Live Broadcasting Feature Wars -Report From The Trenches

With the entrance of Yahoo! to live broadcasting field, and rumors about Ustream / Microsoft flirt , live Internet broadcasting is back in the headlines. There are many players in this market, some doing better than others. Technology is not a major differentiator, however competitors vary in feature set. Let’s see who is doing what.

I focused on  main and interesting players  today – Ustream, BlogTV, Yahoo! Live, Mogulus and Operator11. Well, sort of – as Operator11 crushed every time I tried to create my show. It is a sad reminder that these platforms are far from being stable, or can be considered in most cases as a professional live broadcasting solution.

Here is a basic feature comparison between these services:

While BlogTV is trading features for ease of use, Mogulus are probably losing potential quick and dirty broadcasters. Yahoo!Live are doing a great job for a pre-alpha product, and Ustream is providing the middle ground between simplicity and feature set.

All platforms support these features:

Chat –  all services enable viewers to chat among themselves and with the broadcaster.

Embedded player – another basic feature is to allow users to embed a show player in their own site or blog

Unique URL – all platforms provide a unique URL to each show, which enables direct linking.

Most platforms support the following:

Scheduled shows – an important feature, required in order to create viewers’ habits.

Archive – the ability to watch previous shows

Co-host – a neat feature, that enables broadcasters to add additional hosts to their show.

Twitter and Facebook integration – as notification and viral marketing are keys for drawing audience, almost all platforms, besides Yahoo!, have twitter and Facebook features.

Only one or two platforms support these features:

Offline mixing – this crucial feature, which enables broadcasters to add pre-recorded material, is possible only in Mogulus. The same goes for story board  – another strong feature for professional looking show.

Player design – Ustream and Mogulus are offering strong design capabilities, with Mogulus leading the way, and include lower thirds, show’s logo and many other title tools.

Archive download – Ustream and BlogTV are the only platforms that provide downloadable archives. However, only BlogTV  provide RSS feed per show. A combination of both features could have been a strong offering for video podcasters.

WordPress.com support – to those of us who are using WordPress.com as their blogging platform – Ustream’s player is the only one that support it. Sad, but true.

From usability point of view, both BlogTV and Yahoo!Live are the simplest ones. No complex configuration is required, and going online is quick and intuitive. Mogulus on the other hand, is tedious and complicated, offering a wide variety of configuration, that is not necessarily needed by most users.

Ustream offers an excellent feature for live broadcast – polls. Broadcasters can add polls to their show on the fly -asking questions relevant to the show. this is a great way to increase interactivity beyond chats. They also support cross promotion – where broadcasters can define which shows are promoted in their page.

An important point that is missing from the table is mobility. BlogTV are the only ones who support mobile broadcasting and viewing, though unlike qik, it is not their primary feature.

Features are not the only key to success in the live broadcasting platform war. In a segment in a constant feature wars, additional parameters such as video quality, support for broadcasters, and content strategy are playing an important role.

In the following posts I will cover these elements, and try to reach a conclusion – which platform offers the best package to users, and who will be the leader in this market. 

Update – BlogTV’s Nir Ofir provided additional information, including features such as RSS feeds per show, downloadable shows, and mobile features. Also it is important to note BlogTV ability to create one on one video chats with participants, and file sharing capabilities. 

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5 Responses to “Live Broadcasting Feature Wars -Report From The Trenches”


  1. 1 Orit Hashay February 15, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Very nice review.

    Here is another one that i like
    http://www.stickam.com/

    Orit.

  2. 2 Bill Cammack February 17, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Very nice review, Kfir. The feature comparison is especially interesting. Thanks for compiling that. 🙂

    I’ve been particularly impressed with the N95 from watching Steve Garfield‘s adventures with it. Way before Qik was available, Steve was getting quality on-the-fly video with a “phone”. At this point, technology is maturing enough to increase the utility of those devices many-fold.

    I think “live” is the next frontier. We’ve been through the ability to post video to the internet and have it viewed world-wide. We’ve been through the ability to post comments about that video and eventually to reply with video comments, either through services like YouTube or through WordPress plug-ins. People are now accustomed to interacting with each other via asynchronous video posting. Our interactions with each other are rapidly approaching real-time, and it’s not going to be long before we have live debates between people in various countries around the world. Of course, language will remain a barrier, but geographical location is becoming less and less important. Very soon, we will be able to gather together on the internet as if we all drove to the same location and sat down for food, drinks and fellowship.

    Personally, my experience with live internet broadcasting has been following Jonny Goldstein from Reinventing Television on Phovi.com to Jonny’s Par-Tay on his own site. Jonny and I have tested several of the sites you mention in your post. It’s my opinion that the top two features that a “live” site has to facilitate in order to be a “killer app” are 1) audience participation, and 2) user experience after the fact (archiving).

    Operator11 (when it wants to work) allows you to have I think 9 people in your “studio”. They’re all currently live, and the operator choses who gets the camera. You can request the camera as a participant, or you can pass control away when you’re finished talking. Another benefit to that site is that you can upload videos to your “library” and play those videos when you’re live on the air. As far as archiving, everyone that was live at the time makes it into the archive, so whomever views the show after the fact gets the same experience as the person who was there for the show…. except for one thing.

    I give BlogTV a lot of credit for adding their text chat to their archive. 🙂 Back in the “Reinventing Television” days, the way to go was to archive the video and repost the text chat by cutting and pasting it. Now, the way BlogTV’s set up, if you watch the video archive, the text chat is available… IN REAL TIME as it was typed during the show! 😀 I think that’s a really incredible feature, as I spend a lot of time in the text chat part of my friends’ internet shows, and there’s so much great social interaction that goes on there that is totally lost. When Jonny was on the Jeff Pulver show, we were gigging on Jonny’s tie for about 15 minutes, and unless you were THERE, in the chat room at that time, you don’t know how funny it was! 😀 I appreciate that BlogTV has added that feature to their archives, AND that you can toggle viewing the chat on and off with the click of one button.

    Right now, I see the big winner as being Qik, because they’re bridging the gap between the ability to record something on the fly and the ability to broadcast it to the world. Now, if a bridge collapses somewhere, you don’t have to wait for the news at 6pm or 11pm to find out about it. You also don’t have to wait for the person recording it to go home, get on their internet connection, upload the video, tag it, blog it, then publicize it. Just about as soon as they record it, it’s available on the internet for people to either watch live or watch immediately after as an archive. That’s incredibly enabling, and that Qik/Nokia combination is looking like the way to go right now if you want to be “Johnny on the spot”.

    One service that you didn’t mention is Utterz. They’ve been specializing in audio, but they have video capabilities now as well. It’ll be interesting to see which groups attain the greatest market share going forward….

    Cheers! 😀

  3. 3 adam February 21, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    nice article about something I’ve been wondering about lately. Good info here. And a very nice follow up by Bill. More good info. If Qik can improve the aesthetics and add some more features like the chat, twitter integration etc it might be a winner. Feels like a gimmick to me right now, as does seesmic. BlogTV sounds like a really good platform, going to check that out. I was enamored of Op11 but you are absolutely right the platform is so flakey, forget about it.

    mobile will be the way all these move forward I think. Unless Qik catches up to the others they will remain a gimmick, the others should be able to add mobile broadcasting pretty easily. The trouble with Qik, and mobile in general is not the services or the software, its either having to own a Nokia handset or jerry-rig something else together using EVDO cards, laptop backpacks or some other contraption. There appears to be an emerging hole in the market for a compact, hi-quality, web ready (wi-fi/GSM/what?) Turn on, shoot, connect, upload…Is there anything like this? Do you think it will appear soon

    cheers


  1. 1 How can videbloggers leverage live video platforms? « Pravda on Media, Technology, and Rebel Filmmaking Trackback on March 6, 2008 at 5:24 pm
  2. 2 Qik, Flixwagon - Scoble is wrong « Pravda on Media, Technology, and Rebel Filmmaking Trackback on June 16, 2008 at 1:47 pm

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