How about this for jumping straight from the frying pan into the fire? After working with Conviva on a number of live-streaming events at his old employer, former NBC (s GE) CTO Darren Feher has joined the startup as its new president and chief executive. NBC Sports has leveraged Conviva’s technology for a number of its live-streaming events over the past year, including the broadcaster’s online coverage of the 2009 Masters Tournament, Wimbledon, and NFL Sunday Night Football. And it’s already announced that Conviva will be part of its 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics “Dream Team.”
So it’s become Feher’s job to get the message out as to how Conviva can help media companies to deliver better streams by using some of his own experience. “Content companies often have no idea how often they get an interrupted play,” Feher said in an interview with NewTeeVee. “When you get to 1 million concurrent streams and more, there’s often a large percentage of streams that have problems.” On average, he said that about one-quarter of streams have some form of streaming problem or another, whether it be buffering, high levels of latency or just plain jittery video quality. So how does Conviva help?
According to Feher, the company’s “media delivery platform” is designed to help its customers provide the highest-quality video experience while also managing costs and offering real-time analytics into how live streams are performing. By inserting a piece of code into the video player, Conviva gets feedback from the client that allows it to adjust how streams are delivered — including which content delivery network is used and at which bitrate — based on the amount of bandwidth that’s available at any given time.
An improved viewing experience can have a big impact on user engagement. Feher says that viewers without problems tend to watch video for, on average, 30 percent longer than those with any kind of buffering. That seems to fit with recent research from TubeMogul, which found that 81 percent of online viewers click away if a video stream buffers just once.
So far, the reaction to Conviva’s platform has been positive, according to the new CEO. In the past 60 days, he says the company has been in discussions with a dozen “highly recognizable media brands” and sports leagues to deploy the technology to their own live streams.
Conviva has been around since 2006 and has raised a total of $29 million, including a $20 million financing round last year led by UV Partners, New Enterprise Associates and Foundation Capital.