Later, with fellow West Point graduate Brad Hunstable and technologist Gyula Feher, he delved into the details of creating an Internet movie network. With just $14 million in funding, from investors that include the Band of Angels and Doll Capital, they started Ustream.
This still-small company has come a long way: On Monday, Ustream and CBS News announced a partnership allowing the media giant to simulcast "CBS Evening News with Katie Couric" online. This means, among other things, that online news-watchers can catch Katie at 3:30 p.m. every day instead of at 5:30.
Because Ham loves Mountain View's vibrant downtown, with its no-fast-food environment, Ustream (www.ustream.tv) is located above Meyer Appliance on Castro Street. The company has a tight small team of 35 employees, including 20 in Europe.
Ustream enables anyone with a Web-connected video camera to create an Internet TV show. For popular shows like the Presidential Inauguration, Ustream can make up to 10 million copies of the video stream. It can also scale the video for large or small viewing screens.
Ustream is most useful for presenting live events, like Stanford University's Social Data Revolution class that discusses how to use data created by users. Ustreamers include media personalities, such as actor Ashton Kutcher, the first Twitter user to reach a million followers. High schools can broadcast sports games. ObamaForAmerica used Ustream's service as part of its election campaign, and as reported in last July's Voice, MoveAmericaForward.org used Ustream for a benefit for the troops.
Ustream uses Adobe's Flash technology. As Flash is not included with an iPhone, users can download a Ustream app from the iTunes store. In July, a new iPhone is widely expected to support video capture, a feature already available on many other phones.
You can also view Ustream shows on Nokia's S60 series phones. Not all shows work — it depends on the video format. (Last April in my Hey Tech! blog, I mentioned Qik (www.qik.com), which focuses on mobile video streaming. It supports many more phones than Ustream.)
Besides live videos, Ustream lets users create shows from stored videos and pictures. For example, you might store videos on YouTube of your child's activities, then edit them into a weekly show for their school friends and family. You can follow Ustreamers that you like and they can follow you.
Quality content is the key to a successful show. For individuals, Pinnacle Studio, from Mountain View's Pinnacle Systems (an Avid subsidiary), is a great way to make compelling videos. For companies, Mountain View is home to several makers of corporate videos, including Transvideo Studios (with new venture PictureLab), Penrose Productions and Creation Ground Media.
Internet video shows, from sites like ustream.tv, hulu.com and fora.tv, are rapidly becoming an alternative to traditional TV as broadband networks get faster. In many locations — where users don't want to pay for cable and poor reception means that over-the-air digital TV broadcasts break up into little squares — Internet video is an important entertainment option.
Ustream shows, like TV programs, may show a 15 to 30 second pre-roll advert. Ustream determines how long videos stay on its server. You can pay Ustream to store your videos for later viewing, but YouTube can also do this and reach a wider following.
For organizations that prefer to have their own video service, Ustream offers Watershed, a platform for live, interactive video. Audiences can vote and interact with programs. Pricing starts at $49/month for 500 viewer hours. Alternatively, Pay as You Go pricing starts at $1 per viewer hour, with volume discounts.
Video is becoming essential to promoting any business and creating a personal online brand. So check out Ustream — with it, you too can become a broadcaster and TV producer.