Webcasting Advances Will Bring Revenue Streams

Streaming video over the Internet is gaining in popularity as an effective communications vehicle for both corporate users and Web entertainment seekers.

Webcasts are the result of a live broadcast production where the video or audio feed is captured, encoded on the fly at an encoding station and served through a content distribution network to Web users employing a pre-defined media player. This live media feed from a Webcast becomes readily available to Web users for “close to real-time” participation. The live Webcast also may be archived for a determined period, which allows it to become Web requested media-on-demand.

Like any marketing program driven by technology, results from Webcasts must outweigh what can be substantial operational costs, such as production, hosting and serving. This past December, Madonna and Microsoft debuted the world’s largest Webcast, drawing an estimated 9 million log-ons.

The promotional value and bragging rights associated with the live concert must have been a bargain against the hundreds of thousands of dollars in promotional and carrying costs assumed by Microsoft. Though you might not be able to afford the simultaneous audio and video stream costs, content owners can apply revenue opportunities to most Webcast endeavors.

Unlike television advertising, participation in a Webcast often involves some event registration and basic participant information. While not required and possibly inaccurate, the ability to obtain more specified demographics can yield greater target market insights.

During the Webcast, participants can be polled on a variety of topics. In some cases, their aggregate and instantaneous answers can be valuable. Will feedback from today’s online Victoria’s Secret Webcast predict tomorrow’s showroom ensemble? By enabling a chat application, where groups of participants can converse via text, during a Webcast, additional market observations may be ascertained. A Webcast can incorporate a question-and-answer session that opens the floor to direct user involvement.

The promotional value of a Webcast can be used to offset costs and gain profits. Live Web events can secure sponsorships as a revenue generator. This can be for the event itself as well as for supplemental programs and applications. For example, while the Webcast event is sponsored by one vendor, the chat rooms are sponsored by another. A trivia poll contest is sponsored by yet another.

In addition, a variety of advertising spots can be supplied during a Webcast. These can include static, timed and scrolling advertisements using traditional HTML banner advertisements or compelling Flash animation. Promotional value and advertising rates will differ materially based on the event draw and target demographics. For example, some television programming, such as the most recent Super Bowl and Latin Grammy Awards, is being supplemented by online Webcast events.

One streaming media buzzword that has only just begun to gain steam is syndication. Cable television is enjoying fantastic pay-per-view and video-on-demand growth. Given the quality of today’s Webcast vs. television, most online PPV ventures have been concentrated in video re-purposing and e-learning. For some dot-coms, Web content syndication is their bread and butter.

While the technology to share a live media stream among multiple Web sites is available, the business model to support syndicating live audio and video streams has just begun. Here, too, is the means to offset costs and increase profitability by serving a live production to multiple Web sites – each tailoring the event to sponsors, advertisers and activities to meet the needs of their respective site visitors.

Though content is king, context may be equally sovereign. Interactive television promises significant audience size, an enriched viewing experience and greater revenue potential. Until interactive television becomes a household appliance, Webcast technology can yield fantastic audience participation.

Dynamic interactive Webcasting allows content owners to push supplemental information, advertising, applications and transaction elements synchronized to the live media content. This can enhance numerous streaming applications such as live music events, television events, press events, distance learning and corporate communications. For example, why not supplement a press event with live video, presentation graphs and online questions and answers?

Since stickiness contributes to available transaction, advertising and sponsor impressions, keeping the audience involved is paramount. During the recent Super Bowl pregame Webcasts (produced by NFLFilmsTV), online fans were able to respond to elements directly related to the Webcast content. For instance, fans were able to vote for their favorite players. As players were interviewed by the hosts during the Webcasts, their biographies were presented on screen. In addition, live video was supplemented by archived video of past Super Bowl performances.

Given the ability to dynamically push related content in context to a live Webcast, unique advertising opportunities can also be offered by the content owner. Why not ensure an insurance sponsor exclusive advertising during an X-Games wipeout?

Webcast costs can be significant, and multiple revenue models must be implemented to offset costs and achieve profits. Technical advances in Webcasting will enable more profit-generating capabilities and can present new opportunities for both sponsor and producer.

Don’t just show a live video in a postage-stamp-sized window. Go one step further to ensure the best return on streaming investment.

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