By the looks of things, UStream finally figured out how they are going to make money. This morning UStream announced Watershed, a white label video streaming solution that uses the UStream technology to stream video, but custom to your needs and branding.
UStream has proven to be smarter than the average bear. Since March of 2007, the general public has been their guinea pigs. Awesome people like the Orchestra Kid Walt Ribeiro have made a name using the service, and they also provided live coverage of each stop while President Barack Obama was attempting to become president. All the while, their service was becoming more stable, more dependable and the users were beating up on the code so the development team could make improvements. Essentially, we were all involved in a two year beta test for this new service and I think it’s awesome.
How smart is it to make a white label enterprise version of a commonly used platform? Ask the team behind Yammer, the Enterprise level Twitter clone that won the $50k prize at TechCrunch50 last year and raised a $5 million dollar round of funding last month.
The business model of pay-per-user or hour seems to be popular these days. Yammer’s model is $1/user/month. Watershed is $a/user/watched hour of video and a free storage limit of 500GB and a minimal fee thereafter.
What does the money buy you besides custom branding?
To those people who have worked for larger companies and attempted to convince their boiss to go with a free web service, there is the painful answer to the question of “who do we talk to when something goes wrong?” Usually the answer is “I don’t know.” With Watershed and Yammer, support is part of the equation of implementation. Even Automattic woke up to this reality and began to offer support for WordPress.
I think that there are other sites on the net with no discernable business models (Twitter and Seesmic come to mind right away) that could go down this road quite easily. Of course, both services would need to be stable, which is something that I haven’t encountered just yet. Perhaps announcements are coming our way down the road.