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Robinson firm lets you watch world's TV shows

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Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007
 

A Robinson-based tech start-up is changing the way people see the world -- beginning Friday.

WhereverTV, founded and led by Coraopolis native Mark Cavicchia, has developed a Web site that streams live programming from 1,200 international TV channels using high-speed Internet and a computer.

By year's end, Cavicchia says users won't even need the computer -- they'll be able to access the channels using a cell phone.

"The world's getting smaller. We're trying to facilitate that," Cavicchia said while demonstrating the company's Web site, www.wherever.tv. "In TV, your world today is limited in what you can see. You can really see the world (using WhereverTV) without having to travel the world."

Channels broadcasting shows, news, weather and sports from about 100 countries are available and can be arranged in a guide by language, country or genre.

Interested in Ivory Coast programming• How about English cricket• An Italian movie• It's all on WhereverTV for free -- the company will make money off advertisements, not subscriptions, Cavicchia said.

Other Web sites offer similar streaming services but charge a fee.

"If you think about how you watch videos today, if you want to watch NFL content, you would go through Yahoo, for instance, and set up a username and password," Cavicchia said. "If you wanted to watch March Madness, you would go to cstv.com and set up a username and password. Movies, Netflix or some other place and set up a username and password. It's pretty labor intensive."

Instead of visiting 20 Web sites and trying to remember 20 usernames, users can access the programs through WhereverTV's interface, he said.

By the end of October, Cavicchia will unveil a box that attaches to a TV set and a broadband connection, and streams the channels to that TV. The box, which will cost about $200, replaces the need for a computer to access the programming.

By year's end, users will be able to download the programming using a high-end cell phone, such as a Nokia Nseries, that connects to a TV, Cavicchia said.

"Our niche market is really not a U.S. person living abroad," he said. "Our target is people from other countries living in the U.S."

Hui Zhang, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, specializes in developing technology to distribute video online.

He said the industry faces two issues -- technology and profitability, both of which are being addressed.

"Video traffic in terms of total amount is already exceeding 50 percent of Internet traffic," Zhang said. "But the potential is much higher. We're at the beginning of the video revolution."

Cavicchia isn't the first Pittsburgher to attempt to stream live TV, said Mike Shamos, co-director of Carnegie Mellon University's Institute for eCommerce.

William Craig, the former general manager of Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh, launched iCraveTV.com in Toronto in 1999 and webcasted U.S. television shows, movies, and professional football and basketball games.

Unlike Cavicchia, Craig did not gain permission from the broadcasters, was sued and lost in federal court, Shamos said.

Shamos, who was called as a witness against iCraveTV.com, said Cavicchia's model could succeed.

"It's probably a viable business model," Shamos said. "The capital cost is low, and you sell the advertising. You're not creating the content. You just have to make sure that guide is (darn) good."

Most of the channels WhereverTV offers originate from abroad, but some American stations do offer free online programming. So does Major League Baseball's baseballchannel.tv.

Cavicchia is raising capital in the hopes of reaching deals within the next year with Yahoo -- which holds the rights to broadcast NFL games online outside the United States -- and foreign sports leagues.

Eventually, he envisions a day when WhereverTV offers paid access to movies and enables users to create and place content on their own channels.

"Every high school, if they wanted, could have a dedicated channel that runs archived or live football games," Cavicchia said. "It's all about the user." Additional Information:

WhereverTV

Founder and CEO: Mark Cavicchia

Year founded: 2006

Location: Robinson

Web site: www.wherever.tv

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