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Woburn firm starts online video service

Woburn-based Gotuit Media Inc. will launch a broadband video portal today to compete in the suddenly crowded broadband TV market, with music videos from artists like Nelly Furtado and short films from Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers.

Unlike YouTube and MySpace, which thrive on amateur videos of bizarre talents and comedy skits, Gotuit.com will stream professional content such as news clips from Associated Press and Reuters and music videos by Rihanna and Christina Aguilera. Free to the public, the ad-supported portal has lower lag time between videos and a search function that lets users dig for highlights stuffed in longer clips, like a touchdown in a football game. Visitors can also create their own video playlists and share favorite clips.

``If it's made free and easy to get, we believe that consumers will gravitate toward professional content," said Gotuit's president, Mark Pascarella .

Funded by Lexington-based Highland Capital Partners and Boston-based Atlas Venture, the company provides video-on-demand services for cable companies like Time Warner Cable and Adelphia Cable, now being acquired by Comcast Corp. and Time Warner. The company is using the content it acquired for video on demand to stream into their portal.

``It was not a painstaking effort," Pascarella said about acquiring streaming rights for Gotuit's content. However, he acknowledged that media companies will become increasingly more protective of streaming licenses as more video gravitates onto the Internet.

Though the site can reach 2,200 music videos and daily news highlights, it does not offer TV shows or longer films. NBC Universal Cable said it is only providing promotional content like movie trailers or behind-the-scenes footage and is guarding streaming licenses for TV shows and feature-length films. Vanthan Khel , a spokeswoman for NBC Universal Cable, said the company spreads promotional segments around the Web to boost traffic to its content.

``We are still driving consumers back and eyeballs back to our site," she said.

Analysts said the new portal will have a tough time competing against newly established giants like MySpace and YouTube, which share vast libraries of user-generated video and have more brand recognition. Old media players like MTV and ESPN have started their own broadband channels, too.

``They don't have that kind of brand cachet, but at the same time, they are providing a higher quality of content and a higher production value," said Adi Kishore , an analyst for Boston-based research firm Yankee Group.

Kishore said that if Gotuit's interface and search technology are popular with consumers, media giants could adopt them and partner with Gotuit later. Pascarella said Gotuit could move in this direction, by powering portals of well-established media brands later and partnering with carriers to stream content.

``I think their goal is to get this up and running, show that it works, and prove the search and tagging technology," Kishore said. Kishore said the explosive popularity of sites like YouTube have demonstrated to mainstream media that there is strong consumer demand for broadband video.

``It's a smart time to get into this business and if you're a content company, to start thinking about how can you get a piece of this trend," Kishore said. ``However, there's probably not a whole lot of money to be made in the short term."

Kim-Mai Cutler can be reached at kcutler@globe.com.

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