Video streaming service Ustream.TV has adopted a two-pronged strategy for growth. The company, founded in 2006, now mixes top-tier TV brands and celebrities with its do-it-yourself video tools for the masses.
The company has landed $13 million in funding so far, much of it through DCM, and fought its way out of alt.video obscurity with a deal in June to host CBS’ live news reports. In addition, Ustream has hosted a Jonas Brothers appearance and this year’s Miss Teen USA pageant.
Today, though, Ustream rolled out two products that cater to the long tail rather than serving up more stars.
Ustream Media Stream is a new feature built into Ustream’s website that lets users record video as they stream it, then serve it up for on-demand viewing later, such as the Ashton Kutcher session pictured here. Media Stream organizes videos into channels to which users can contribute by putting a Twitter-style hashtag, for example #aplusk for Kutcher’s channel, into their video titles.
Media Stream extends Ustream’s focus from live video into pre-recorded video, a much larger market. “Recorded video has always been a part of Ustream,” CEO John Ham told me over the phone, but “this makes it easier than ever for people to record and share videos.” Ham says the company focused on the social aspects of online video. As a result, members can opt to let anyone contribute to a channel simply by putting the channel into the video’s title as a hashtag. Or they can configure channels to require each video submission to be explicitly approved by the member who created the channel.
“Quantcast says we already have thirty million uniques per month,” Ham said, “but this will expand our reach into recorded video.” In short, Ustream has figured out that being known only for live streams isn’t the path to success. Ustream wants to steal some of YouTube’s uploaders and downloaders, which number more than 100 million just in America.
Ustream’s other new product is the iPhone Recorder, an app already available for free in Apple’s App Store. iPhone Recorder, which only works on the videocam-equipped iPhone 3G S, makes the three most important video functions — record, publish, manage clips — nearly one-click easy. The app, once configured, can publish to Ustream, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Facebook brands and artists who have a custom Ustream page for their content can also post directly from the phone.
The problem Ustream faces is that the iPhone 3G S includes a button to post to YouTube. Will video sharers go out of their way to install and choose Ustream instead? The fad-consciousness of the iPhone market suggests that what Ustream needs, one way or another, is to become cool. Here’s an idea: Hire a couple of celebrities popular with the exact same demographic who buy the iPhone 3G S. Get them to create channels to which anyone else can contribute. But aim high. Think Hurley from Lost, not MC Hammer.