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The Popcast Pitch

Open Access Internet TV via Broadcaching By John Virata

As digital video has become an enabling tool for many filmmakers and video producers, showcasing that content has become a hodgepodge of many different technologies. While there are many avenues to showcase video work-- videotape, DVD. . . others are turning to the Internet in hopes of reaching the widest possible audiences. Companies have sprouted up on the digital highway in an effort to ease the transmission of these stories to the masses. One company,, which promises to give the content creators a channel, not unlike a TV, has taken an interesting approach in which to showcase that content. The company, (which is not affiliated with a previous, now closed company called, calls its approach broadcaching, whereby users download content in a peer to peer fashion.

Popcast was officially launched in the third quarter of 2004 by Robert Lord, former director and product manager of media software at Yahoo (which acquired his company, Mediacode in 2003), and general manager of Nullsoft. The two other principals at Popcast are Joe Johnston, president and general manager, and Mike Close, senior pixel trainer at Popcast. In a wide ranging interview, DMN senior editor John Virata interviewed Robert Lord, Mike Close, and Popcast president and general manager Joe Johnston, about Popcast, its technology, and what the company brings to filmmakers, video producers, and DV hobbyists. 

DMN: What kind of service is Popcast offering and what is the target market for these services?
Rob Lord: Popcast implements "Open Access Internet TV", that is, broadcast quality video delivered to anyone's broadband Internet PC.  Popcast's easy-to-use tools enable any filmmaker, video freelancer or DV hobbyist to deploy a "channel", a sequence of video segments and shows per the channel producer's specifications and updates.  Any Popcast channel can be received by boundless Internet channel viewers by means of a one-click channel subscription, activating Popcast's underlying video delivery network derived from BitTorrent swarming technology.
Popcast's goal is to drastically reduce costs and expand potential audiences for producers of the TV experience.  We believe in narrowcast, that is, hundreds of thousands of channels each uniquely servicing hundreds or thousands of viewers, a TV experience parallel to the Web experience.
Mike Close: On the producer end, Popcast is for anyone with a story to tell who is hungry for a free, high-quality, dependable and worldwide distribution outlet. On the consumer end, Popcast is attractive to people with broadband Internet connections that want to take full advantage of the experience that the combination of a fat pipe and modern Web media has to offer.

DMN: What makes Popcast unique versus other avenues for getting messages across the Internet?
RL: Popcast is differentiated from other Internet video solutions in several crucial ways.

  • Popcast channels are broadcast quality resolution.  Popcast supports video encoded at broadcast quality.  The Popcast Player supports any arbitrary quality, but we encourage channel producers to deploy broadcast quality content exclusively.
  • Popcast channel are delivered in a swarm
  • Popcast's underlying private grid network derived from BitTorrent swarming technology accelerates video delivery as more viewers subscribe to a channel. Moreover, there is no concomitant increase in cost as channel viewership increases.
  • Popcast channels are like newsletters
     Popcast delivers channel's video to a user before they watch it.  Yes, this means waiting sometimes days before a channel is ready, but users have adjusted to worse for broadcast quality video, whether being fixed to TV's schedule or waiting for PVRs like Tivo to record or DVD rental services like Netflix to acquire and send new titles.  Popcast's delivery model is similar to a newsletter--a user subscribes and content arrives later in full.
  • Popcast is free!
     Popcast costs zero to channel producers.  In the future we may offer Popcast Basic and Popcast Pro where Pro includes additional quality-of-service guarantees and metrics reporting, but not until we've outgrown our hardscrabble start-up phase.

MC: As a filmmaker, the thing that has me most excited about Popcast is that it creates a community that has the potential to write the first chapter on the fusion of broadcast media and the Internet.  I can finally put media on the Web in a format that is good enough.  It lets me connect, and stay connected, with my audience.  Most services available now that utilize BitTorrent create an environment that requires continual action from the consumer.  Consumers point their browsers to the page and click links to download large files.  If they want to check for new content, they have to go back to the site, search for the content and then download it--if they can even find it!

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Related Keywords:popcast, internet TV channel, content viewing

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