Live video streaming service Ustream is rolling out a white-label service today called Watershed for Websites and businesses that want to broadcast their own live streams. Watershed comes with a lot of extra management capabilities like the ability to customize the player, add a logo, turn on features like chat, polling, picture-in-picture video chat, Twitter integration, analytics and more.
Ustream is targeting this service at companies that may want to live stream meetings to employees, as well as to Websites that want to offer their own live-streaming programming and need more than what they can get by simply embedding a Ustream.tv player today.
Watershed is a cloud computing service, with pricing on a pay-as-you-go basis. Pricing starts at $1 per viewer hour for 1,000 viewer hours per month or less and scales down to $0.25 per viewer hour for streams that a reach 50,000 viewer hours per month or more. (A viewer hour is one viewer watching a stream for one hour, or 60 viewers watching for one minute, etc.).
So a live stream watched by only 30 people for a half hour would cost $15, but a stream watched by 30,000 people for a half hour would cost $7,500. I am not sure how much a comparable content delivery network like Akamai would charge, but Ustream CEO John Ham says they are aiming for a comparable price. Watershed’s advantage being that customers only need to pay for what they actually use.
That still seems pretty steep to me. If live video streaming is going to ever gain a mass audience, the price is going to have to come down.
Update: Mogulus CEO Max Haot counters that his competing Mogulus Pro service is actually cheaper for anyone delivering more than 500 viewer hours per month. Using my example above of 30,000 viewers watching for 30 minutes, he says that would cost $3,490 with his top-of-the-line plan. Here is a Scribd document he provides with handy price comparison tables.
Update 2: Ustream CEO John Ham counters Hoat with the following:
Max miscalculated/misinformed you about Watershed’s pricing structure. He states the pricing is cumulative when it is tierred. Specifically, he highlights in yellow in his spreadsheet that at 100,000 viewer hours Ustream is at $39,000 when the truth is 100,000 viewer hours * $0.25 so $25,000. It’s also not an apples-to-apples comparison with price because Watershed includes higher quality and Max charges you for higher quality/bitrate.
Also, it’s important to note that we’ve learned that people want to have bitrate/quality flexibilty. They want to broadcast sometimes at 300 kbps and sometimes for important events like Fortune 50 earnings calls at 1 Mbps. Watershed allows broadcasters to choose-their-own-quality or bitrate up 2 Mbps. We absorb that and offset it with our economies of scale and pass that benefit onto the customer. Max charges based upon data transfer of $/GB and penalizes users for higher quality. In fact, at higher quality streaming for volume users (CDN users) Watershed is more economical than Mogulus! At 750 kbps and 50,000 viewer hours, Watershed is more economical. In fact, because he charges $0.80/GB at higher bitrates his cost balloons.