Justin.tv Wins Funding, Opens Platform

Justin.tv, a startup that will forever risk coming off as a prolonged publicity stunt rather than a business, is rolling out the platform it’s been saying was the point all along. Starting out with founder Justin Kan broadcasting his life 24/7 from a hat-cam was a way to grab attention, but now the company will open up its live video streaming services to anyone with a webcam, a computer, and an Internet connection.

That’s liable to get mighty expensive, and Justin.tv has enlisted venture capital firm Alsop Louie to foot the undisclosed bill. But Justin.tv CEO Michael Seibel said in an interview Tuesday that by building its own equivalent of Flash Media Servers and using Amazon EC2, the company has cut costs from a market rate of approximately $0.36 per user hour to under a penny per user hour.

Over the past six months, Justin.tv also changed its approach from requiring a custom backpack worn by each broadcaster to being compatible with any webcam. Since then, a good number of competitors have also made themselves known, including Mogulus, BlogTV, kyte.tv, Ustream.tv, and the comparatively old Stickam (see our comparison of their relative offerings).

Some 800 people have signed up during the beta period, with a mix of small to significant audiences. Up-and-coming band the Jonas Brothers has been the biggest hit to date, with 80,000 uniques and a maximum of 14,000 simultaneous viewers turning in for a live chat last week. That seems like a much more sustainable draw than getting your founder to live-broadcast his dates with girls. Yet every other Justin.tv broadcaster, including Justin himself, seems to have less than 300 viewers present most of the times I’ve stopped by the site.

Seibel said the seven-employee company has plans to make money but doesn’t want to talk about them yet. So far it’s just one-off sponsorships and events, he admitted. The only limitations Justin.tv is placing on would-be lifecasters are they have to be at least 13 years old and abide by posted community guidelines.