This weekend, the top college Ultimate Frisbee teams in the United States will descend on Boulder, Colorado to square off in the 2012 D-1 USA Ultimate College Championships. NGN—the NexGen Network—will use Elemental Live to stream eight games from Friday through Sunday, including two semifinal matchups. The College Championships are the third Ultimate tournament this year featuring coverage by NGN and there are more on the docket, most notably the 2012 World Championships in July, which take place in Japan.
Though only a few months old, NGN hasn’t wasted any time putting together a complete online viewing experience. In March, the network dived into the streaming video world head first, delivering high resolution Flash video streams to the web with multiple camera angles and up to four color commentators for each matchup. For the College Championships, NGN is offering a tiered pay-per-view streaming structure to online viewers: three subscriber levels give fans options ranging from viewing a single live game to accessing a complete package featuring both live and VOD access to all streaming tournament coverage. The first four games on the streaming schedule this weekend were determined by fan voting and include traditional powerhouses such as the Wisconsin, Carleton and Colorado Open teams and Michigan and North Carolina Women’s teams.
Did I mention that Ultimate holds a special place in our company’s heart? Elemental features a solid contingent of players itself, spanning the executive team (CEO Sam Blackman), development team (engineer Troy Unverdruss) and marketing team (yours truly). So it goes without saying that we’re excited to have Elemental Live powering NGN streaming. In fact, this weekend we’re taking it a step further by letting fans vote for the Elemental Player of the Game immediately following each contest. Voters will be entered to win some sweet Elemental “swag” (no, not Elemental systems). For details, make sure to tune in to one of the streaming broadcasts.
Henry Ford was a brilliant man. He changed the face of industry with the invention of mass production. The Ford Model T was the right invention at the correct time and harnessed the intersection between supply (of roads) and demand (for the Model T, in black of course) like few innovations in the history of the world. But, mass production eventually gave way to the advent of mass customization, where supply and demand unify as late as possible in the production process to fulfill the disparate tastes of the market.
Technology made mass customization possible. Dell exemplified this in the 1990s by offering user-configured personal computers. Thousands of e-commerce sites practice mass customization today by allowing customers to configure the precise shape, size, color and specification of their purchase to meet their personal needs. Build to order is the norm.
The video industry, particularly the multiscreen streaming market, is a wild place right now. It is by no means homogeneous. It is anything but stagnant. So today Elemental is announcing a new product, Elemental Stream, to help content owners and distributors take full advantage of the extraordinary potential and growing ubiquity of IP video delivery. Much like mass customization, where the decisions to customize are left to the end of the process (ideally after the customer has ordered), Elemental Stream untethers video customization from the “production process”, which in this case is video encoding. In video terms, customization comes in various flavors…the application of digital rights management (DRM), implementation of ad insertion techniques, packaging for streaming video protocols, etc. Elemental Stream allows for increased responsiveness to additional user demands and more economical reaction to technological change. If a new viewing device or streaming technology emerges…no problem. Elemental Stream can handle that. If a new form of ad insertion takes hold, or a new DRM unfolds, Elemental Stream can accommodate it.
And, in many ways, the development of Elemental Stream itself is a lesson in mass customization. With Elemental Stream, we're customizing an underlying platform, based on the Elemental Video Engine, to meet the specific needs of our customers. Much of our code is common across our enterprise platforms (Elemental Live and Server) and many of the innovations implemented in one of our products are immediately transplanted to the others as well. If you want compression and customization in a single platform, great. If you prefer to separate those functions, that’s fine too. But most of all you want them to work, on your terms, under a common platform. That’s what we’re serving up today.
Just don’t ask for it to be black…you can only have it in green. It’s a brand thing. Mr. Ford would be proud.
We’ve had an eventful start to our week at Elemental, announcing today that we’ve raised $13 million in a Series C financing round led by Norwest Venture Partners (NVP). We’re honored to add NVP to our investor list that includes General Catalyst, Voyager Capital and Steamboat Ventures, who also participated in the round.
The new funding comes at a great time for us, as we have taken flight with recent key customer wins, including several streaming deals for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. It already feels like we are cruising at high speeds—now, this influx of capital turbocharges the company mid-flight!
In related news, Elemental named Kevin O’Hara as Chairman of its board of directors. Kevin joined the board just over a year ago and in his time here has instilled valuable wisdom upon the team based on his experiences as co-founder and president of Level 3 Communications and MFS Communications. Considering the speed at which Elemental is moving, even the slightest adjustment of the yoke can make a significant impact. We’re pleased to have Kevin and his steady hand involved with the company as we push ahead full throttle.
The most exciting aspect of the funding news is what it will enable on the hiring front. To aggressively expand, we are investing resources in the best and brightest folks the technology community has to offer. To our employees, we offer a spirited, stimulating and performance-driven environment in a new 17,000 square foot space. Whether your development expertise lies in Linux, REST, Ruby on Rails, or video codecs, we would love to have you as a member of the crew. Check out all our jobs here. One of the most rewarding elements of our work is seeing new faces populate Elemental and getting the chance to say “welcome aboard.”