Turner Picks Five Media Startups for Summer Accelerator Program

Company Invests $100,000 in Startup Funding

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While some traditional media companies try to keep upstarts like Aereo from shaking up their business models, Turner Broadcasting is trying to join in on the disruption. Last year the owner of CNN, TBS and TNT introduced a startup accelerator called Media Camp to cozy up with companies trying to shape the new media landscape. Now it has selected five startups for its second 12-week summer program in San Francisco: ChannelMeter, Cinemacraft, Meograph, Plumzi and Tomorrowish.

"As you might expect, companies of our size and maturity often don't move as fast as we'd like," said Balaji Gopinath, VP-emerging technology at Turner Broadcasting. "Here's a way for us to spread out the innovation across the startup ecosystem and work collaboratively to define what entertainment might look like in the years to come."

Turner Broadcasting's Balaji Gopinath
Turner Broadcasting's Balaji Gopinath

The summer program aims to get participating early-stage outfits up to speed on the media industry. Each startup is assigned two executives as mentors from Turner or parent company Time Warner, and other media industry higher-ups -- not only Time Warner employees -- will drop in for dinners to meet with the startups.

Where traditional startup accelorators aim for direct returns on equity investments, Turner is primarily trying to make connections and keep up with the curve. "Our accelerator is more strategic in nature versus a financial vehicle," Mr. Gopinath said.

But don't be mistaken; there is money involved. Turner invests $20,000 in each startup and has the option to participate in future funding rounds. Turner can also play matchmaker, pairing startups with its own brands and advertisers.

"We had some brand days and agency days last year with some select folks," Mr. Gopinath said. "We'll absolutely offer that up again this year in conjunction with the ad buys that people make or the relationships they have with Turner that exist today or new people that we want to bring into the mix."

Chute, a member of last year's Media Camp class that specializes in image-based media, worked with the NBA and soda brand Sprite to display animated GIFs on the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk contest web site.

After whittling the roughly 200 applicants down to 20, Turner asked employees at its networks which should make the final five. Mr. Gopinath particularly sought companies tackling new models for content creation and distribution as well as new ways that advertising and analytics fit into the mix.

Among the five finalists, ChannelMeter focuses on measuring YouTube channel stats like subscriber numbers and video views. "They hope to be the Nielsen ratings of online video," Mr. Gopinath said.

Launched in Japan, Cinemacraft's technology identifies what parts of a video viewers find most interesting and then creates thumbnails to help the video stand out when someone's browsing what to watch next. High-profile investor Dave McClure has taken notice; his 500 Startups has twice invested in the company.

Meograph stitches together images, audio and text links into an interactive "video-like product" that Mr. Gopinath called a "4-D storytelling platform" that can help brands figure out new ways to get people's attention. "And they can do it in less than 10 minutes," he said.

Specializing in animation, Plumzi takes static TV episodes and appends an interactive layer for viewing (and then some) on touchscreen devices. "They describe themselves as what would TV look like if it'd been invented for the iPad," Mr. Gopinath said. The company could point to the future of Turner's Cartoon Network.

And Tomorrowish, described by Mr. Gopinath as a "social media DVR," ingests the social activity occurring around a TV show when it airs and then resurfaces the most relevant tweets when the episode is watched online or potentially through a video on-demand service.

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