FOOL PLATE SPECIAL
Streaming With Yahoo!, Microsoft, and RealNetworks

Investors in technology and Internet companies might not be feeling as rich as they'd like these days, but Yahoo!, Microsoft, and RealNetworks are doing their darndest to bring new richness to the online experience.

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By Nico Detourn (TMF Nico)
December 15, 2000

Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) on Tuesday announced an agreement with Walt Disney Internet Group (NYSE: DIG) that will make daily news content from ABCNews.com available to users of Yahoo! News. The focus of the deal is on streaming audio and video feeds of excerpts from "World News Tonight,'' "Good Morning America,'' and breaking news productions. ABCNews says its agreement with Yahoo! will increase its reach, introduce the brand to a broader audience, and offer its content to "as many people as possible."

Shares of Yahoo!, currently trading at two-year lows, rose some 6% after the announcement of the Disney Internet announcement, which helped fuel the merger rumors that have been circulating all year. In addition to ABCNews.com, Disney Internet Group manages properties including ABC.com, ABCSports.com, ESPN.com, Disney.com, and Disneystore.com. The company is the latest incarnation of what was the Go Network, which was created through the combination of the Infoseek search portal and the Internet properties of the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS).

Mass customization
The deal with Disney Internet calls for Yahoo! Broadcast to provide the streaming services for ABCNews.com's content feeds, putting to work the streaming audio and video resources Yahoo! picked up through its 1999 Broadcast.com acquisition.

Yahoo! Broadcast also makes possible a new corporate Webcasting service launched Wednesday. Yahoo! Webcast Studio is an integrated set of services that automates the production of branded Web broadcasts over the Internet and corporate intranets. "Mass customization of Webcast production and delivery is now upon us,'' said Yahoo! exec Stan Woodward.

Yahoo! is positioning Webcast Studio as a turnkey "production engine" for corporate clients. The system lets companies develop rich content environments roughly modeled on Yahoo! Finance Vision and Yahoo! Shopping Vision, the live streaming information services launched earlier this year.

During its most recent earnings conference call, Yahoo! said that its users were rapidly supplementing text content with audio, video, and voice, and that it hosted and distributed more than 15 million hours of streamed programming in September.

Streaming media, dueling stats
Further evidence of the same general trend, 75 million unique users in September accessed Yahoo!'s services over high-speed connections, the company says, and music-related usage doubled between the second and third quarters of this year.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and RealNetworks (Nasdaq: RNWK) are also very much part of the trend toward more bandwidth-intensive content, and new Web usage statistics released this week shine a spotlight on the competition between the two companies.

On Wednesday, Nielsen//NetRatings reported that content streamed using Microsoft's Windows Media format grew by almost 21% during the past five months, compared to growth of a little more than 2% for the RealNetworks format. It also said that 38% of the 35 million streaming media users in the U.S. use the Microsoft format.

Come Thursday, RealNetworks responded with its own spin on the very same Nielsen//NetRatings study. Real said that among users accessing streaming media at least seven days a month, its format is chosen over 10 times more often, demonstrating that the more often consumers use streaming media, the wider RealNetworks' lead becomes. The company also cited a separate Nielsen//NetRatings study showing the number of home users of Real's format has grown by more than 8 million this year, and now totals a record 27.7 million, compared to the 13.2 million users of Microsoft's format.