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Streaming media industry call for broadband

The uptake of streaming media by corporations is on the increase, but a lack of broadband infrastructure and a fear of transparency in the media is holding back Australia's streaming media industry, according to streaming media professionals.

Microsoft claims one in four enterprise companies in the US are using streaming media within their organisations. Two-thirds of those run on the Windows Media platform.

Peter Davidson, Microsoft Asia's regional manager of the digital media division, said he expected "the Australian market to follow the US trend of an increasing use of streaming media in their day-to-day operations and communications".

However, convincing executives to spend money and implement the technology is a difficult task, considering the lack of broadband infrastructure and tools available.

According to Mark Muggeridge, head of production at Streamworks, a streaming media service provider, "It's a scary time for leaders of IT departments. Not too many business boffins have investigated streaming media. IT managers that push for streaming media now without a broadband infrastructure in place will find it a struggle to get the company to spend the money."

According to David Jones, chief executive officer of ID Media, "Most IT departments are not up to speed and have no understanding of streaming media."

The Australian Interactive Multimedia Industry Association's (AIMIA) executive director, Lynne Spender, called on government intervention from NOIE (National Office for the Information Economy) and DCITA (Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) to ensure a reliable broadband infrastructure is put in place.

"Unless corporate businesses and customers are assured of uninterrupted access to broadband, there is no point," Spender said. "The unreliability of broadband access means there will never be a critical mass of demand for people to invest in the technology. The software and infrastructure exists, but not enough to sustain a streaming media industry in Australia."

Spender said corporate uptake is the main driving force in building a strong streaming media industry. But this is still hampered because a lack of broadband makes it too difficult at the moment.

"A lack of broadband and a lack of authoring tools, which help pull it all together, have made media streaming a bit of a black art," said Frank Arrigo, former Microsoft Asia/Pacific Windows Media Technologies business development manager.

All hope is not lost though, as streaming professionals are educating companies on the benefits of investing in the medium and overcoming corporate resistance.

According to Arrigo, Microsoft was working with service providers to build better authoring tools and increase the uptake.

Amelia Jones, head of ID Media's multicast division, was also upbeat on the state of the streaming media industry. "Last year the number of live Web casts we facilitated for the corporate sector totalled three. This year we have over 15 live Web casts in August alone. The increased uptake is due to a better-educated corporate market," she said.