I’ve got a handful of technology pain points such that, when someone claims they can solve, I take special note. If someone pitches me an idea that’s related to a pain point, it leaps off my email inbox and to the top of my “things I want to cover” list. A good contacts app. A video chat people don’t have to register for. A Yammer that doesn’t suck.
Usually the pitches fall a tad short of what I’m looking for. They send a contacts app that doesn’t work on desktops. Or a one-click video chat invite…but only for enterprise.
Today’s episode of “pitches I misinterpreted and got disappointed by” stars Bulldog Digital Media.
Bulldog launched in January 2013 as a competitor to Livestream. Based on the pitch about it, I thought it was — at long last — a working live video streaming platform for the common man. There was no particular reason I misread the pitch. Nowhere in it did it mention the common man, except for one phrase that said “niche practices” which I wildly misinterpreted. I think I just hallucinated what I wanted to see. Livestream (the company) and its merry band of imitators have plagued me for years now.
At my last job, I would stream events at Columbia’s Journalism School at night to make money on the side. We paid for the basic consumer Livestream service, bought the $500 broadcaster box to encode the stream, and proceeded to spend countless hours wrestling with said equipment when everything failed. The stream would crash; the audio would stop working; or a chunk of the program would play in an endless loop. There was a handy comment section, so we could track how pissed off all our viewers were and watch the numbers tick down as people stopped watching.
Big names would come in, like Eric Schmidt from Google or Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez. Hundreds would tune into watch, and I would cross my fingers and pray to the holy live streaming gods above to grant me smooth video. If anything went wrong, Livestream didn’t accept calls from any company that paid under $333 a month for the service.
That whole year, I wondered how the hell no one had invented a consistent, affordable, working live video streaming service for consumers yet. Whoever did so had the opportunity to make bank. Manning the cameras, I learned that every institution imaginable wants to stream events they hold. People would come up to me all night long asking what software we used.
Elementary schools want to live stream talent shows so parents stuck at work can watch their kids perform. Universities want to live stream important lecturers. Non-profits want to live stream panels they host. Companies want to live stream trainings. Pandodaily wants to live stream Pandomonthlies, so our reporters scattered across the country can cover them.
There’s just one problem: No reliable platforms are out there. Don’t get me wrong, platforms like Livestream or Ustream exist at a consumer price, but there’s no promise they’re going to work. The only event web-streaming that can be trusted is the kind that brands pay the big bucks for. It hasn’t trickled down to the common people yet, even though there’s a big demand for it.
That’s the type of streaming that Bulldog Digital Media works with — the big corporate brand kind. The kind where they can make money. I can’t blame them, I suppose. Video streaming over the Internet is just as much of a hit with huge companies that want to market their wares, as it is with the little people.
Tivo weakened the effectiveness of commercials. With a predicted 40 percent market infiltration by 2015, a good chunk of the viewing public can happily skip the ads by recording shows. What’s a brand to do when the consumer’s got one up on you?
Coca-Cola knows the answer. In 2012, Coke’s CFO Gary Fayard announced that the company would be focusing on live event streaming. They would sponsor popular events — like the Olympics — streamed live, because research showed that people would tune in.
Technology has finally evolved enough to allow live streaming over the Internet to work, unlike in the past. For example: the 1999 web streaming of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which was supposed to mark a “milestone for the Internet” was deemed a total flop due to jerky video.
John Petrocelli, a Bulldog Digital Media co-founder, saw the market opportunity. He had worked at AEG for eight years, streaming events like TED Talks and the Oscars for TV, so he had the expertise for facilitating the finicky livestream process. Bulldog prides itself on the fact that the video loads in the first 4-6 seconds because otherwise “you’ll lose 20 percent of the consumers.”
Bulldog shoots live events from multiple angles and offers multiple channels — like a few different stages streamed at Coachella — to switch between. That’s how they hook the viewer, who watches the event on a nice branded page by AmEx or Wrigley’s or whoever can afford it. Sitting duck audience.
Petrocelli chalks the fact that big brands can stream Internet events smoothly but consumers can’t up to price. “The content donor has to utilize best practices,” Petrocelli says. “There’s a lot of money riding on it, so no expense is spared to make it smooth.”
That sounds to me like a market ripe for disruption. Isn’t that what Silicon Valley does best? Take a software or hardware that sucks, revolutionize it, and offer it affordably for the masses? I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s what y’all are known for.
The moment may come sooner rather than later according to Petrocelli. “Technology is moving into the cloud to digitize and encode the video,” Petrocelli says. “I think those things will eventually expand out where if you want to watch a wedding or a kid’s soccer game you’ll be able to have that sustained quality.”
[Image courtesy: Jsawkins]