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Live Video Finds New Uses on the Web

Kim Hart

I drove to Palo Alto this morning to pay a visit to the guys at, a start-up that streams live broadcasts across the Internet. It's a similar concept to YouTube in that it lets people create and share videos with a wide audience. What makes Ustream different, according to its founders, is the ability to stream live video and let viewers interact with the broadcaster through chat rooms, polls, Twitter, and so on.

The founders, Brad Hunstable and John Ham, who met at West Point, walked me through the Web site and shared some of the ways people are making use of the live broadcasts. Some are capturing high school football games on a digital camcorder and streaming it over the Internet so grandparents, out-of-town students and coaches can see the game in real time. Others are broadcasting church services. Presidential candidates have used it to hold question-and-answer sessions with voters.

Ustream is also trying to get celebrities on board with using the live broadcasts to connect to fans. The company streamed a live broadcast from the red carpet of the premier of the movie "Dirty Sexy Money," and let viewers ask the actors questions in real time. One fan asked William Baldwin what kind of shoes he was wearing to the premier. He leaned down, picked up his shoe and showed his Cole Haan sandals to the camera.

It's also been used as a way for companies to calm down angry customers. An example of that happened Wednesday night, John told me. When Digg, the site that rates articles based on their popularity, made changes to the way content is ranked, angry Diggers took to Ustream to express their disappointment. Once the founders, Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson, heard about the rebellion, they tuned into the live broadcast and started a conversation with their users. Kevin and Jay explained the reasons behind the Web site changes, averting a strike by some of its most devoted users.

Some bloggers have said Ustream needs to add more interesting content to the site to attract a wider audience. I'll be interested to see who else takes to the Ustream airwaves to make that happen.

By Kim Hart  |  January 25, 2008; 9:42 AM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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