Streaming Spotlight: The Many Lives of Jim Bruton
Pole to Pole
Bruton modified his technology for use in telemedical applications, which led to his lecturing at the Yale University School of Medicine between 1996 and 2001. It also led to work as a principle investigator for NASA.
"I was able to leverage it to travel far more than I ever was for documentary film production," says Bruton. Video work took Bruton to Antarctica six times, the North Pole, Siberia, the Canadian arctic, South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, and many destinations in Europe and the Middle East. When the dot-com bubble burst, Bruton found that only major news organizations had money for his technology.
So he did field assignments for ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN, from places such as the Persian Gulf. He worked as a special projects manager for NBC News from 2001 to 2003, tracking down terrorists in the Middle East and southeast Asia. "In a way, it was kind of ironic: Developing a method to share the most beautiful places in the world with appreciative audiences wound up having me visit some of the worst places in the world," he laughs.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Bruton was an embedded journalist with the Marines in Iraq. He reported live and was his own satellite engineer. Satellite video was the wave, and he surfed it to new adventures. "It was a really great ride. You never knew who was going to call you on the phone next or what crazy idea you would get," Bruton says.
"With the entrepreneurial spirit in the 90s and the expansion of all kinds of things over the web, it was pretty easy to find an appreciative ear."
Innovating in Corporate America
Each success turned into a stepping stone to a new adventure. But eventually, that path led back to the U.S.
"Finally, I met a widow with three babies, and I thought, ‘You know, my resume has just about everything on it except a happy home life.'"
Bruton was married in April 2004, and he and his family live in Middlebury, Conn. Bruton joined Pfizer in 2004 and stayed with the company until 2007, managing its business programming unit, focusing mostly on media technology. He jumped to the United Nations in 2007 and worked for a year as the technical director at UNICEF. In 2008, he joined Ernst & Young and is currently its webcast portfolio manager. He manages the global services company's expansion of webcasting, audioconferencing, and videoconferencing.
In his new role, he's responsible for sensing the right time to bring video operations in-house and for calculating the financial tipping point when in-sourcing makes more sense than outsourcing. The time is close for Ernst & Young to build its own studios, he says.
He's also working on some cutting-edge streaming technology. He's interested in doing more with mobile devices; he sees delivering broadcast-quality video to mobile viewers as the Holy Grail. He's also working on an intelligent analytics system, which would allow his company to host an interactive forum and get a better understanding of its audience. While he can't say much about it yet, he thinks there's a much greater opportunity for getting inside customers' heads and gaining insight. He thinks the data could yield rich psychological profiles.
"As long as it's not illegal, I consider it to be competitive," Bruton says.
While Bruton's travels have taught him a lot about streaming video, he's learned just as much about thinking ahead and about the kind of people who can take that journey with him. When he started out, after all, he had to create the technology he needed to tell his stories.
"When I was first trying to sell my concept of using the video satellite phone to produce adventures around the world, it was amazing who got it and who didn't. The light would go on in some people's eyes, and other people's eyes would glass over because they were still thinking about traditional ways of producing media," says Bruton.
If Bruton had stuck to the forms that already existed, he would have kept traveling. But he wouldn't have had all the experiences and adventures that he did.
"My passport's gathering a little dust these days," Bruton says about his current role as a husband. But who knows? He just got a call from a friend in Chile, he says, who wants to take some wave runners out and explore some challenging waves. He told Bruton to bring his equipment. The calls still come in, and, perhaps, there are more adventures left to come.