I just want an audience to hear me
I don’t care about the money
I just want people to hear my voice
The lyrics of piano-playing chanteuse Angiegirl18, one of the highest-rated “lifecasters” on BlogTV, pretty much sum up the live streaming industry. Since late 2006, at least a dozen startups have sprung up which allow users to broadcast their every utterance, grunt or twitch in real time. Like YouTube in the early days, the sites have substantial costs and little to no money coming in. And like YouTube, the obvious exit strategy is to hope a bigger player snaps them up for their for their audience, their technology, or both.
Will any of them pan out? Probably: If there’s an audience for the Numa Numa Dance, then anything’s possible. But if you think YouTube or MySpace have a hard time selling ads, imagine the challenges monetizing Stickam’s crude video, or the exploits of JustinTV’s Justin, who doesn’t really have any exploits to speak of.
Yet Yahoo thinks enough of the possibilities that it launched its own streaming service, Yahoo Live, this month. So how do the live streamers stack up? We’ve rank them based on the odds they’ll survive long enough to be acquired.
Ustream.tv: In a field populated by bedroom-sourced broadcasts and insipid conversation, uStream at least boasts a veneer of respectability. It has Gen. Wesley Clark as a board member, and has signed a deal for this year’s Republican convention; most important, it is reportedly deep in talks with Microsoft. uStream likes the rumour enough to link to two reports on its site.) The company claimed 115,000 registered users as of January.
BlogTV: Founded in June 2006, the paleolithic period of live streamers, BlogTV has raised $3 million and claimed 110,000 users in the first 9 months since its beta launch last May. There’s no obvious sign of commerce here, but there are a lot of teens broadcasting from their bedrooms. In the FAQ, the company says Google has “showed interest” in partnering with them. Actual deals: Link-ups with AOL’s ICQ and integration into Facebook.
Mogulus: The New York-based company seems likely to be acquired for its technology, which is stellar. It boasts superior video quality, and has tools to allow livecasters to create professional looking Webcasts, not just grainy cam shows. The company has raised $2.7 million and claimed 25,000 streamers in January. It recently added the ability to stream mobile phone video. A favourite of the CES-set, Mogulus provided video for TechCrunch’s “Crunchies” awards.
Livevideo: Part of MySpace cofounder Brad Greenspan’s LiveUniverse. Like its peers, it’s shooting for a large mass of users, but it also appears focused on linking up with a select group of bloggers. The company is part of a portfolio with content partnerships (AP, Warner Bros., EMI) and advertising (T-Mobile, Comedy Central, Ask). The company added troubled video site Revver last week.
Stickam: A lifecasting pioneer that boasts more than 600,000 registered users — more than any of its competitiors. But a NY Times story noting that it shares an infrastructure with a live sex show business could make it hard to round up ad dollars.
JustinTV: Founded last spring. Popular offering: My Life As A Monkey! The company raised $2 million in venture funding and boasts a tech infrastructure than can support 100,000 simultaneous streams. The company pitches itself as as a low-cost streamer, able to stream video at 1/4 of a penny, per user per hour, “by far the most cost-effective live streaming ever built.”
Operator 11: Launched last summer, its next iteration of Pseudo founder Josh Harris‘ “we live in public” dream. Unlike other sites, Operator11 already has advertising, and has partnered with ScanScout to serve ads that run adjacent to the video player. Harris sunk $2 million into the venture; in January it claimed 6,000 active users.
Youcastr: A niche within a niche, the site caters to sports fans who wish they were Al Michaels. During the Super Bowl, anyone who wanted to could have turned down the Fox play-by-play and listen in on Pats fan C-DOGG7 call the game. Or not.
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