Have you noticed that live streaming video is getting more and more popular? Lately, sports in particular have been leading the charge, with live streams of PGA golf, US Open tennis, NFL football, Major League Baseball games and British soccer, among others. But sports are hardly the only area where live video streaming is taking off.
Hang out for a few minutes at LiveStream, Ustream, Stickam and Justin.tv, to name a few, and you'll see all manner of live news, talk and business shows, some of which are actually quite good. Of course, you'll also find plenty of the mundane/ridiculous, like webcams pointed mutely at someone's backyard laundry or at London's Tower Bridge. Live streaming is definitely a corner of the market where video has been democratized!
Two key catalysts for this part of the live streaming market have been mobile access (with the iPhone and other smartphones' video capture and playback driving the market) and social media/video sharing (with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others providing instant outlets). A lot of this activity is Flash-based. As both mobile and social trends gain ground, we can expect even more activity in this segment.
Aside from sports, live streaming is also gaining traction for high-profile events, with some companies moving to support this end of the market. For example, today Kyte, which positions itself as a full mobile and online video platform, is introducing "Kyte Live Pro," an add-on that allows HD live streaming from multiple sources and encoding using Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder.
I chatted with Gannon Hall, Kyte's COO yesterday, who explained that while "authentic" content - mainly short live clips - remain popular, Kyte's customers have also been asking for the ability to live stream longer-form events in HD. For example, TV Guide is using Kyte Live Pro this Sunday night to stream the Emmys red carpet pre-show online. Gannon expects other video platform companies, recognizing the opportunity, will start to offer live HD streaming as well. Swarmcast is one company I'm aware of that has made a name for itself broadcasting high-profile live events over the years. Microsoft is also putting a big push behind live, with its Smooth Streaming product.
Moving even further up-market, there's also a huge amount of live video streaming happening among enterprises, educational institutions and government agencies. These entities have much tighter requirements, often needing an on-premise, behind-the-firewall configuration for capture, broadcast and viewing, multi-location secure distribution, transcoding into various formats, integration with other network and other IT components, and mission-critical reliability.
The leader in this part of the market is a company called VBrick (according to research compiled by Frost & Sullivan), whose executives I've spoken to a couple of times recently. VBrick has over 6,000 customers in 56 countries, including 50 Fortune 500 companies, 100 Federal agencies and 900 schools, among others. The range of VBrick uses includes executive broadcasts, training and education, digital signage and surveillance and monitoring, to name a few.
VBrick deploys a hardware appliance that does video capture and transcoding into multiple formats, high-quality distribution over varied networks (LAN, WAN, Internet) and secure viewing at desktops or conference rooms. VBrick also offers "VBoss," which is a SaaS alternative for less frequent/more budget-minded users.
To date, most online video has been consumed on-demand. But this appears to be changing fast. With nearly infinite use cases and technology providers addressing all potential market segments, live video streaming appears poised for lots of growth ahead.
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