Livestream, the premium live video streaming service, is announcing an interesting new product today: a $495 hardware encoder that can be connected to virtually any camera and that can stream HD video directly to the Web through a WiFi connection or most USB wireless modems. The small device is fully integrated into the new Livestream platform. The purchase price includes three months of free access to Livestream’s ad-free HD streaming service (normally $45/month). Livestream describes the device as “the industry’s first affordable unlimited ad-free HD live streaming end-to-end solution.”
The Livestream Broadcaster connects to the Internet through a 3G or 4G modem (in the U.S., Livestream recommends using a USB modem that connects to Verizon’s 4G LTE network), but producers can also opt to connect to a local WiFi or wired network.
Once it is connected to the Internet, producers can control it through a small LCD screen on the encoder or over the web. The Broadcaster supports virtually any camera that can feed it with an HDMI signal (including 1080i, 720p and 480i). The output is encoded in real-time in H.264 video and AAC audio at up to 720p and 2.3 Mbps. The device also has a 3.5mm audio input. Thanks to its tripod mount, users could even install it right on their cameras with a simple tripod to hot shoe adapter.
As the company’s CEO and co-founder Max Haot told me earlier this week, Livestream isn’t planning to become a hardware platform. While he wouldn’t tell me whether the company actually subsidizes the product to keep the price this low, he did note that this is basically a play to get more producers onto the Livestream platform. Because of this, making high margins on the device itself doesn’t really matter to the company.
Hardware encoders – even small and affordable ones – aren’t really new, of course. The real breakthrough here, says Haot, is that the hardware is fully integrated with the online service. In his view, “the missing link to accelerate the adoption [of live video streaming] was seamlessly integrating live video from any prosumer camera to our service without the need for a computer.” Ideally, Haot, told me, he would like to see mainstream retailers like Best Buy sell devices like this in the future.
The company is aiming the device at pretty much the same market as the Livestream service itself: large and small event producers who want to stream their events live to the Web and mobile devices. The company’s customers use the service to stream anything from wedding ceremonies to large movie premiers. Facebook, for example, uses Livestream for the live video stream from its press events.
The closest competitor to the Livestream Broadcaster is likely Cerevo’s Live Shell. At around $299, the Live Shell is cheaper than the Broadcaster (though once you count the three free months of Livestream service, the difference really isn’t that big). Unlike Livestream’s Broadcaster, though, the Live Shell isn’t fully integrated with any third-party service (it only supports Ustream right now) and it also doesn’t stream in HD.
The Livestream Broadcaster is available for pre-order today in the U.S. and Europe. It will start shipping in May.