UStream Not Worried By Prospect of YouTube Live Video Service

UStream Not Worried By Prospect of YouTube Live Video Service

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UStream co-founder and CEO, John Ham, sat down and talked with TechCrunch’s Jason Kinkaid recently to discuss the future of live streaming video on the web—and the looming prospect of YouTube jumping into that arena.  It’s a pretty interesting read, and I suggest you check it out.

What I come away with from this article is that John Ham is not afraid.  He’s not scared of YouTube jumping into his pond.  In fact, he seems almost excited about it.  He thinks competition would be good for his company, and having YouTube dabble in live video only makes live video a healthier space in general.

He believes his company is already the leader in the live video space—and they are, without a doubt—and that this fact will give them a leg up on any current or future competition.  UStream has infrastructure, experience, a knowledgeable sales staff, funding… all the tools it would need to stay competitive against all challengers.  At least, that’s Ham’s view.

I think he might be just a tad optimistic, but that’s probably how he should be.  Don’t you want your CEO to believe you can win?  Don’t you want optimism in your leaders?

But I think the optimism is a bit blinding to him.  He mentions the $75 million in funding they just raised this year ($90 million over all), compared to the $13 million raised by competitor Live Stream or the $3-4 million raised by  But… um… do we really think that $75 million buys you the resources to compete with YouTube?  I mean… Google is their daddy, and that daddy has some of the deepest pocketbooks in the history of web companies.  They spend $75 million on things like office supplies.  I would not make funding or finances any part of this discussion, because YouTube is practically a small country in terms of money… you will never compete and win on money alone.

Instead, I would focus on the other points Ham made—such as the fact that they have more live streaming experience and infrastructure… that they were first to market.  Those are the real advantages for Ustream against potential future competitors.

But not money.  If YouTube wants to own the live streaming market… they can.  They have the financial means, the resources, and the brand recognition to jump into live streaming overnight and be the market leader by morning.  YouTube is a globally-recognized brand.  Grandmothers all over the world know what YouTube is… is the same true of Ustream?  I doubt it.  Does that mean YouTube’s service will be better than Ustream’s?  Certainly not.  Or that it will put Ustream out of business?  No way.  But let’s not sit around and pretend that Ustream can defeat YouTube in some kind of head-to-head battle… because they cannot.

There’s also a mention by the author that live video has a limited scope in terms of uses people will have for it… suggesting that you miss too much when programming is live, but with “on-demand video” such as YouTube you can watch when you want.  But as I pointed out in my last article about YouTube’s possible move into live streaming video, there are a host of uses that have nothing to do with entertainment.  And I think it’s extremely short-sighted to think of live streaming video in only those terms.  Universities can hold lectures, classes, and study sessions with live streaming video.  Schools can broadcast PTA meetings or talent shows.  Businesses can hold conference calls and meetings.  Municipalities can hold town halls, political debates, or court cases.

Let’s get outside the notion that video has to be strictly designed to entertain, and I think we’ll start finding more uses for live streaming video than we dreamed were possible.

Regardless, I think Ustream will be just fine, thank you very much.  They have a quality service, they are already the market leader, and they have a CEO who is welcoming competition with open arms… all good signs of a healthy company.  As Ham said, competition is good, and will only improve “live streaming video” as a service overall, which has to make us users happy.


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