Streaming Internet multimedia to millions of people doesnt have to cost millions of dollars anymore.
Thats the claim of AllCast, a small company with software that distributes multimedia streams over the Internet or corporate networks in a peer-to-peer fashion — an architecture the company said can save Net broadcasters 70 percent or more in bandwidth costs.
Companies can use streaming to broadcast meetings, management presentations or even news clips to employees, but the cost has been prohibitive to date. "The fundamental problem faced by streaming media broadcasters is that it just costs too much to do," said Jacky Benmoha, AllCasts CEO. "The more successful you are, the more you pay."
AllCast, formerly known as DiffuseNetwork, claims it can cut bandwidth costs by pushing the distribution of the media streams to end users PCs. The first user gets the stream directly from the broadcaster, then sends it up to two other users, and so on — resulting in a giant, "cascading" network that can reach a very large audience with very little bandwidth on the broadcasters end, the company said. If one peer drops its connection, the computer it was connected to automatically reconnects with another peer.
The New York-based company has a big-name backer in Michael H. Jordan, the former chairman and CEO of CBS, who has joined AllCasts board of directors and plans to invest in the company.
"We looked at the potential savings AllCast could provide and said, If this thing really works, this would be a potentially major cost-reduction enabler for anyone trying to provide video or audio streaming, " Jordan said.
AllCast is working to secure first-round financing from Jordan and others. Benmoha started DiffuseNetwork in 1996 — but at the time, he said, Internet broadcasters werent interested in the concept. Now, he said, Napster has opened the door for AllCast by proving users are willing to share resources for content.
An Israeli start-up, vTrails, is developing a similar peer-to-peer streaming media distribution technology. But AllCast believes it is well ahead of any competitors because it holds a patent on its peer-to-peer streaming media distribution. AllCast, which currently works only with Microsofts Windows Media Player, plans to license its software for $2,500 per year to stream to 1,000 users simultaneously.
The main question for AllCast is whether it will be able to reel in a large Webcaster customer. About a dozen small companies are beta testing its software. But it will take a customer like Victorias Secret, whose $10 million Webcast last May attracted 2 million viewers, to propel AllCast into the major leagues.