Justin.tv More Pervasive, Methods Questionable

Last night Sarah and I were in the middle of a long walk and happened upon this FILA sports store on Madison Ave at 43rd street:

In the window there was a TV broadcast of a live tennis match between Ivanovic and Dushevina at the US Open:

At closer look, we noticed the video was playing in an Internet Explorer browser window that was streaming through justin.tv:

Pretty nifty! But also, kind of a red flag, unfortunately. The most popular channels in the justin.tv directory, in general, are sports broadcasts that are being ripped from traditional TV:

The most popular channel at the time of this posting is one called live24.

The person responsible for streaming this broadcast of ESPN has embedded the video on their site called P2Pstation.net. The ad filled anonymous website claims it “does NOT host any streaming media or scrambling software and does NOT endorse the publication of copyright material of any kind”. But they do anyway:

The second most popular streamer on justin.tv right now is sportscenter with a live streaming broadcast of the Broncos vs. Cardinals football game from CBS’s Channel 4 in Denver:

Technically speaking, I think it’s interesting that anonymous people are using sites like justin.tv to rebroadcast mainstream media over i.p. to TV’s receiving the streams over i.p. in stores that then rebroadcast out windows to city passerbys in the streets of New York City. A sign of the times indeed.

Of course everyone could have all their deals worked out here but more than likely, on the legal side of things, this would be considered bad behavior by justin.tv for condoning all of the popular MSM broadcasts (this is what’s making the site popular right now), the people who are using justin.tv to create the streams and even FILA which seems to be rebroadcasting the material as part of their advertising display units. Right or wrong, this is what is happening these days in a world near you.


Rocketboom Hires Group of Writers

On a typical night at 2am I am up writing news scripts for Rocketboom. It’s a time of major stress and fear. The script must be completed by 7 or 8am and a lot of people are going to see it so the expectations are pretty high.

It’s a lot like what I used to imagine the life of a daily newspaper cartoonist was like by being doomed to come up with something really clever, interesting and entertaining everyday. There are some people that can do that, but I don’t consider this ti be my destiny, it’s just what I’ve had to do the best I can. 

I start to get nervous and imagine the Daily Show with John Stewart. I count how many writers they have on my fingers. About 18. Then I’ll look back down at my script and wonder if I’m kidding myself. Time is running out, I only have about 4 hours left.

I try to keep myself in the shoes of the audience. It’s almost always about that one person who is the extremist that I’m concerned about. For every single story and every single word, there is someone who will hang on it and go nuts if it’s not right. If I can account for the extremities, it will help to keep them moving along.

I check the news tips folder in my Apple mail again and log into Bloglines to run through the new posts in my aggregated list of sites – it’s mostly about finding the unique stories that are already interesting and entertaining, when it’s a really good one, and not yet popularized, internationally. I email Ellie and she sends over a good list of links and I remember that Joanne will help assure the structure is sound.

I would suggest that most shows fall short, in part, because of poor writing. Just from observing, it seems like most people are not that great at story telling and their jokes are not that funny. They are not picking the more interesting stories and they are not answering the important questions. I know what you are thinking: Hypocrite! Ok, we’re working on it.

And so with no further ado, I’m happy to announce that last week we hired four writers to contribute to Rocketboom scripts moving forward.

I always imagined – true or not, I still don’t know exactly- that there are these conference rooms in Los Angeles where groups of writers sit around the table and just laugh and write jokes all day long. One person throws out a joke about a bad movie, another person across the table one-ups that person, everyone laughs, and the story evolves and becomes more and more jam packed with references and entertaining information. [Photo of writers for the excellent Simpsons series]

We all agreed, we created this feeling together while working on writing scripts, over email. HQ in NYC of course, with one person in Philadelphia, one in Colorado, one in Canada and one in England, we all meet over email at certain times, send in stories, thread them together and then write full scripts, typically one upping each other, again and again. Obviously having four or five people working on writing a script can be much better than having just one. Simultaneously, we’re now out of a bottle neck on the amount of content that we can produce per week and thus we are much better positioned to grow the content offerings.

Now we are in need of a tool like Backpack or some other collaborate software to stay organized while contributing online together from around the world. If anyone has any suggestions we would love to hear them.

Welcome aboard Chris, Alphaxion, Anna and Justin!

Chris Menning:

Denver, Colorado





Chris Johnson a.k.a. Alphaxion:

Leeds, UK




Anna Goldfarb:

Philadelphia, PA




Justin Davey:

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada






2008 Political Season Opens

Today I’ve been looking through some old posts and articles about Rocketboom’s relationship to John Edwards. This follows an active discussion on Dave Winer’s friendfeed. This was a regular talking point to the press and we have also disclosed this before on Rocketboom. Once again the famous question arises: Is Rocketboom journalism?

Nicco Mele from an earlier Dembot post on politics.

With regards to politics, no way in hell. Rocketboom is very biased. Hear that McCain? You are not going to get any fair coverage on Rocketboom. If McCain wins the election, America will be doomed.

What I did disclose is that my interest in politics is not to report on politicians (there is a lot of that already), but to allow them to report themselves. To enable them to use the technology to get out their message. After this devastating blow from the news that John Edwards had an affair and chose to run and hide, my distaste for politics returns. 





When Rocketboom first got started at the end of 2004, and especially during the years of 2005 and 2006, every-time we put a video up online, people were amazed just by the act. “Hey! Come check this out!”, a 9-to-5er would shout out across the office and soon several people were huddling around a monitor saying things like “Wow, check out those kids with a video camera out on the street in New York. They are filming a rock and putting it up online, can you believe it??”

It didn’t take much to appease the audience back then. You didn’t need much, you just needed to show up. Being at the right place at the right time had so much to do with Rocketboom’s early success. At first sight, Rocketboom wasn’t about the content for most people, it stood as a symbol for the democratization of media and the almost instant realization that disruption and major change in the world was inevitable.

The excitement and power of this independent spirit is exactly the fire that fueled me personally and continues to fuel me today. I do think its part of the quintessential essence of the Rocketboom brand and many others out there.

However, that is only one part of the story and one part is often not enough. People may have been distracted, but they really did care about the content. A rock was enough to look at in the begging but there needed to be more and this has always been our greatest challenge: How do we get the content to be better?

And the world has changed since way back when. The Numa Numa kid is still a good smirk but its just not funny anymore. Neither is the 100th Leave Britney Alone parody that you cracked up at last year (granted, this is still pretty funny) – and as you may suspect, the hyperbole surrounding the free ability to podcast, videoblog and in general publish and distribute video to the world with the touch of a button is an old story now. It’s not a miracle or something. Can you even remember what the internet was like before video? 


Once the show had grown large enough, we set out to find a marketplace and there was nothing. Then we ran out of money. So we experimented.  Over time we got a pretty well rounded set of experiences on the internal ad sales front – eBay auctions for ad space, creating ads ourselves, sponsorship programs, non-exclusive sales agents, inserting pre-made ads, major ad sales directly with advertisers, ad sales via traditional media-buyers, even anti-ad sales.

While related, ad sales is a very different business than content production. It was fun to play, and it’s extremely supportive, but distracting to the primary mission of Rocketboom and our team’s talents. Every moment we spent on ads was a moment lost on the content. We wanted to interface with ads in some way, but  why not leave this job up to people who have a passion for it? There are MANY people out there thinking about this already.

We then tried plugging into a 3rd party option. We tried start-up ad companies like Federated Media and blip.tv and refused to go exclusive with anyone for a long term without some kind of guarantee. And no one was ready because no one could sell out our inventory across all of our platforms (e.g. our own video formats plus videos on You-Tube and TiVo, etc.). It tends to require managing multiple accounts and methods and no one has been able to handle selling ads across all of our platforms except us. 🙁 For a good enough deal that is 🙂


If you ever stop over for a chat, remind me to show you a video I still have on my Nokia N-95 walking into the Supreme Court in New York to save the future of Rocketboom. 

From Newteevee:

“Note: We have not yet found record of a lawsuit in which Congdon is named as a primary plaintiff, but documents from 2007 indicate that she filed motion in a New York court to be recognized as co-owner of Rocketboom and was denied.”

Having been completely and utterly stuck for almost two years by the courts without being able to accept any investment offers or other equitable partnerships to grow Rocketboom at all, we have since been frozen like ice… and without any additional resources to grow. 


Meanwhile… others did obtain investment, leveraging their hit shows into networks. Revision3 which was spawned from the major Digg hit Diggnation has raised around $10 Million dollars and Next New Networks which spawned from the early itunes cartoon hit, Frederator, has already done $23M in investment. While these networks have provided immense value for the growing transitioning space, they are all controlled now by venture capitalists which tend to have as their primary objective, a sale. This is not to undermine the importance of the content and the mission of each of the new networks, nor does this in anyway, I hope, kill the spirit for the people there including the VC’s themselves. I’ve been studying them all closely and often write about them here. 

Robert Sociable for example, who probably thinks I’m his worst critic (even though he is a great inspiration to me) leveraged his experience videoblogging for Microsoft’s Channel-9 to start up Podtech. Did Podtech burn thorough too much too soon? Ad revenue has been spotty for most companies over the last few years and many start-ups anticipated that they would be able to justify high CPM ad revenue right away, on a large scale, with many hit shows, and a cherry on top. Podtech recently sold for used parts and the Scobleizer left to start yet another new network, Fastcompanay.tv. 

Aside from the hit shows which have spawned the networks, most of the other shows on these networks have not lived up to their predecessors, content-wise, and new shows are often canceled soon after they are launched. This may be an indication of content quality more-so than a pre-profit phase of a nascent marketplace.


Upon becoming free to make a move, we signed up with Creative Artists, and engaged in months of talks about possible partnerships with traditional Hollywood companies as well as an amazing amount of non-media oriented businesses moving into the media space, and eventually got a very good sense of what Rocketboom is worth, what our options were and what we wanted to do to move forward.

Relevant to Rocketboom’s business, there are “kinds” of companies that could provide a strategic partnership for Rocketboom like Google, Ebay and Microsoft, for instance, which dominate in tech online, or companies like CBS, ABC and Disney, which are known for TV Broadcast and Film, or even companies like Apple and Intel which produce electronics that receive our distribution.

We were compelled by Sony because they are a complete package. They have so much experience in all of these special areas. With regards to infrastructure and support, they are industry leaders in TV and Film, electronics, gaming, music, the list goes on all the way to the advertising infrastructure that is already well established. 

In other-words, instead of gaining capital to burn while continuing to build or seek an advertising solution, we now have one of the most prominent advertising solutions out there, along with increased distribution, a road map for expansion and a guarantee that I believe is an unprecedented deal for this space.

I owe this partnership to the vision and understanding of Michael Arrieta at Sony Pictures. Ive heard a lot of plans from a lot of companies and I believe Mike’s vision to distribute Superman quality video online across multiple platforms is brilliant. The future he has in mind for Crackle, and the way Rocketboom will soon be integrated into the PS3, PSP, Bravia i-Link and their syndicated network of 3rd party distributors – all the while leaving the distribution that we have intact – is a future with the resources – finally! – to improve our content and expand upon it.

Having run out of money twice this year while risking everything to make this the best distribution and advertising deal ever, for here we stand still independent and in control of our business and our editorial, I want to thank Joanne, Kenyatta, Elspeth, Jamie, Sarah, Liz and all of our editors for making it through you are the reason why Rocketboom made it here.

And finally thanks to everyone who has watched and everyone who has ever offered us support or been inspired by what we are doing – even if it was sucking really bad – we’ll be here for you!

 [end with cheesy news music and then out]


Rocketboom Inks Seven-Figure Distribution Deal With Sony – TechCrunch
Tom / TomsTechBlog.com:   The Mathematics Of An Internet Phenomenon Ben Homer / Online Video Watch:   Rocketboom Gets Big Dollar Distribution Deal From Sony Andy Merrett / The Blog Herald:   Sony Pictures Television gets exclusive distribution rights to Rocketboom
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Video FIle Format Evolution on Rocketboom

Jamie was doing some site upgrades and sent over this list to reminisce:

  • MPEG4 Quicktime in Oct 2004
  • WMV in Nov 2004
  • 3gp in May 2005
  • MPEG2 for TiVo in Dec 2005
  • MP4 for PSP in Feb 2006
  • WMV-hi res in Feb 2006
  • iHD in July 2007
  • Flash in Sept 2007
  • 3gp small  Feb 2008

Interesting how late the Flash intergaration was. When RB started in 2004, flash was being used by the MSM sites but it was not working at all for most people. It took forever to buffer and browser plugins often did not sync-up. Meanwhile the size was usually about 80 x 240.

Real player was kind of the go-to name but was clunky, buggy and also considered by many to be very aggressive malware. 

We just added a new file last week that we upload each day which is a private 1080i master compressed with H.264 at a whopping 10,000 kb/sec.