Trailblazer: Geek guru

Charlie Muirhead's chief product is inspiration - in the form of interviews with remarkable people. Hayley Pinkerfield reports.

Charlie Muirhead was destined to be a technology entrepreneur. An early bloomer, he handled his first management buyout, worth £350,000, at the tender age of 18.

By 24, he had set up a NASDAQ-listed software company valued at more than £1billion, and an angel investor network (iGabriel - now merged with Pi-Capital).

Fair enough then that, aged 32, he began to wonder: 'What next?'

The answer is t5m - which stands for 'the fifth medium'. It bills itself as the world's first 'socially conscious online TV network'. What's that, you may ask, and why does the world need it? "There is a huge appetite for information about 'extraordinary people'," Muirhead posits. He is adamant that there is space for something different, especially in the growing video market.

Broadly targeting 12 to 35 year olds, and using Microsoft's new Silverlight technology, t5m's motto is 'Who inspired you today?' It produces candid, HD-quality interviews with celebrated people (including Kate Bosworth, James Blunt, James McAvoy and Steve Redgrave, to name a few), talking about their projects, passions and causes.

Interviews, which last up to four hours, are published as snack-sized 'atoms' or clips. The company has 5,000 clips of footage ready to go.

The socially conscious angle lies in causes - each celebrity puts forward a favoured charity, which gets its own dedicated channel with a share of revenue. Nelson Mandela's charity, 46664, partnered exclusively with t5m for World Aids Day and has its own channel.

Online marketers' ears should prick up at this - because the offer extends to them. The integrated advertiser proposition is essentially a branded channel. Disney, t5m's first major advertiser, already has a live channel promoting its current films.

Users search t5m using a contextual browser, which seeks out meta-tagged content. As well as leading users to clips, it may also take them to branded content. "This is subtle, relevant and actionable advertising," says Muirhead.

He suggests that brands could even buy against key words, offering the scenario of Coca-Cola buying 'smile' or laughter'. Advertisers can therefore be involved either by sponsoring a channel or intelligently buying space against search terms. Another slice of t5m's revenue pie will come from content syndication - a tasty offer to media owners and web publishers hungry for high-quality content.

Muirhead suggests that a sports site, for example, could buy t5m's Steve Redgrave interview exclusively for a month. Beyond this, content would appear on t5m and other partner sites. Typically, content will be available exclusively on a partner site for three to six months.

Muirhead is also in talks with print, radio, TV and mobile content partners, as well as e-commerce partners (another revenue stream), with t5m set to launch out of beta in late Q2.

It would be easy to dislike someone as confident and self-assured as Muirhead - but with the potential his business offers up - it would also be foolish.


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