Fallen Anderton IT hero still hopes service can fly

Hailed by Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton a year ago as "a symbol of the bright future for our economy", a Kiwi-developed web-based TV guide service still awaits a buyer nearly nine months after the venture folded.

Hailed by Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton a year ago as “a symbol of the bright future for our economy”, a Kiwi-developed web-based TV guide service still awaits a buyer nearly nine months after the venture folded.

Ownguide.tv — an advertising-funded online TV guide created by Paul Stoneham, Malcolm Helyar and Kevin Hurley — promised the prospect of 50 new jobs in Mount Maunganui as the trio eyed a worldwide rollout.

But, after four months’ trading and the business burning through $100,000, the three got out and have since moved on to other careers.

“We had to close, which was a shame,” says former managing director Paul Stoneham. “We could not get the [viewing and advertising] numbers up quickly enough.”

Ownguide.tv let users link across TV listings of up to 96 channels, offering links to channels of specific programme websites. Users could search by programme type and be alerted when a certain programme was about to start.

Ownguide.tv received 10,000 visitors a month when it launched but Stoneham says twice as many were needed to attract the advertising needed to fund it.

He says users liked the service and Microsoft, which gave technical advice, praised the product. So did Anderton, who officially launched it in Whakatane last March, calling it “an excellent piece of Kiwi ingenuity”.

Stoneham says he is grateful for the support from the government, but stresses the venture received no public funding. What killed it was “the expense of getting the message out there”. While the cost of marketing turned out far more expensive than the trio had anticipated, the revenue generated was also too small to attract the interest of banks and other potential backers, so the three “pulled the plug before the bailiffs arrived”. None wanted to risk their houses on the venture.

Stoneham wishes the venture had been able to gain direct involvement from a large corporate with financial muscle. He also regrets not giving away the software earlier, as Ownguide.tv did in a disk promotion.

“We still retain the intellectual property. We have had a couple of inquiries from overseas, but we have come to a bit of a halt,” he says. “We still believe the concept would be a winner if we had had deeper pockets. We still haven’t seen anything as good.”

The domain name is up for sale, but Stoneham does not regret the venture. “In hindsight I’m very pleased we did it. The potential was there and it’s a shame we weren’t able to pull it off. Today, if you are looking for funding for anything on the net, it has to stack up. I am still hoping [to sell the intellectual property]. We would still like it to take wings and fly.”

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