November 14, 2002
By Eyal Menin
Why it is so difficult to find positive news about the streaming media industry? During the dot-com gold rush era, everyone spoke about streaming. In the good old days, Wall Street over-estimated and purchased streaming companies by millions of dollars. Today, most media producers will think twice before spending their capital on streaming related equipment or applications. What went wrong?
The evolution of streaming media has had a tremendous impact on the development and acceptance of the Internet as a new communication medium. Today, tens of millions of Internet users depend on streaming media technology to deliver information through Internet, radio, live webcasts, and media on-demand archives. From leading news networks, to global record companies, to top Hollywood Studios, to corporate executives, a growing number of companies and individuals are using streaming media technologies. Still, for many people, saying the word “streaming” leaves a bad taste. Streaming companies shut down, and their employees join the long lines of dot-com survivors trying to return to the market by finding other jobs.
Why is the hype gone?
The myth surrounding streaming media was uncovered in past years when the knowledge “how to” spread among vendors and consumers alike. Books were written and software was made available by leading developers of streaming authoring tools – the cat jumped out of the bag. Every new technology introduced to the market will be always over-priced at first, but as demand grows, and competition increases, prices drop. The streaming industry was no different. The same webcast that cost $50,000.00 three years ago, and $15,000.00 last year, costs about $6500.00 today. Surprised?
Who uses streaming? Streaming media technology enables companies and individuals to broadcast media over IP networks. Streaming media as we know it, is used today in few areas. These areas are divided to two major sectors: enterprise applications and consumer products. People use streaming media to address issues that were covered before by traditional mediums such as radio, public television, internal television, satellite networks, phone conferences (video or audio), video tapes, CD-ROM’s and print brochures.
Candidates who use streaming media will be departments that will experience significant savings through their use of streaming technology. Departments such as the sales department, the training department, and human resources departments have a steady need for communication tools. These departments will see immediate savings by comparing existing methods of communication, overhauling expenses related to travel, and seeing actual cost of using print or satellite networks to deliver news and information to employees. The use of streaming video in these cases will prove to be affordable and productive. Like with every other new technology, there is a risk factor. Without the complete support of all parties involved, projects to deploy streaming media on corporate networks will not succeed. To make it a successful deployment, companies must allocate all available resources. And by coordinating all relevant departments, they must execute a plan that will deploy streaming video on their internal network.
What is the forecast for the streaming industry you ask? I’ve worked in the industry since its early days. Back in 1996, streaming files were sent over 14.4 kbps modems through a matchbox size window at a rate of 5 frames per second. Today, 7 years later, streaming video can be delivered over corporate networks in full screen 30 frames per second. Amazing how technology advanced in such a short time. Streaming media transformed into what it was suppose to be from the beginning- a commodity. A new medium, a tool we use to enhance communication. If you think about it, there is no difference between streaming servers to radio transmitters, to cable networks, to media distributed on VHS or CD’s. This maybe answers the question why the industry was shaken, and so many streaming companies disappeared. They were not profitable.
What will happen to the streaming industry in the future? I see streaming media improving communication over corporate networks, helping introduce new products on public websites, and opening the world to an unprecedented distribution of media streamed across 5 continents. If you are not part of it yet, now it the time to jump on the band wagon.
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Eyal Menin is a veteran of the streaming media industry. Since 1996 he managed interactive applications combining traditional media and new media. He has produced over 50 entertainment and corporate live events on the Internet. His book “The Streaming Media handbook” was published in July by Prentice Hall. Eyal can be reached at email@example.com.