PandoraTV aims to be Asia's YouTube

Pandora TV, a successful South Korean online video portal, is planning to expand overseas in the next few months with an aim of becoming the YouTube of Asia.

Pandora.TV, a successful South Korean online video portal, is planning to expand overseas in the next few months with an aim of becoming the "YouTube of Asia."

The service, which attracts about half of all South Korean Internet users to its site each month, hopes to do well overseas by offering longer and higher-quality video than that available through other sites -- the same features that have made it a success at home, said Michael Hong, chief financial officer of PandoraTV during a news conference in Seoul.

"Within 6 to 12 months we'll reach the saturation point in Korea so we need to think what we are going to do after that," he said.

International services in English, Japanese and Chinese will be launched by September and targeted at Asian nations that have a large number of Internet users on fast connections. It will also launch the service in the U.S. although initially it will be targeted at Asian communities in California and not the general population, said Hong.

"China is a long-term bet for us so we aren't going to go heavy on China from day one. The amount you can get for each video is a fraction of what we can get from Japan or Korea," said Hong, referring to advertising revenue.

The company has yet to make money but is close to break-even. It sells advertising on the site and as pre-roll and post-roll embedded into the video stream, and takes 80 percent of the video advertising spend in South Korea, said Hong. It also offers users a slice of the advertising revenue made from their personal content.

The service launched in October 2004 as an offshoot of an online greetings card site but attained much greater popularity than its parent site.

In addition to the Web-based service, Pandora.TV also offers users a mini player that resides in the Windows system tray and pops up when new videos are posted to favorite channels. The company has also done a number of deals to get selected content on mobile phones and on public display screens in the Seoul subway, on trains and in hospitals.

In total it counts about 15 million unique users per month and 70 million page views per day, and serves up 6.5 million video streams, said Hong. Currently the site uses Windows Media but the international versions will use Flash video, he said.

On Pandora.TV each user is given a 7-digit channel number and can create their own online "TV channel," said Hong. There is no limit on the length or file size of videos posted. Users post about 10,000 new clips per day.

Those clips come under the scrutiny of a team of 40 people that polices the site for piracy.

"We probably have the most pro-traditional media stance among all UCC [user-created content] players in Korea. We've been most accommodating when it comes to [deleting] videos that even hint on piracy," said Hong, adding that investors wouldn't have committed money unless the site was doing everything it can to halt piracy.

"We are the first and only Korean Internet company that has been able to raise two rounds of financing from Silicon Valley venture capitalists," he said.

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Martyn Williams

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