Blue Jeans is mixing their videoconferencing chocolate with the peanut butter of internet streaming in their new Blue Jeans Primetime offering. I spoke with Stu Aaron (CCO of Blue Jeans) to get the details.
Many products and applications are powered by the same basic technology, video over the internet. Whether you call it streaming or videoconferencing (or webconferencing, webcasting, etc.), the technology behind it is basically video compression and transmission in one form or another. Historically, due to the enormous complexity of video over IP, this technology has been productized into application specific solutions, resulting in the current industry categories. I believe there are too many categories, and due to the increasing power and flexibility of today’s video tech, we should be enjoying a new generation of video platforms that serve multiple needs through a common interface.
To be clear, I am not making the extreme suggestion that all video subcategories should be eliminated. Let me posit this analogy with the common car. A household may have, for example, a small, efficient car for quick errands and a larger vehicle for family outings. But you wouldn’t want to also own a special car just for getting groceries, and one specifically for going to work, and one just for highways, and one just for weekends, etc. Business video technology has a few too many cars in the garage, and the point is simply to consolidate where it makes sense.
Blue Jeans is doing their part with a new product which adds streaming capabilities to the common VC call (or, if you prefer, adds the interactivity of VC to the common webcast). The result is not just the typical expansion of a small videoconferencing session (5-10 people in a typical video meeting, seen by hundreds of passive viewers). The new Blue Jeans Primetime service adds the power of bi-directional videoconferencing to the audience itself. Any audience member can be allowed to “go live” and participate via video. It adds a new dynamic to the typical webcast. Think of how, in a live panel discussion, a host can walk down and hand the microphone to an audience member, promoting them to a part of the presentation. This is the virtual equivalent to that experience.
Many webcast platforms, and even some VC/streaming hybrid solutions, offer some interactivity in the form of text chat. Often, audience members will submit questions via text, and a moderator will read them to the panel. With Blue Jeans Primetime, the moderator can “promote” an individual audience member, giving her the option to join the panel on bi-directional video, appearing on equal foot with the video panel, to ask her question. This clearly will allow for more interactivity, back and forth, and compelling discussion, than the typical text based Q & A session. This has the potential to completely change the dynamic of the, all too common, one way webcasting presentation. Allowing the audience to share their questions, and follow up, on equal video footing with the live panel will make webcasts a lot more interesting, informative, and fun. It may sound like hyperbole, but this may literally re-invent the online event as audience members will no longer be forced to participate as second class citizens.
While the product itself is certainly compelling, it is also notable that it is coming from Blue Jeans. While their success and massive growth speaks for itself, many industry insiders have often questioned their corporate strategies. One example in particular, was Blue Jean’s choice to offer a premium service, rather than seeking easy growth through a freemium offering. But the choice to go premium provides the revenue needed to stay ahead of this quickly developing market by developing new features, capabilities, and even products such as Primetime. Another example of this developmental leadership could be seen in their recent announcement of advanced metrics and reporting for their video platform, which was soon followed by similar announcements from competitors. BlueJeans has always been aggressive when it comes to leadership and growth. With this latest move they are looking to go beyond the $10 Billion business VC market, and tap into the $200 Billion entertainment/media market.
That brings up an interesting part of the discussion, use cases. We expect customers to quickly latch on to obvious uses, such as executive town hall meetings, training sessions, educating customers, large scale online courses, etc. In fact, a few select Blue Jeans customers have already completed successful field trials with Primetime, along those lines. But I think this could be one of those products where the users take it in directions that we may not anticipate.
Stu and I had fun chatting about potential uses for this new product, which could include things such as; two way TED talks, athletes engaging with fans, movie/VIP premiere events, videogame streamers, online “game shows” or “Talk shows” (interact live with Dr. Phil on your desktop), fantasy sports gaming, and much more. But again, we expect that massive user base will come up with many more uses than even Blue Jeans can think of. The bottom line is, events over the internet just got a lot more interactive.