Lycos has launched a movie streaming service that it hopes will catch on with people by mixing elements from two of the web's most popular services: social networking and online video.
Lycos Cinema lets people located in different places watch a movie at the same time and make comments about it in a common text chat window.
The company describes the service as a "watch and chat" service that's designed to create a social network around a communal movie-watching experience. Whoever is hosting a screening can pause, rewind or fast-forward the movie, recreating, in virtual fashion, the experience of watching a movie with a group of friends in someone's living room, said Brian Kalinowski, Lycos' chief operating officer.
To watch movies, people have to register with the service and create profiles of themselves, the basis of all social networking websites, like News Corp's MySpace and Friendster's service. "This is the next evolution of socialisation and community online," he said.
Lycos limited the featured video to professional, long-form movies, avoiding the amateur, short clips that have made sites like YouTube's so popular. The movies in Lycos Cinema are protected by digital rights management technology to prevent illegal copying.
An unfulfilled promise for many years, online video has taken off in the past 18 months or so, helped by continued adoption of broadband and improvements in streaming technology. The poster child of the online video revolution is YouTube, which was founded in early 2005 and which Google last month agreed to purchase for $1.65 billion.
YouTube, which lets users upload, comment on, rate, share and tag video clips, ranked as the 26th most visited website in the US in October, with almost 23.5 million unique visitors, according to comScore Networks. That isn't far from Lycos' traffic of 26.5 million unique visitors, which earned it 18th place in the US last month.
Lycos Cinema has licensed about 1,000 movies from various sources and expects its catalogue to grow to over 3,000 movies in the next six months, Kalinowski said. The company plans to make money by showing viewers video ads and sharing that revenue with the movie owners, he said.
Lycos will focus on licensing lesser-known movies, like independent films and cult classics, as opposed to blockbusters. "We're looking to provide a platform for that long-tail content," he said.
The company, which is owned by Korean Daum Communications, will also make the service available to film producers wanting to promote new films and to obtain feedback from viewers by using Lycos Cinema as an audience focus group.