Live video startup Ustream might have been hurtling headlong toward extinction, but now that the world has learned what it takes to make a livestreaming mega-hit (a puppycam), it’s red hot again.
NYT’s Bits: [After] a Ustream employee spotted the Webcast and began passing it around to friends and family, the video went, as they say, viral. It has had 6 million viewers, 4 million in the last week alone, spanning the globe from Egypt to Venezuela. Those viewers have streamed nearly 4 million hours, or 391 years, of doggie video (although some people have been known to leave it running in the background at work). The traffic is a big jump for Ustream, which typically garners about 10 million visitors a month in the United States.
Ustream says that the pups, three girls (Autumn, Ayumi, Amaya) and three boys (Aki, Akoni, Ando), now six weeks old, are drawing an audience that is as big as the one that watched its recent election coverage, including Barack Obama’s victory speech and the Republican National Convention. The video stream runs all day long, save for rare off-camera moments when the dogs go to the vet. At night the owners turn off the lights and the camera so the dogs can sleep.
Two of Ustream’s founders, John Ham and Brad Hunstable, graduated from West Point and served in the Army, and they originally conceived of Ustream as a way for soldiers abroad to communicate with their families. (The start-up’s third co-founder is Dr. Gyula Feher.)
“Not in a million dog years did I ever think six puppies were going to be the Ustream show that people shared the most,” Mr. Ham said. “It totally caught me by surprise.”
Ustream is supported by advertising, and its founders said they did not have details on how much money they were earning as a direct result of the puppies’ fame, or how much they might be losing as they serve up all that video. They did say that they were just fine with the way the puppies have hijacked their Web service.
“All around, we’ve seen tremendous growth,” Mr. Hunstable said. “We’ve seen a spike of about 25 per cent growth in new shows, a massive spike in our unique visitors, and gotten e-mails from interested investors.”
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