Yahoo Using Conviva for Live Streams

So far, the secretive startup Conviva has done little more publicly than announce it’s raised a bunch of funding — $29 million from UV Partners, New Enterprise Associates and Foundation Capital. But the San Mateo, Calif.-based company, which aims to power live streams for media companies, is also working with the one of the biggest web sites of them all, Yahoo.

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Yahoo News yesterday offered users a buried “beta” option for watching the Obama inauguration in “high quality.” If you clicked on the link, you were asked to download and install Conviva’s plug-in. Then you could see a live feed from ABC News (this is still running as of this writing, if you want to try it out).

Shravan Goli, the general manager for Yahoo Video, tells us by email that Yahoo is indeed testing Conviva. “We have been working with them on a new technology for delivering high-quality live streaming experience at scale,” he said. “It is in beta test mode right now.”

Added plug-ins are a hassle for consumers, but the trade-off is they can help ensure a more consistent and higher-quality stream, something many people would have appreciated yesterday as they struggled with live-stream outlets’ stuttering and — at times — failure to work at all. However, when done poorly, plug-ins can be more than an inconvenience — for instance, NBC’s terrible NBC Direct project sucked users’ resources and downloaded an additional application that stayed running in their desktop backgrounds.

convivayahoo2Conviva-Yahoo is utilizing some sort of peering that involves users sharing streams amongst each other to avoid bottlenecks from a single source. (However, such systems only really work when they have a critical mass of people using them.) The plug-in requires a 1500 Kbps connection, minimum. It also looks pretty good, though the quality isn’t as stunning as some other demos we’ve seen (see screenshot to the left). From the site:

“This plug-in also re-broadcasts the video stream to other users. It will not re-broadcast when you are not watching the video stream, will not store video files on your computer and will not collect personal information.”

What’s kind of lame is that the plug-in requires another piece of software that many Mac users don’t yet have: the Microsoft Silverlight player. Goli explains that Conviva manages the streaming, Silverlight manages the presentation level, and Yahoo built the overall presentation experience.

Should a more permanent deal be signed between Conviva and Yahoo, it would be pretty significant. With Yahoo’s size, if Conviva were able to get distribution alongside the site’s breaking news videos, it would instantly have access to a massive number of peers — which means it could actually have a shot.

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