Building Entertainment Infrastructures

SAN MATEO (08/10/2000) - Combining hosted network services, targeted ad serving, and content services, New York-based EMT is setting its sights on creating branded networks for a hefty vertical market: the professional sports and entertainment arenas.

EMT supplies the back-end infrastructure needed to set up an online environment specific to the needs of a particular customer, creating "private-label" Internet Media Networks that can link advertisers, sponsors, customers -- and fans -- into one Web-based network.

"EMT is not a brand, some sexy moniker that anyone is ever going to get excited about," explained Michael Liebow, chief marketing officer for EMT. "We are a technology enabler, an infrastructure player. So we are taking all the tools that companies use to develop their own Internet brands and applying it to the things that people are most passionate about. And when you look across all the things that people might feel an affiliation to, sports and entertainment rank on top. "The foundation of the Internet Media Networks is technology that EMT has dubbed E:IDnet, an integration of various pieces of technology such as browser applications, commerce and transaction engines, and communications, storage, load-balancing, and server platform components.

"We have a software platform that allows this thing to run efficiently," said Liebow, noting that EMT is partnering with companies such as IBM Corp., EMC, and Adforce to make sure everything links together. "It is component-based, so we can integrate the different modules that we need in terms of registration, content, ad serving, commerce links, and all the different components."

Once the foundation is in place, users can surf the Internet with a customizable browser called an E:IDframe, while leaving the team or celebrity's "brand" in place. E:IDframes, which also include an e-mail and instant messaging client, search engine, and Web directory, can be distributed through CD-ROMs or online downloads and are hosted by E:IDnet.

Liebow believes the E:IDnet-based Internet Media Networks gives customers a chance to quickly provide a "Yahoo experience" -- aggregating various content types, e-commerce, and communication services -- under the umbrella of the customers' brand or name. Content, including syndicated content from EMT partners or customer-created content, and advertisements can be targeted based on preferences such as context, geographic area, or registration data.

EMT will also monitor network usage through its E:IDdata toolkit, compiling data based on qualifications including the most- or least-requested pages, number of downloads, geographical area, referring sites, and activity levels at certain times or over a particular amount of time.

According to Reza Izad, an agent at United Talent Agency's new ventures department in Los Angeles, who is an EMT customer, the technology provides another opportunity to leverage brand names and hold onto user eyeballs.

"There are things that allow you to capture the user at the desktop, and the power of that position is great," Izad said. "This is a similar type of application; it doesn't have the ISP component to it, though it can. But this has all the other upsides of capturing the desktop. Suddenly your ability to market, promote, and push that permission envelope to the next level and start marketing services to them is, I think, huge."

Izad added that sometimes the difficult part of doing dot-com deals for celebrities or recording artists is the lack of longevity and vision beyond just aggregating users.

"That is why we are really excited about being in business with this company [EMT]," Izad noted. "It doesn't work for the emerging talent as much, but for those big brand names in the bus like Disney, HBO, we have good relationships with them, it enables them to come to some solutions that no one has had the answers to yet."

EMT's Internet Media Network solutions are "cash-flow positive" because they are offering an opportunity where "service supercedes the content and that is where the money is made, where content is what keeps the user within your affinity," Izad said. "It is a new way of repurposing content in an area [the Internet] that views content as a second-rate, at best, sort of thing."

"Every new media person is faced with the same challenge; the question is, what are your options?" Liebow said. "They can create a Web site, which today averages about a $1 million investment. The problem is there is very little return on that investment. Another option is to become a portal -- if you look at the portal players out there, they will set up a portal for you but they will share very little of the revenue back to you. The third option is the Internet Media Network."

Liebow said the company is "talking to every major sporting league there is at the highest levels," with the exception of the NBA, as well as entertainment companies and personalities.

"We are not a b-to-c [business-to-consumer] brand, we are b-to-b-to-c type player that is providing infrastructure to these companies with brands to sell, so our target audience is sort of small," Liebow said, adding that the company will be introducing its second version of the Internet Media Network technology in October. "[We] showed [Version 2.0] to the WWF [World Wrestling Federation] and it blew them away."

Ed Scannell is an InfoWorld editor at large. InfoWorld reporter Stephanie Sanborn contributed to this article.

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