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Clicker Aims to Be TV Guide for Net Video

Clicker's main menu
Click on the graphic for a larger view. Source: Clicker

Video aggregation sites like Hulu and Fancast help you find your favorite TV shows on the Web, but the founders of the newly-launched Clicker have a bigger picture vision.

"At the end of the day what we think we built is the first true programming guide for Internet television," said Jim Lanzone, CEO of Clicker and former CEO of search engine Ask.com. "If you were starting TV Guide today instead of in 1953 it would look more like Clicker than a schedule grid."

After a private beta period of several months, Lanzone said Clicker is dropping the beta tag and going live ahead of schedule due to a flood of positive responses by testers.

With programming "scattered all over the Web, Lanzone & company set out to develop a next generation program guide that would go beyond structured directories and be more comprehensive than an editorial-focused, more limited system that relies more on people sorting out what's available.

"Clicker is not a destination site to watch videos, but a navigation and discovery guide solely," Lanzone told InternetNews.com. "We're a pencil; we do one thing very well. We don't want to compete with destination viewing."

Taming YouTube?

Clicker indexes sites like Hulu and YouTube as well as some 50,000 music videos. In total, the index includes more than 400,000 full episodes of various TV shows from over 1,200 sources in more than 1,200 categories. Much like a DVR, the free, ad-supported service includes DVR-like playlists, new episode alerts and 'season passes' to watch your favorite series.

"We've tamed YouTube," Lanzone said. "It has billions of videos, but we only include several thousand we determine to be broadcast quality which includes some music videos and other housed on YouTube channels."

And while television shows are a big part of the index, Clicker also collects videos native to the Internet. A search for "Darwin" might get you an episode of PBS's "Nova," but the results will also include videos on the evolutionary scientist from Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley.

A "Search-Within" feature lets you search for topics within a particular show. For example, you could search for "Dennis Miller" on "The O'Reilly Factor" to get a list of episodes on which Miller has appeared.

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Clicker also employs "machine learning" to make recommendations. For example, "30 Rock," "The Office" and "The Larry Sanders Show" are offered as related suggestions for the show "Seinfeld." The service also has a user-generated angle, giving users the option to comment on shows or supplement the descriptions.

"A big part of Clicker is providing contextual information about shows. We go in-depth on our show descriptions with air dates and other metadata. But we're not going to be able to do that across every show out there," said Lanzone.

"We're letting our users help edit the information and create new content they think others should see. So we're part wiki but it won't be an unregulated wiki," he said noting Clicker screens for illegally distributed content.

Lanzone said he plans to keep the service free, though there's likely to be a "Pro" version "for super users" that will add more features. "This is a very monetizable area of the Web," he said. "We want to build it as large as we can with an awesome product."

It's been an intense year of development for Clicker, which received $8 million in Series A venture funding led by Benchmark Capital and Redpoint Ventures.

"We're certainly the first one to take this approach of trying to cover every one of these shows and every episode and organize it at this level of detail," said Lanzone. "When we started out, I talked to a friend at Google who said, "You're crazy.'"