type viral invitation to spread the word - and generate a tidal wave of interest and hype.

The TV venture is backed by Friis and Zennstom, together with private investment. Friis said the company had offices in Europe and the US. Most of the development is being done in Europe. However, he was vague on where the firm is actually headquartered.

Friis and Zennstom still have day jobs at eBay - the internet bazaar bought Skype last year. Friis said the new project would not upset relations with their employer. He said The Venice Project “sits quite well“ with eBay “ adding: "Meg [Whitman, eBay CEO] is very encouraging."

Zennstrom will continue as CEO of Skype, and will be on the board of the new project. Friis is also on the board of The Venice Project, but in a much more active role. He retains his Skype title of director of strategy and innovation. The Venice Project's CEO is Fredrik de Wahl. The company is not disclosing the names of other board members yet.®

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