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Streaming media is all business

Entertainment delivery takes a backseat to enterprise delivery 12/17/2000 07:00:00 PM Eastern

Streaming Media West, held last week in San Jose, Calif., showcased an industry going from hype to hope, as exhibitors looked to sign up customers and reach business deals with other exhibitors that would help bridge the gap to profitability.

"In today's environment, there is a renewed effort on monetizing assets, and there's also a general maturity," says Ray Weaver, Akamai director, product marketing, streaming media group. "Each time we come, we see the continuing transition from experimental models to people moving their digital business online."

One trend seemed particularly evident: if streaming media once had "gone Hollywood," it's clearly not living there anymore. The mix of exhibitors leaned heavily towards infrastructure and services and away from the promise of online delivery of entertainment programming. It was clear that many of today's business opportunities lie not in the living room but in the boardroom.

Activate, a content-delivery network company that was one of eight exhibitors at the first Streaming Media convention four years ago, has also felt the changing show landscape. "The entertainment sites were important to get people used to the technology, but now we're going from the 'What's Technically Possible' stage to the 'What's Economically Practical' stage, and what's practical today isn't necessarily generating new forms of revenue for existing content owners," explains Activate CEO and co-founder Jeff Schrock. "It's saving costs from other ways that people communicate."

Chris Maskill, Activate co-founder and senior vice president, business development, says media streaming's revenues now increasingly come from corporate and institutional users, the so-called "enterprise market." Using media streaming as an entertainment tool is less attractive.

"Literally the first invoice we delivered was for a Fortune 50 company. And we realized that they deemed valuable the means to communicate with their employees and customers and they were going to pay real cash for that. It's going to be a trend that will continue."

Streaming Media West also had a few exhibitors that have a presence at the National Association of Broadcasters and in the broadcast market, including Pinnacle Systems and, notably, Chyron, which recently announced creation of two new divisions aimed at the streaming market.

Chyron CEO Roger Henderson says he'll be interested to see the evolving impact of streaming media at next April's NAB convention. "I'm not sure that the solution for viewers on the Internet will ever be entertainment. At the top end of the streaming business, you have the press companies that want to create breaking-news channels like a CNN, but further down the chain, it's about corporate training and financial institutions delivering their content over the Internet."

The show was kicked off by a keynote address by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who included a sales pitch for the company's new Windows Media Audio and Video 8 as well as its new Windows Media Player 7 for the Pocket PC.

Microsoft's new compression technology found in Windows Media 8 can deliver what the company calls near-DVD quality video on Internet connections as low as 500 Kbps and near-CD-quality audio streams.