• United States streams games to the desktop

Sep 16, 20043 mins
Enterprise Applications

Are you a big fan of Winston-Salem State football but can’t make this Saturday’s game against Virginia Union? If you’ve got a broadband connection you can watch the game live online for $5 thanks to a new venture from Digital Media Broadcasting (DMBC) in Reston, Va., called

The nascent service hopes to lure viewers into games and events that tend to elude the national TV scene, such as 1AA college football and smaller sports like lacrosse. Currently, the service has deals in place with about nine schools and the Virginia Special Olympics to broadcast upcoming events live as well as offer them on-demand, with talks under way with 12 collegiate conferences, says Dennis Butts, chairman and CEO of DMBC.

DMBC partners with Lockheed Martin, Savvis and Edge Technologies to deliver the site. Lockheed provides the customer service and e-commerce piece, Savvis the content delivery network and Edge Technologies developed the portal that ties in the video feed and other data, such as ads or related game and school information.

Production of the games is outsourced to a local PBS station or DMBC picks up a feed from a local broadcaster that may already be doing the game. Raw video is sent via satellite uplink to a Savvis operations center, where it’s encoded into Windows Media format for delivery over the Internet. Would-be viewers log on to the site, purchase the game they want to see with a credit card and are issued electronic tickets. The stream itself is delivered at 539K bit/sec, so a robust broadband connection is required. Dial-up users need not apply.

Butts began kicking the idea around four years ago, but the dot-com bust put things on hold for a while. His plan is to launch more networks targeted at specific verticals such as government and healthcare. Lockheed Martin actually approached Butts about creating such a service for its government clients, which got the ball rolling.

“We have a number of networks planned going forward,” Butts says. “We can ride the same infrastructure and just [tailor] the look and feel. The consumer model is the most complex, so it can easily be applied to other markets.”

Expansion into other verticals that do not rely on consumers could also provide the company with a bright future. A few ventures have tried sports broadcasting over the Internet to consumers and quickly flamed out (see, Quokka Sports).