Vusion Takes Internet Video Into HD Age

By Carolyn Braff Televised sports are incorporating
more high definition coverage than ever, but bandwidth fees and
the limits of content delivery networks make accessing that content
over the Internet difficult, at best – until now. Enter Vusion, a
content provider that enables easy access to long-form HD content at
a price point that may change how sports fans watch Internet video.
Based in Milpitas, CA, Vusion
provides instant-on, full-screen, HD streaming video over the Internet.
Although the Vusion service went live in September 2007, the official
company announcement was purposefully delayed until May 2008.
“That’s because we’re a business-to-business
provider,” explains Grover Richter, vice president of marketing for
Vusion. “We are not a portal; we are here to make the sports industry
work.”
Although Vusion’s first client was
a music label, the company’s future lies explicitly in sports.
“The sports industry has a much clearer
agenda with the Internet than most of the media industry,” Richter
says. “The sports industry needs a lot more channels. There are a
lot of sports even at the high school level that are being captured
on HD video, but there’s no distribution channel.” Vusion provides those distribution
channels in high quantity and quality. Currently, Vusion can deliver
720p HD video over the Internet, with plans to announce 1080p quality
in the works, to hundreds of millions of concurrent viewers.
Founded by a research computer scientist,
the Vusion streaming video delivery service is based on technology that
incorporates proprietary algorithms and intelligent distributing computing,
which Vusion CTO Aaron Crayford used to develop Wide Area Rapid Propagation
(WARP) technologies, the core architecture behind Vusion’s service.
WARP technology combines infrastructure, network and player layers to
create its end-to-end video delivery system.
The company keeps costs low – Richter
estimates one-tenth the cost of traditional content delivery networks
– through superlinear scaling, the ability to scale to hundreds of
millions of users more efficiently than a CDN, and a densely packed
architecture.
“Because our core is 20-30 times
as dense as a traditional CDN, we don’t have to move as much video
to make it available,” Richter says. “In addition to that, our protocols
are more efficient. A combination of things like caching, DNS, bit rates,
protocol efficiencies, together mean that we have a more efficient system.
This architecture is much more in tune to the new Internet.”
Rather than support its own portal,
Vusion operates as a plug-in for content providers. The one-time download
takes less than a minute and the Vusion player becomes an extended part
of a user’s browser.
“There’s no separate player, you
don’t have to install an application, so it’s pretty easy from the
consumer side,” Richter says.
Making the Vusion application even
easier to manipulate is its ability to integrate with widgets and other
applications.
“If you need to combine video with
a social sports application or a chat site, that’s easy in our environment,”
Richter explains. “We’re a true Web 2.0-integrated browser, so those
tools integrate well with our browser-based player.”
Just how strong a connection does this
instant-on video stream require?
“If you can tolerate surfing the
Internet on a connection, we can get video to you,” Richter says.
“We have the lowest bitrate HD on the Internet, so we can get a true
HD picture to you in under 2 megabits per second.”
Vusion can also stream DVD-SD quality
480p at less than 1 megabit per second.
The popularity of TV on the Internet
is growing at an exponential pace, thanks to the personalized upsides of an Internet
model that TV simply cannot match. Still, Richter does not expect it
to overtake traditional television overnight.
“Internet video is searchable in
a way that traditional TV cannot be,” Richter says. “Fans want sports
on the Internet, sometimes as an augmentation to cable, sometimes as
a new channel added on to cable. We want to keep that great cable infrastructure
that we have, but augment it with a more searchable, high-quality Internet
cooperative experience.”