Is It Worth It to Webcast Infomercials?

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Webcasting infomercials - is there a point? Should you use the same call-to-action techniques? What does it cost to Webcast? Will people really watch those 2-inch square pictures typical of Webcasting? Good questions, and the answer is, it's too early to tell. But here at WebcastingTV.com, we are going to find out.


WebcastingTV.com is developing channels of programming which will be delivered in a conventional television style. They will air at a certain time and hence contain commercials. This may seem like a waste of the Internet's vaulted interactivity, but it is a economic model that works. The equation goes: Live programs + commercial avails = revenue. Every Internet company is looking for revenue streams to justify its future stock ratios. We are simply expecting to use a new medium in the same old way.


The ideal of using Webcasting technology to deliver infomercials is just a natural extension of our strategy for delivering broadcast-style networks over the Internet. In its simplest form, WebcastingTV.com can be described as "cable over the Internet." This, of course, totally discounts the benefits of interactivity and on-demand programming, but it is a simple-to-explain concept. And it makes the point that we are trying to get eyeballs to the screen (only in this case your computer screen).


We have been participating in the direct response broadcast industry since the days of K-tel and Ronco. We contributed to the growth of the infomercial industry with early entries from Body by Jake, Susan Powter, and Metrinch. We are typically working for companies like Guthy Renker, Real to Reel, and Frederiksen. We have some currently successful programs airing such as "Z-Max" and "You've Got Money." But until the creation of WebcastingTV.com, we never controlled any form of distribution.


Don't confuse broadcasting with Webcasting. A conventional broadcaster erects an antenna, and any television within the transmitter's range can pick up the program. It doesn't make any difference to the broadcaster's transmitter how many people are watching.


However, in Webcasting, you must provision your video servers to deliver the number streams equal to the number of viewers you expect to be watching simultaneously. And it doesn't matter if they are all watching the same program, they each get their own stream. If you have enough capacity to serve 1,000 streams, then only 1,000 people can be watching at once.


That is why companies like our's, RealNetworks, InterVU and Broadcast.com (now owned by Yahoo) have spent so much money on rack upon rack of servers and high-capacity Internet bandwidth connections. The costs involved are high enough that anyone looking for an economically viable audience will need to subcontract their Webcasting to one of our server farms. For someone looking to put their programs on the Web, the costs are proportional to the number of viewers expected simultaneously (the likely maximum bandwidth required) and the total number of viewers over a certain time period (the expected number of megabytes served).


All of these big numbers make it sound expensive. Well, it's not (at least compared to broadcasting). The cost to have your program on a video server, so that it can be aired through a Web page, is measured in thousands per month, not thousands per hour. The real cost is getting anyone to notice it. That's the problem that every dot-com is having now. They're spending millions to attract eyeballs to their pages.


In answer to the questions I posed in the first paragraph, yes, there is a point to Webcasting infomercials. It should be another medium incorporated into your media placements. Look for the same demographics that you normally would, and help it along by driving viewers to your Web presence with mentions in all your other media. As for the size and quality of the pictures, remember that content is more important than image quality. Good offers and compelling stories sell product no matter where they are seen.
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