Stickam, Ustream, Justin.tv, and Kyte allow users to broadcast themselves to the world 24/7. On Monday, I had a chance to chat with Josh Harris, the CEO of Operator11, a new entry into the growing field of live online video companies and he told me why he thinks his service pushes the medium in completely new directions.There's no denying that live online video is hot right now. Sites like
Operator11, which launched about two months ago, touts itself as an online television network that offers anyone the chance to host their own live television show. Where Operator11 differs from its competitors is that its software allows viewers to actually become guests on the show and participate in more than just text or voice chat.
Hosts of Operator11 shows, called "net jockeys" by Harris, control an online live television studio, which let's them cut back and forth between participating viewers and control the content on screen. Each show can have up to 20 participants in the studio at once (though new net jockies are allowed only 9 at first), who join the show via their web cams from wherever they happen to be in the world. The net jockey can cut to any one of them on screen and participants can also drop in video from outside sources (for example, a show about Manchester United, could drop in a clip of last night's match, and everyone could watch it at once and then discuss it live). An unlimited number of viewers outside the studio can watch the show.
While a show is broadcasting, viewers and participants chat with one another in a text chat room as well. After the show is completed, it can be watched, commented upon, rated, and embedded elsewhere. What's neat about the Operator11 embeddable player widget, is that it can also stream the live show. So a blogger could host a show on Operator11, and stream it live to his blog via the widget.
Right now, Operator11 has about 5,000 core users who are averaging a very respectable 33 minutes per session on the site. The site's shows, which average around 40 minutes each, are reaching 30-40,000 viewers per night. In addition to the user created "group generated programming," Operator11 also runs a studio in Hollywood, California where they film some of their own shows using the same method.
Adult content is off-limits on Operator11, and I asked Josh Harris whether they were worried about sexual predators or people using the site to stream inappropriate video. Given that the porn industry has long been an innovator in the field of live, online streaming video, it would not be a stretch to think someone might try it on Operator11. But Harris isn't concerned. He said that because everything being streamed over the site is taped, and because the users know that, they are far less likely to break the rules or do anything inappropriate. Harris said they sometimes have adults conversing on their shows with teenagers, but the conversations never turn dirty because all parties involved know they are being recorded.
Operator11 plans to monetize their service via advertising. Right now they have partnered with ScanScout, which provides contextual advertisements that run outside the video player. The ScanScout ads are contextual based on video content -- i.e., if someone on the show talks about running shoes, an add for Nike might be displayed. Operator11 is also considering pre-roll, post-roll, and interstitial advertising. The interstitial ads would be inserted automatically into live content with a countdown to let net jockies know an ad break was coming. Harris told me that the company would also consider some sort of revenue sharing with content creators.
Operator11 is currently in talks with some A-List bloggers to host their own shows on the site. "For bloggers, this is like silent pictures to talkies," Josh Harris told me, which is a scary prospect for me. As someone who makes a living as a blogger, I can assure you up front that we'd lose a lot of readers if you actually had to watch my words come directly from the horse's mouth, so to speak.
For an example of a how an Operator11 show looks, and how it might look for an A-List blogger to host a show with the company, check out this show that Jason Calacanis did in June to promote the launch of his search engine, Mahalo: