Taking streaming seriously

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Streaming media, previously identified as a key growth segment for corporate communications this decade, is expected to see an even bigger boost in the aftermath of last months disaster.

Earlier this year, Jupiter Media Metrix Inc. projected that enterprise spending on streaming media would grow from $140 million this year to $2.8 billion in 2005, driven largely by applications for internal communications and external collaboration with clients.

Now, as businesses cut back on travel and other expenses as a result of the terrorist attacks and the down economy, their investment in streaming media is expected to grow.

"With what happened [on Sept. 11], many companies arent allowing employees to fly, which represents opportunities for streaming," said Marc Harrison, research director at Jupiter.

However, he cautioned, "Cost savings will never drive any technology market by itself. There will have to be a revenue benefit for a product to take off."

Harrison said streaming affords many new revenue opportunities for businesses, including promoting corporate events, marketing product launches and conducting customer or partner training.

There has been confusion in the enterprise space about which vendor to go to for specific solutions, with so many streaming companies offering different services, Harrison added.

Industry consolidating

That confusion may diminish as the industry begins to consolidate. Recent deals such as Inktomi Corp.s acquisition of eScene Networks Inc. and enScaler Inc.s partnership with Digital Pipe Inc. have created companies that offer end-to-end solutions for corporations.

Under the Inktomi deal, which closed in July, the Foster City, Calif., network infrastructure company acquired content management company eScene, a San Francisco-based provider of streaming media applications. The deal gives Inktomi business customers such as Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. and Ford Motor Co. access to a full suite of products to publish, distribute and manage streaming media content for corporate communications and training.

Under the enScaler deal, the Sunnyvale, Calif., content management platform developer partnered with Digital Pipe, a Foster City, Calif., content delivery network, offering businesses services to deliver and manage streaming media over intranets, extranets and virtual private networks.

Some companies are consolidating services internally to give customers one-stop shopping.

Last week, Real Networks Inc. announced RealOne, a new player that combines RealPlayer with RealJukebox, along with a media browser, offering a "three-pane media experience." The offering is expected to drive new revenue opportunities for advertisers, content providers and resellers, Real Networks said.

Streaming e-mail

New applications are also being developed by vendors to give businesses effective ways to reach customers, employees and partners.

Streaming e-mail is a hot area right now, with new applications coming out from companies such as PresentationPro Inc. and Blue Sky Factory Inc.

PresentationPro, Atlanta, in August launched EmailPresenter, a software program that uses streaming technology to attach PowerPoint presentations into e-mails.

EmailPresenter, which starts at $49 a month, includes software, a 30-day license fee, access to a presentation library, storage and hosting of up to 10 converted presentations, and up to 500 unique views per month of presentations.

Users install the software, create PowerPoint presentations on their desktop, attach them to the e-mail by clicking on a button and send them to their e-mail accounts for distribution.

"This turns your PowerPoint presentation into a powerful rich-media lead generator," said Gary White, president of PresentionPro, which has been in business since 1993.

One client using EmailPresenter is Food Service University, an online training center for food service professionals. Food Service University offers training to food service brokers, sales agents and distributors, many of which represent up to 40 different food manufacturers. The company has created a database with product and training information, but because salespeople represent different, often competing product lines, information sent via e-mail has to be secure and customized, said Ken Reynolds, founder and chief technology officer of Food Service University, and executive director of The Food Service Group, an association of food service brokers.

"You can put more proprietary information in a one-on-one e-mail that you wouldnt put up on a Web site," Reynolds said.

Another streaming e-mail company that just launched in August is Blue Sky Factory Inc., Baltimore, which developed Eyebox, a technology that streams rich-media messages into the body of an e-mail.

Eyebox costs between 3 cents to 5 cents per e-mail, with an additional fee of $1,500 for tracking services. Blue Sky also does creative development for an average cost of $125 an hour, with most campaigns requiring 30 to 40 hours to develop.

Measurement obstacles

One of the major issues looming for streaming media marketers is how to measure performance. While most streaming providers offer tracking services for their own technology, third-party measurement companies are needed to provide across-the-board comparisons.

The problem is that no standards yet exist for streaming media, which include a variety of platforms and formats.

The three areas of streaming that need to be measured are the source of the stream, the player and user consumption, said T.S. Kelly, director-principal media analyst at NetRatings Inc., Milpitas, Calif.

NetRatings, through the Nielsen/NetRatings measurement service, measures some elements of each, including the number of users at work who viewed streams, but Kelly admits the process needs to be moved forward by the industry.

"That is the challenge for the latter part of this decadeto create universal tagging, understand what interface is used and how it is consumed," Kelly said.

For now, most measurement companies focus on one area of streaming, such as the client side. Mercury Interactive Corp., Sunnyvale, Calif., an application performance management company, this year introduced streaming measurement capabilities to its existing line of products that test software functionality, performance and pre-deployment readiness.

Mercurys software evaluates performance such as the amount of time it takes from the time a player is opened until it starts playing, the amount of time to buffer, the total number of clients served and what protocols are being used.

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