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Wednesday, April 4, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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New tools, new role for Seattle digital media company

Seattle Times technology reporter

thePlatform, a Seattle subsidiary of cable giant Comcast, is unveiling new tools today that let companies create customized video players for Web sites and cellphones.

With the new software, thePlatform is stepping out from its behind-the-scenes role of managing the plumbing of online video for such customers as ABC News, CNBC and Verizon Wireless. Now, the company is offering an array of online video players for businesses to use on their own sites. The players can be customized down to the color and theme.

The software might work for a small cable company that has loads of video but is unsure of how to broadcast it or sell it online, said Ian Blaine, thePlatform's chief executive.

"It's no longer good enough to just put video up," Blaine said. "You have to build an immersive experience for it."

The new tools, part of a package called mpsPresent, can be used to allow customers to download music and videos as well. The G4 cable network and an arm of NBC Universal are already using the software, according to thePlatform.

Analysts briefed by thePlatform said the software will help companies at a time when online video players are becoming increasingly complex and specialized.

"The day of having one ubiquitous Flash player or one ubiquitous Windows Media player is over," said Mike Wolf, director of digital media research for ABI Research.

A company like Disney, for example, might have many different specialized players to reach different audiences, he said.

Half of all online consumers watch online video, said James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester Research. But online channels can have a problem making themselves known to the world and must spend money on marketing and advertising.

"The people struggling the most with their video strategy online are the small players who produce content for a niche audience and don't have the large scale of a CBS or NBC to build a proprietary Web site for video content," McQuivey said.

Kim Peterson: 206-464-2360 or kpeterson@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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