Archives For mari

Kaltura hit the online video scene with a TechCrunch People’s Choice award last year, and has since signed an impressive array of commercial partners and customers including Wikipedia, Pepsi, Coca-Cola Blasbeat, and MLB.com. On Friday Kaltura launched its first video plugin for WordPress, allowing WP bloggers to publish video, edit and remix content, and enable certain interactive features such as video and audio commenting.

I had the chance to sit down with Kaltura CEO Ron Yekutiel not that long ago and was impressed with some of his views on the market for video platforms. For example, he’s definitely aware that the business is becoming commoditized. (Certainly we’ve seen no shortage of players lately.) Instead of just signing as many new customers as possible, Yekutiel referenced three distinct strategies for winning market share: service scalability and the ability to keep costs down as business grows; adding big-name partners (like Wikimedia) that further Kaltura’s distribution opportunities; encouraging platform development in the open source community.

The open source factor is really what differentiates Kaltura, and its seemingly first-to market position with a commercial, open source platform gives it a neice leg up on competitors. The fact that Yekutiel is also realistic about what the online video business entails makes me optimistic about the company’s success. I anticipate a lot more news out of Kaltura before the end of the year.

The Olympics aren’t supposed to start until tomorrow, but they officially began online last Tuesday night. Take a trip over to the NBC Olympics site and you’ll see video of early soccer matches, including a full replay of the US women’s defeat at the hands of Norway. Except for the defeat itself, it’s a beautiful thing. Thanks in no small part to Limelight Networks.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I’ve recently started doing contract work for Limelight, a content delivery network (CDN) service provider. So take these thoughts with a few grains of salt. However, when I sat down to interview Limelight SVP Dave Hatfield, I wasn’t interested in Limelight, per se, but the bigger story around the Olympics. Limelight Networks is delivering all of the NBC Olympics video streams (Akamai is supporting delivery of static objects), and I figured the folks there would have some interesting insights into how NBC is going to pull off this monumental task: NBC intends to deliver 3,500 hours of coverage online including 2,200 hours of live streaming video. It’s literally mind-blowing, and certainly unprecedented. Here’s what I learned about how they plan to do it.

The Player

Before getting on the phone with Hatfield I checked out the early videos on the NBC Olympics site. The Microsoft Silverlight player is sweet. You can watch four video streams at once and turn on features like live text commentary. There is also no latency. Zero. Click to any point within a stream and the video instantly switches to that frame. I asked Hatfield about that lack of buffering and about the bandwidth demand created by allowing a single computer to access four streams at once. Regarding the latency, he talked about how the Limelight CDN is structured. The CDN plugs directly into the access networks of ISPs all over the globe, and Limelight’s private fiber network is used to transfer content at the speed of light between massive server hubs whenever necessary. It’s a great story, but the proof is in the application itself. Did I mention the zero latency? I’ll be curious to see how that holds up once the actual Games start.

Regarding the bandwidth, Hatfield didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned. The scale of the Olympics is new, but streamed events are becoming more common, each Web event tending to break the record set by the one before it. Unfortunately, we can’t predict how much bandwidth the four-window application will actually use because we don’t know what bit rate NBC is using on its videos. By using an adaptive bit rate, NBC can transfer video at whatever rate a viewer’s ISP can handle. But as far as I can tell NBC hasn’t disclosed the highest bit rate it’s using for the fastest connections.

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Cablevision has emerged victorious from its latest day in court. If it chooses, Cablevision now has the green light to start introducing Network DVR services. A court of appeals ruled yesterday that Network DVR does not violate copyright law, overturning a decision from March 2007 that pronounced the technology illegal.

The ruling should not be surprising. Despite serious opposition from the content moguls, new services have been eroding the barrier that was originally built up against Network DVR technology. Time Warner Cable started the momentum with the introduction of Start Over and Look Back, Cox and ABC introduced a similar VOD service to make primetime programming available any time, and outside the US operators have launched full-service Network DVR. The increasing adoption of traditional digital video recording and video-on-demand have also made Network DVR virtually inevitable. After all, what’s the practical difference if content is stored at home or on a service provider’s network?

The continuing evolution of living-room TV is fascinating from a number of technology angles. For example, we’re seeing more and more of a load placed on operator networks. The operators love the revenue opportunities of advanced services, but they’re less thrilled about the network upgrades required to make those services sustainable. With Network DVR and VOD we’re also looking at a living-room analog to cloud computing. What if the cloud goes offline? What service expectations should consumers have? Should there be TV SLAs?

We’re going to see a lot play out in the living room in the next few years. DVR and VOD services will continue to blend. Network DVR is a start.

Silicon Alley Insider noted an interesting tidbit this morning in Disney’s earnings. Apparently Internet revenue helped offset lower broadcast ad revenues last quarter for ABC, lending credence to the reasons behind the writers’ strike last season.

From the SEC filing:

Broadcasting revenues increased $7 million reflecting higher internet revenues, partially offset by lower advertising revenues at the owned television stations. The increase in internet revenues included Club Penguin which was acquired in the fourth quarter of the prior year. Revenues at the ABC Television Network were comparable to the prior year as the impact of lower ratings was offset by higher advertising rates and digital media revenues.

The implications of Disney’s admission are huge. Think of the impact on the advertising business, traditional network TV, cable and telecom video services, and even, potentially, national broadband policy. If the entertainment industry can make money off video on the Internet, suddenly there’s a good reason to push greater broadband access and higher broadband speeds. Money is a powerful incentive for change.

Anyone familiar with me knows that I don’t carry around the most up-to-date cell phone. I like to use my phone for phone calls, and am content to save other apps for other gadgets. Until very recently I clung to a Motorola E815. That phone took a beating, but it always worked, and I liked the feel of it in my hand.  Then a couple weeks ago I upgraded to a first-gen Motorola RAZR. The adjustment has been easy because the interface is similar to the E815, and the RAZR has already survived several drops to the pavement. So far, so good.

A few days ago on my RAZR I received my first Verizon V CAST spam messages. The first one warned me to “stay tuned” to my phone for a “hot new opportunity from Verizon Wireless.”  The second one downloaded a video for me about  ESPN MVP on V CAST. Kind of irritating, but kind of cool. After all, I’ve never watched video on my own phone.

The little promo clip had a talking head and some screenshots showing how to set up my Fantasy Football league using V CAST. The video quality was crappy to say the least, but I found myself still entranced my moving pictures on my cell phone. If I was utterly bored and standing in line somewhere, I can see myself watching more video clips on my RAZR. Why not?

But here’s the kicker. Would I pay for video on my phone today? Hardly. First, there are a million video screens in my life. I don’t need to pay for one more. Second, my phone is not today’s most powerful hardware (and I’m fine with that), so why would I use it, and its tiny screen, for resource-hogging video when I have so many other options? Third, I can justify shelling out money once for a gadget, but I hate adding to my regular monthly bills, particularly when there’s the possibility I could end up exceeding a flat-fee service rate by going over a bandwidth cap.

So here’s a message to Verizon. Want to get me hooked on mobile video? You’re going to have to send me a lot more free video, and it’s going to have to be stuff I really want to see. Fantasy Football leagues? Meh.  Send me clips from the Olympics in a week and a half. Send me clips of the Redskins when football season actually starts. Send me trailers from some of the best new TV shows scheduled for the fall. Send it all to me for free. Get me in the habit of watching video regularly on my phone, and maybe I’ll decide it’s worth paying for some content in the future. I don’t need mobile video, so you’ll have to convince me I want it badly enough to add on the monthly fee. Otherwise, my cell phone is just going to act as a cell phone for years to come.