Live Streaming On-the-Go
In the short run, Flixwagon is targeting end users, with the occasional partnership with MTV. Longer term, Flixwagon is going after much bigger fish—the mobile carriers. Flixwagon’s founders grew up in the telco world, and they see partnering with carriers as the path to sustainable long-term growth. "For us, the way to monetize is to offer a service, with a service-based fee involved, for either a mobile carrier or for news and media companies," says Reichert. "For a big carrier in the U.S., offering this service to millions of subscribers, those are large numbers."
While Qik and Flixwagon are targeting the social networking crowd, Kyte is primarily focused on the media and entertainment industry. Kyte’s clients include 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, Bow Wow, Spin magazine, and a number of Clear Channel radio stations. Kyte provides a platform for the production and distribution of video content—including live video from mobile devices—for established brands. Kyte accepts video generated from many sources, not just live and not just from mobile devices. But the company recognizes the unique impact live mobile streaming can have. "We’re about brands being able to create a frequency of content to allow for deep and extended user engagement," says Gannon Hall, Kyte’s chief marketing officer. "The mobile device is a key component of that."
Unlike Qik and Flixwagon, Kyte is a technology platform, not a destination. Kyte’s business model enables one-way social networking from brands to consumers. Fans can embed a branded Kyte channel on their page, blog, or social network. Kyte is hoping its brand partners will attract ad revenue, and it supports the Lightningcast and DoubleClick DART ad platforms. "Brands that have a strong online presence, and are a known quantity, can generate pretty high CPMs," says Hall.
For live streaming, Kyte’s Mobile Producer application supports devices using Nokia’s S60 platform or Java-capable devices running J2ME. "For us, it’s not really important to support a wide array of devices," says Hall. "People who use our platform are getting the equipment that’s going to work with the platform." Nokia has been an early supporter of Kyte, investing venture capital as well as providing business and technical development assistance.
Livecast (formerly ComVu) was first to deliver live mobile streaming to the masses in 2005. William Mutual, Livecast’s CEO, has been a streaming media pioneer since he founded ITV.net, one of the early webcasting leaders, in the mid-1990s. So it comes as no surprise that Livecast takes the long view of the market for live mobile streaming. While Flixwagon has seen a telco partnership as a promising adjunct to its consumer play, Livecast has pretty much ignored the consumer market and focused instead on laying the groundwork for partnerships with carriers. "We’ve been at this for 5 years," says Mutual. "It’s taken us 2 years to get through the rigmarole with the carriers."
Making inroads with the carriers required more than a cold email. "You’re talking about a service that will probably consume more data than anything else the network does," says Mutual. Livecast first partnered with chip companies (Qualcomm, Intel, Samsung, etc.) that brought Livecast to the attention of phone manufacturers such as Nokia and Samsung. The phone manufacturers then took Livecast hand-in-hand to the carriers. "We went chip manufacturer, phone manufacturer, operator because the mobile world has a walled-garden mentality," says Mutual.
In lieu of making a consumer splash while teeing up the carriers, Livecast has developed a presence with traditional media companies. When Nokia and Reuters teamed up to create the Reuters MoJo (mobile journalism) toolkit in 2007, they chose Livecast (then ComVu) for their live streaming service provider. While declining to go into specifics, Mutual notes, "The majority of U.S. broadcasters are using our technology right now on a daily basis."
In an emerging market where other companies duplicate services and scrap over the same market segment, Livecast marches to its own drummer. Where other companies stream in Flash, Livecast is a Silverlight shop. Livecast supports the widest array of devices (Symbian, Windows Media, and Java-based phones) of any mobile streaming service. And Livecast is the only mobile streaming provider that does live device-to-device streaming. (Live streams are directly processed into Windows Media and QuickTime and then, if necessary, transcoded on-the-fly to different mobile device streaming codecs for viewing on their respective clients.) The Livecast client can also take advantage of GPS, if it’s available, and can place a location and time stamp directly into the stream for use with geotagging applications and online maps.
Livecast is looking forward to 2009, when WiMAX-enabled phones and other mobile devices are scheduled to make a splash in the mass market. "We’re the poster child for WiMAX services," says Mutual. "We have a long-standing partnership with Intel on all of their WiMAX deployment."
AT&T Video Share
The walls of AT&T’s Video Share garden are very high. Both parties of mobile-to-mobile video calls must have one of a handful of Video Share-capable LG or Samsung devices, and both must be subscribers to AT&T’s 3G network as well as the pricey Video Share service. The basic rate is 35 cents per minute. For $4.99, users get 25 free minutes (30 cents each additional minute); for $9.99, they get 60 free minutes (25 cents each additional minute).
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