MasterNewMedia
Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi
 


Monday, April 30, 2007

Online Video Publishing: Create Your Own Streaming Internet TV Channel With Streamcast Player

Online video is moving forward from the age of YouTube and towards a richer, more immersive Internet TV experience.

streamcast_robin.jpg

If you want to create your very own streaming TV channels in full-screen, rivaling the look and feel of major players like Joost (suspended), there is now a completely free tool that will let you do just that from your own server.

Whether you want to stream and organize your own content, or aggregate video from around the web as a VJ, it is now possible to do so through a great-looking video player. Your viewers can call up a channel-guide to browse your content, access extra information about the video they are watching, or even make use of a full-screen mode for a truly TV-like experience.

But it isn't just the viewer that has a number of options available to them.

As a video publisher you have the choice of streaming your video directly from your own server, grabbing Media RSS feeds of your own or others content, adding in video advertising, a news ticker, and a host of other features besides.

What's amazing is that this tool is entirely cross-platform, doesn't require an expensive streaming server, and unlike Joost runs straight from any Flash-enabled browser without the need to download a thing.

While it isn't quite as easy to set up as your average YouTube video, if you have moderate technical skills or a handy webmaster to hand, here is a free tool that is going to give you rich on-demand video publishing capabilities. In my full review of the tool, I take you through its very impressive feature set.



Streamcast Player - Overview

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Streamcast Player is a totally free, server-based application that will allow you to create advertising and e-commerce-supported Internet TV channels with full-screen playback, video descriptions, channel guides and even RSS news tickers. Once you have modified and uploaded a handful of files to your server, you are ready to broadcast video sourced from your own archives, or from anywhere out on the web.

Effectively this gives you the chance to create not just your own rich content streams, but also to curate video content from other sources. As online video grows and grows it becomes increasingly difficult for any one person to separate great content from the ocean of trash floating around out there.

By putting together your own custom-themed video channel and doing a little daily research, you could provide a highly desirable service for your niche-targeted audience, and stand to profit in for the bargain through the use of advertising and e-commerce links.

Streamcast Player will let you do all of this and more, and while there is an initial period of getting set up that might take a little bit of XML know-how, this is not an unassailable obstacle by any measure.

So, how can you start publishing your own stream of Internet TV content using nothing more than some totally free software and a cheap, basic web hosting account?



Setting up your channel

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The technical aspect of getting set up

While Streamcast Player is entirely web-based from a user-perspective, you are going to need to need to download some files and do a little bit of work to get your channel up and running in the first instance.

When you download Streamcast Player you are given a number of files to upload to your server, and these include both Flash files that can be edited to customize the look and feel of your player, and an XML playlist that will ultimately determine which content is served up on your channel.

Depending on your own technical proficiency you may find yourself able to follow along with the detailed instructions for installation on the Streamcast Player website. If you are anywhere near as code-illiterate as me, however, you might consider farming this relatively straightforward task out to your webmaster or a freelancer willing to do the donkey-work for you for a small fee.



Getting your videos into your Streamcast Player

The contents of your channel can be sourced in one of two ways: you can point Streamcast Player directly at Flash video FLV files hosted on your own server, or else direct Streamcast to access video files via a Media RSS feed, either from your own content management system or else from a video hosting website like YouTube.

For the less technically proficient the RSS option might well prove to be the most time-efficient. After you have given Streamcast the URL of your RSS feed once, all future updates to your CMS or video-hosting account will be automatically updated through this feed.

Obviously, if you opt to use server-hosted FLV videos, you will need to manually update your XML playlist each time you add a new video to your collection. This approach is recommended only to those looking to broadcast a small number of videos, as compared to the RSS-based approach it is unnecessarily time-consuming.



Other features and customization options

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Once you have set up your channel content, you can also edit the colour-scheme and overall look of the player by editing the appropriate file in Adobe Flash. Added to the ability to create thumbnails for your videos this gives you the opportunity to create a unique look and brand for your channel should you wish to.

You also have the opportunity to add your own RSS news ticker at the bottom of the video player, and can choose any RSS feed to serve up the latest news. Users can then click on any news item to be taken directly to the linked resource in a new browser-window. This could be useful especially for those broadcasting video news content, but even for other purposes it adds extra value to your broadcasts with related but unobtrusive news updates like that you might see on CNN or BBC news shows.

Furthermore, you can add a description for each of your videos, or any other further information you might want to supply. Viewers browsing your channel-guide can then make an informed decision about the items in your line-up they would like to watch.



Monetization options

streamcast_ads.jpg

If that wasn't enough you have a couple of potential revenue-streams to add to the mix. Streamcast Player has support for both video-ads that can be linked to an advertiser's web-page, and e-commerce integration, should you wish to add the opportunity for your viewers to make a purchase at the end of (or during) a commercial or video segment.



Advertising support

Video advertising can be added just like any other video content in your Streamcast Player - either through an RSS feed or a directly hosted FLV file. Furthermore, you can add links from the advertising video to a related website.

As Streamcast Player also has the ability to track both ad impressions and click-through-rate, you can carefully monitor the success of your ad campaigns. This will be of interest to anyone looking to make some extra money through advertising, and will also be of definite interest to potential advertisers on your channel. If you can show decent viewing figures, and better yet, a good click-through-rate, you are much more likely to attract advertisers to your content.

With the ability to choose the frequency of adverts, and a feature that basically means that viewers will have to watch the ad before the next item on your playlist is accessible, Streamcast Player follows the approach of television advertising, which may or may not be suitable to Internet TV audiences. Time will tell as different video monetization options are tested, but for the time being, you are at least provided with a potential source of revenue here.



E-commerce support

Further to advertising Streamcast Player also supports e-commerce solutions, and it is possible to link any of your videos to your own hosted e-commerce platform, or even an external online retailer. As such, you could show a video clip of a film, and link to your affiliate marketing partner to help sell the very same movie on DVD.

Alternatively, if you have your own online store, which are easier than ever to set up, you could plausibly create video advertising for your own products, or even give viewers the chance to purchase a premium download of the video file you are currently playing. The possibilities are very broad here, and give independent video publishers the chance to drive traffic to their merchandise between video clips. With well-targeted product links this could well prove to be a very profitable approach to online marketing.



User Interface

streamcast_ch_guide.jpg

The user has a range of options available to them in how they choose to view and navigate your Streamcast Internet TV channels. You can check all of these options out by visiting the on-demand section of our very own Robin Good TV website.

Here you will see, in the embedded Streamcast Player, the ease with which you can:

  • Play video in a totally clutter-free window, and access viewing controls by rolling-over the video window
  • Access a channel guide and browse all of the available video content while still watching the current video in thumbnail format at the top of the screen
  • Enter full-screen mode and watch the videos as if on a television
  • Access video-specific information - by calling up an information box, which displays the video at reduced size alongside the additional notes provided
  • Click through to RSS news items from the news ticker at the bottom of the standard player

streamcast_icons.jpg

The Streamcast Player offers a very good balance of good-looks, minimalist design and intuitive navigation. Within a few seconds of playing with the icons that activate the different screen-modes discussed above, you have learnt everything you need to use the player. Anyone that has ever watched and navigated their way through cable or satellite TV will feel comfortable with using Streamcast Player, and I personally find it a lot easier to make use of than the much-hyped, desktop-only Joost (suspended), to which Streamcast Player bears the most obvious similarities.

If I could make one addition to the channel guide, it would be basic search functionality, as channels such as that on Robin Good TV can take some navigating, with its seventeen pages of video clips. Nevertheless, this is a minor point and could probably be dealt with by subdividing content into micro-channels.



See also - Feedbeat

feedbeat.jpg

If you are looking for a simpler approach, there is a partial solution that might suit your needs. If you are not interested in the monetization options, server-side video-hosting and other more complex features of Streamcast Player, you might do well to check out the very user-friendly Feedbeat.net. Feedbeat makes use of a modified version of the Streamcast Player in a service set up to let you quickly and easily search for videos from the web, and place them into Streamcast Player-like line-ups.

If you need an easy way to search for and aggregate video from popular video-hosting services, and turn them into your own video channel, to embed into your webpage or serve up directly from the Feedbeat website, you need look no further. While you won't be able to bring in Media-RSS feeds, you do have the option of adding videos either by their URL or by keyword search, and arranging their order in your own custom playlists.

As Feedbeat uses a pared-down Streamcast Player, you still get the same great looking user-interface, if not the full functionality that Streamcast offers. However, as some will be looking for just this kind of stripped-to-the-bones, easy-to-set-up feature-set, Feedbeat might well suit your needs.

Furthermore you can actually use Feedbeat in conjunction with Streamcast Player. Should you wish to search for videos and create your videos in Feedbeat, it is possible to export your playlist as a Streamcast friendly XML file that you can then use from your own Streamcast server.



Conclusions

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Streamcast Player gives you a 100% free means to set up your own full-screen, rich-media Internet TV channel, with or without the accompaniment of advertising and e-commerce integration. Streamcast has managed to provide a great looking interface that will work in any browser, broadcasting Flash video from your own server, or any Media RSS feed.

The results are very impressive and if I had to compare the look and feel of the interface, the nearest point of comparison would be with the desktop-only Internet TV platform Joost (suspended). The advantage that Streamcast Player has over Joost is that anyone can use it - it is totally free to download - and your online programming can be watched by anyone with a Flash-enabled browser, whether they are running a Linux, Windows or Mac operating system.

This really does take things to the next level, providing a visual experience much closer to that of cable TV than the bare-bones, micro-sized look and feel of YouTube and its imitators. If you are looking to cater to the next wave of web video audiences, watching online programming from both their computers and increasingly their TiVo boxes, Apple TV and IPTV set-ups, here is a tool that gives you all you need to get started.

Want an on-screen channel-guide with information on each video? You got it. Want to place ads with click-through links between your programming? Not a problem. Want to stream your entire video collection from popular video hosting services right to your Streamcast Player, and customize the entire interface? Go for it. Streamcast Player does all this and more.

Okay, let's level, you are going to need either a webmaster to set it up for you, or a moderate degree of proficiency in working with XML playlists and Flash modifications if you want to really get the best out of this tool, but considering the possibilities available this doesn't seem like an issue to me. Furthermore, if you want to go for a pared-down, GUI-driven version that doesn't involve using any of these skills, you can always check out the Streamcast-powered Feedbeat to test the waters.

It is now possible, without investing hundreds or thousands of dollars, to host, broadcast and organize your online video into a rich Internet TV experience. That is something that was inconceivable not so very long ago. Your niche-targeted video channel is a download away.

I don't think I'm the only one that finds that an exciting prospect. In fact, I know that out of the 1000 people that have downloaded Streamcast Player already, one of them is our very own Robin Good. If you head over to the on-demand section of RobinGood.TV you can check out the entire back-catalogue of Master New Media videos, served up with our very own Streamcast Player.

Would-be Internet TV moguls take note - it just got a whole lot easier for you to take the helm of your very own TV channel. Go broadcast.



Additional Resources

If you would like to learn more about setting up your own Streamcast player, you might want to check out the following links:



Originally written by Michael Pick for Master New Media and originally published as: "Online Video Tool Lets You Create Your Own Streaming Internet TV Channels: Streamcast Player"

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Readers' Comments    
2010-10-08 04:56:51

Adrian

Excelent stuff



2010-10-01 18:56:14

Nikki May

Great article Robin.

Yes, StreamCast is one of the most greatest Flash Players.



2010-07-29 04:36:04

angela w.

I have been wanting to start my own channel but just finding info to get me started was overwhelming. Thank you for providing us with an easy to understand article that I can follow.



2007-08-09 06:10:39

Semper Fidelis

Hello great tool,
but does anybody know where to get the free version?
Regards



2007-07-23 11:35:58

Mirco Martinelli

Dear Kirk,

i'm sorry but this tool isn't freely avaible anymore.

But here is a useful list of similar tools:






2007-07-22 20:30:53

Kirk Williams

This indeed looks great. It looks like the application isn't freeware anymore. Does anyone know where a freeware version of this great software may reside. I would really, really, REALLY love to try it out on my website.



2007-07-17 09:30:31

Alexandre Gosselin

Nice, but the download link does'nt work at the moment. Is that possible to give a link to download StreamCast Player ? If not, can you suggest another great Flash video publishing platform?



2007-06-08 06:04:07

James

Hi does this require a php server to run or is it only html and XML



2007-05-04 01:59:26

Mihai Bocsaru

Great article Robin!

StreamCast is indeed one of the most greatest Flash Players available on the market today

I've had the chance to integrate this player for a customer recently

What makes this service excellent is also that the player author, Mirco Pasqualini is available to offer support on integrating his platform with ones streaming hosting account

FeedBeat (http://www.feedbeat.net/), the free streaming platform you've mentioned is a great choice for small size organizations

However, considering it's free one may decide to go for paid streaming server solution to make sure the platform will handle a good number concurrent streaming views and a good bandwidth rate

What I've enjoyed as a professional consultant is that I've been able to integrate this player within Movable Type as a player CMS

This way a customer could setup individual video players to integrate within his/hers Web site articles

Keep up the great work you are doing

An old friend and former partner from Romania

Mihai Bocsaru



2007-04-30 06:26:39

Nameerf

Essere di Genova e sapere il giorno dopo della manifestazione al Ducale è il vero colmo. Peggio di una martellata...là. Ciao Nam



 
posted by Michael Pick on Monday, April 30 2007, updated on Monday, November 12 2012


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