Bambuser Widens Audience for Mobile Live Video

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Bambuser has spent the past two years building a reputation as a reliable provider of user-generated live video news. Now the Swedish start-up has rolled out a SDK for organisations to more easily embed content streamed through its technology on third-party sites—a crucial move to take the service to a wider market."There's a huge demand from media companies wanting to utilise our technology for mobile live," says CEO Jonas Vig, who founded the company in 2007. "News felt like a natural first step. It's great value for news organisations since it creates a stronger connection to the audience and it's a way for news providers to have more feet on the ground in so many more places."

Bambuser's offer is based on a proprietary protocol that adjusts frame rate, compression and bitrate to keep latency low. The application supports more than 90% of the smartphone market (some 480+ Android and iOS mobile models worldwide) and enables users to stream and share live mobile video with social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Wordpress, RSS, and Blogspot.

It's free for regular users but organisations pay a licence to own full distribution and syndication rights to the content.

"Our mission is to make mobile live broadcasting interactive and accessible to anyone," says Vig. "The big challenge to streaming video live is network capacity. We have a smart algorithm that adapts the video to the available network. Previously, in order to do live video typically you would end up with buffering and high latency. We wanted to potentially reach hundreds of thousands of viewers at any time and to enable realtime interaction between contributor and audience. And to do that you need to keep the latency low."

Bambuser started out with live coverage of press conferences but quickly caught the eye of news agency Associated Press, which began working with the company in 2010, eventually taking a six-figure stake in the outfit early last year. Part of the attraction to AP was to learn more about how it could incorporate and work with the growing amount of mobile video streamed live or posted online by citizen journalists from the world's hotspots.

AP doesn't pay citizen users for the content it distributes, something that has irked some bloggers and freelance journalists (who argue that they are putting their lives at risk to capture the video), although it is up to the user whether to opt in to AP or to distribute elsewhere.

In a communications release Bambuser addresses this point: "What Bambuser have learnt working with activists/bloggers globally is that, by far, the most important thing is to be able to share what's happening on site with as many as possible. We’re asked daily to help to distribute content, to let the world know. Bambuser and AP are together offering an opportunity to get global distribution, create global awareness and receive personal recognition."

If Bambuser users do permit AP to distribute their content, they can do so with full credit (Bambuser username credited on TV and online) to all media globally, by agreeing to AP's terms of use through the settings on the Bambuser Dashboard.

AP reporters have used Bambuser’s backend to record and deliver video to its studios from the field; and also to crowdsource eyewitness breaking news in Egypt and Turkey with speed. What's crucial is the ability for editors to verify the user-generated source.

"The media organisation is responsible for the vetting process but they can use our tools to help them," explains Vig. These include a web-based interface that records all incoming feeds with geolocation tagging and the chance to preview content before one-click publishing.

"If video is steamed live then newsroom editors can chat in realtime by audio or text with a contributor," says Vig. "That is one of the most efficient ways to vet content for accuracy and makes it so much more powerful than a video posted on YouTube that claims to be from a specific source. We can vet this in realtime."

With customers including Scandinavian newspaper and online publisher Aftonbladet, and Finnish broadcasters YLE and MTV3, Bambuser is concentrating on rolling out the LibBambuser SDK, which allows users to integrate its streaming platform and white label video player, as preferred, into their own apps.

News giants like CNN are on its radar. "You have the option not only for audiences to consume more news but also to enhance the coverage of reportage by permitting live or pre-recorded video by journalists and by user contributions on the ground," says Vig.

The firm has an R&D base in Turku, Finland, recently opened a UK office and although it has no physical US presence, the company is looking to establish one, says Vig. Aside from AP, Bambuser is venture-backed by Kistefos Venture Capital and Almi Invest.

"We've been able to tap into AP's customer base and we believe we have a good knowledge and expertise in working with news content," says Vig. "We are convinced though, that our technology and mobile SDK will be extremely beneficial for all kinds of service applications from social media to the enterprise."

For example, its tech is behind social live, a video streaming app on smartphones such as the Sony Xperia Z1 that enables users on social networks such as Facebook to share comments on the screen while the user is filming.

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