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Many broadcasters have diversified into other media areas. Diversifying makes good business sense. But making it profitable, especially when it comes to streaming content on the Internet, has always been a conundrum for broadcasters.

At NAB2004, there were more than 300 streaming or Internet-related companies ready to help broadcasters find a way to make the Internet pay.

But broadcasters, despite all the optimistic talk, manufacturer stroking and backslapping going on, have three main problems when it comes to profitable streaming. First, they can't sell ads effectively on the Web. Second, the public can't afford broadband or DSL-level Internet access and third, even if it could, the majority of the United States still is not wired for the high-speed broadband needed for video and audio. Add the United States' forced conversion to DTV, and you can see why streaming is at the bottom of some broadcasters' to-do lists.

Despite these problems and challenges, there were some great new products on display this year.

Encoda launched its new product, VeriStream, which quickly pinpoints streaming system errors and failures on a LAN or across a worldwide network. The product is designed for multichannel environments, such as cable television headends or direct-to-home broadcast operations.

ViewCast showed its new Niagara PowerStream encoder, which delivers streaming video to mobile/handheld devices. The new Osprey-300 addresses both streaming and video editing needs. The PCI-X bus interface provides compatibility with the latest PC technologies, delivering high-performance/high-bandwidth streaming with professional editing performance.

BBC Technology came from the UK to NAB2004 sporting a new contract with Discovery Networks International to provide high-bandwidth services. It will stream the network's content to Discovery Channel Web site users via its dedicated broadband service.

The real-time, broadcast-quality MPEG-4 (AVC/H.264) encoding capability of SkyStream Networks' new Mediaplex-20 video delivery platform was also on display.

Lots of great gear in the NAB aisles proved, to me at least, that there are many viable solutions that will help broadcasters provide near-broadcast-quality streaming once the infrastructure hurdles are addressed. Rest assured that eventually — once the transition to digital is complete — broadcasters will somehow find a way to make streaming programming profitable. In the meantime, don't hold your breath. It may be quite a while, and there are more important things to do first!

Tom Patrick McAuliffe is a journalist, entertainer and contributing writer with Video Systems magazine.



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