Broadband lack makes media streaming a black art

The uptake of streaming media by corporates is on the increase, but a lack of broadband infrastructure and a fear of the transparency of the media is holding streaming media industry back in Australia, streaming media professionals have said.

Microsoft claims that one in four enterprise companies in the US are using streaming media within the organisation. Two-thirds of those run on the Windows Media platform.

Locally, Peter Davidson, Microsoft Asia's regional manager, digital media division, said he expected "the Australian market to follow the US trend of an increasing use of streaming media in their day-to-day operations and communications".

However, IT managers, facing the challenges of convincing executives to spend the money and implement the technology, find a lack of broadband infrastructure and a lack of tools have made companies resistant and uneasy because there is no ROI in sight.

According to Mark Muggeridge, head of production of Streamworks, a streaming media service provider: "It's a scary time for leaders of IT departments. Not too many business boffins have investigated streaming media. IT managers that push for streaming media now, without a broadband infrastructure in place, will find it a struggle to get the company to spend the money. But if corporates don't investigate it and all the competitors do, then corporates have to play catch-up and shareholders don't like that.

"The hardest thing for IT managers is motivating upper management to spend the money," Muggeridge said.

Said David Jones, CEO of ID Media: "Most IT departments are not up to speed and have no understanding of streaming media."

The Australian Interactive Multimedia Industry Association's executive director, Lynne Spender, called on government intervention from NOIE and DCITA to ensure a reliable broadband infrastructure is in place.

"Unless corporates, business and customers are assured uninterrupted access to broadband there is no point," Spender said. "The chaos and unreliability of broadband access means that there will never be a critical mass of demand for people to invest in the technology and developers won't be able to develop a business model. The software and infrastructure exists, but not enough to sustain a streaming media industry in Australia."

Spender said corporate uptake is the main driving force in building a strong streaming media industry, but this is still hampered because a lack of broadband makes it too difficult at the moment.

"A lack of broadband and a lack of authoring tools, that helped pull it all together, made media streaming a bit of a black art," said Frank Arrigo, a former Microsoft Asia/Pacific Windows Media Technologies business development manager.

All hope is not lost, though, as streaming professionals are out there educating companies on the benefits of investing in the medium and overcoming corporate resistance.

Arrigo said Microsoft were working with service providers and also building better authoring tools to increase the uptake.

Amelia Jones, head of ID Media's multicast division, was also upbeat on the state of the streaming media industry. "Last year the number of live Web casts we facilitated for the corporate sector totalled three. This year we have over 15 live Web casts in August alone. The increased uptake is due to a better-educated corporate market," Jones said.

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