Home Skype Alums Building a Netflix Competitor – Can It Make a Dent?

Skype Alums Building a Netflix Competitor – Can It Make a Dent?

Skype. Apache. Netflix. NBC. NASA. These are just some of the past employers found on the resumes of the folks working on Vdio, a top-secret new video service whose development is being led by Skype cofounders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis.

The startup hasn’t been publicly unveiled, but the company recently launched a splash page with a trademarked logo for Vdio and the slogan “Are you watching?” The site’s launch wasn’t announced and it’s currently blocking search engines from crawling it. The trademark on the page was traced by GigaOm to Pulser Music Services, which is the company that launched music streaming service Rdio in 2009.

This isn’t the first time Friis and Zennstrom have dabbled in the online video space. The entrepreneurial duo, who also founded filesharing service Kazaa, launched a video site called Joost in 2006. After a buzz-worthy start, Joost never really took off with users and shifted gears in 2009.

With Vdio, the duo is likely taking a new approach, most likely informed by their experience with subscription music service Rdio and this time, aiming squarely for Netflix.

How Vulnerable Is Netflix?

Netflix has been having a rough six weeks or so. Just as its controversial subscription rate hike took effect in the beginning of September, the company made another wildly unpopular announcement: that it would be spinning off its DVD rental service into a seperate business with its own branding and website and keeping Netflix intact as a streaming-only company. Those plans have since been abandoned. Meanwhile, the company has seen its stock price drop as it has lost an estimated 1 million customers.

Despite these recent troubles, Netflix still has 25 million customers and lots of content deals in place, which seem to keep on coming. It’s a leader in the online video space and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Building a Top-Notch Team, But to Launch What?

Still, that hasn’t stopped Friis and Zennstrom from assembling a mega-team to work on this startup, which appears to be codenamed Project WBS. That’s the name of the entity that owns the Vdio trademark, which counts alumni from Joost, the Apache Foundation, NBC and somebody from Netflix with content aquisition experience. They’ve even hired somebody from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for their experience wrangling especially gigantic data sets.

The collective experience of Project WBS is impressive enough that whatever they’re building, it’s a rather serious foray into the online video space.

Other than what bloggers have dug up, very little is known about the company and its actual plans. They appear to be set to launch in the UK first. Their splash page accepts sign-ups via Facebook, but registering doesn’t unlock any additional functionality or details about the service.

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