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11/7/2011
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Webcast Demands Still Stress Out IT

TalkPoint CEO Balletta says streaming media trends leave IT staffs and his own company scrambling to keep up.

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The explosion of streaming video is putting stress on IT organizations and online video broadcasters alike, according to a webcasting specialist.

"IT staffs [are] really scrambling to play catch up. They're getting hit with requirements to support 10,000 users and massive, massive rollouts," said Nick Balletta, CEO of TalkPoint Communications.

TalkPoint hosts webcasts, videocasts, and other live Internet events for large audiences, which can be either public marketing events or private corporate meetings. Though it's hardly a household name ("We've always said we want to be rich, not famous," Balletta quipped), TalkPoint offers private label versions of its service through companies like Cisco.

While Cisco's WebEx and other online meeting services like GoToMeeting support online collaboration, TalkPoint's service is architected for a small number of participants and very large numbers of listeners, Balletta said. In the Cisco partnership, Cisco has its own people produce the events but uses TalkPoint to distribute video and audio streams, he said.

[Most webconferencing platforms leave a lot to be desired. Learn about Facebook app Video Chat Rounds, A Video Chat I Actually Enjoyed.]

Although TalkPoint provides the Internet distribution, its large corporate customers still have their own networking concerns with video distribution. For example, if the same videostream of a message from the CEO will be displayed to thousands of employees, distributing duplicate copies of that stream to everyone is inefficient. In those cases, TalkPoint may work with the enterprise networking team to distribute the video using more efficient multicast networking.

In other instances, TalkPoint will work with the corporate networking staff to identify Internet protocol (IP) address ranges associated with different locations and customize streams if necessary--for example, distributing an audio-only version to a low-bandwidth satellite office, while the employees at headquarters see video.

"We want you to be able to leverage what you have," Balletta said.

The growth of mobile video is another trend that is proving difficult to keep up with. When Bristol Myers-Squibb, a major customer, deployed iPads to thousands of salespeople, "they just assumed our stuff will work with that, and we had to scramble a bit to make sure it did," Balletta said.

TalkPoint is the successor to NextVenue, a company Balletta started in the mid-1990s as an offshoot of CNBC/Dow Jones Desktop Video, itself a joint venture of Microsoft, NBC, and Dow Jones. This was an early attempt to distribute pay-per-view video content, such as interviews with prominent CEOs. Later, part of the concept was to allow startups to do their initial public offering roadshow interviews over the Internet. The company became TalkPoint in 2004, "but I've had the same phone number and sat at the same desk since 1999," Balletta said.

The company tried in past years to host entertainment oriented events, but ultimately concluded "we're not that cool," Balletta said, and it has focused on corporate meetings ever since. Competitor ON24 has put a bigger emphasis on hosting events such as digital trade shows, complete with Second Life-style 3-D avatars of the users, Balletta said, while TalkPoint prefers to stick to the basics.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard

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