Streaming Goes Mainstream

After years of struggling to convince Internet executives to think multimedia, streaming media companies say interest in their products is at an all-time high.

After years of struggling to convince Internet executives to think multimedia, streaming media companies say interest in their products is at an all-time high. The reason: Corporations are seeking ways to save money on business travel and keep their employees safe, while still communicating important company, sales, marketing and training news.

"Streaming has come up in the priority list for IT," said Bill Thornton, vice president of business development and marketing at Reliacast. Reliacast develops audience management technology for streaming that handles stream encryption, geographic containment of streams and e-commerce/billing support.

"We were hunkered down for the streaming space to be more nascent," Thornton said. "What has changed is the need by the corporation, accelerated by the events of Sept. 11, to find new ways to communicate. People are looking at alternate technologies as a way to alleviate getting people on the airplanes. The internal bottom line is now about how I save money and keep people from flying around the country. Streaming, all of a sudden, looks really viable."

Industry analysts think so, too. Gartner predicted that 47 percent of large enterprises will use streaming by years end for applications ranging from executive broadcasts and corporate communications to financial reporting, sales presentations and training.

Gartner estimated that by 2006, 80 percent of enterprises will have implemented private content delivery networks to deliver video-on-demand and other media-rich content to branch offices. And when it comes to training, Gartner said that by 2006, 85 percent of enterprises using video-over-IP for corporate training will realize a positive return on investment (ROI) in less than one year.

Meanwhile, Cahners In-Stat Group expects worldwide revenue for streaming media services to grow to more than $5 billion per year by 2005.


Companies such as Vignette are driving those numbers. Vignette decided to invest in a streaming media delivery system well before the events of Sept. 11, said David Graham, the companys director of IT operations. For a cost of about $50,000, Vignette was able to set up a multimedia studio in-house and buy from Network Appliance the servers it needed to stream media to its employees worldwide, who view content through Microsofts Windows Media Player.

"The executive staff was looking to communicate with a global staff more efficiently, and we felt that e-mail becomes the unwieldy beast of communicating — it tends to lose the tone, the immediacy," Graham said. "When we did the research, we saw that for a relatively low cost we could deliver streaming multimedia across the users desktop."

Still, its not a slam dunk for the industry. "Streaming media is going to be an overnight success that was five years in the making," said Steven Vonder Haar, director of the media and entertainment strategies practice at The Yankee Group. "The events of the past month or so certainly have raised awareness of alternatives enabled by multimedia technology. . . . But this is not an environment where any bozo delivering multimedia will suddenly cash in. This still takes rock-solid technology. What the streaming media industry has now is an opportunity."

Companies are well-aware of that. Since Sept. 11, Interactive Video Technologies in New York has seen increased interest in its Web-based MediaPlatform development software for creating video-enhanced streaming media presentations, according to CEO Mark Lieberman. But IVT had already made the decision — prompted, in part, by the downturn in the economy — to transform its business from a service-oriented model to providing a platform that can be used in-house by enterprises. The reason: ROI-driven enterprise customers.

"Budgets are tight," Lieberman said. "With our authoring platform, its easy to drag and drop video and create a presentation thats viewed on the Web through any player. What would have taken a professional services firm hundreds of thousands of dollars, you can do now with a few people and our software. Thats what were selling."