Stream or flood? Ireland’s place in the online content streaming revolution

10 Apr 2014

Recently, the Irish online content-streaming market received a new addition to its small but developing business model, with a subject sure to raise a few eyebrows.

The idea of Clare businessman Alan Foudy, Funerals Live is a business that caters specifically to the large Irish diaspora scattered across the world and who would feel isolated when a loved one might pass and they would be unable to attend the funeral.

The funeral would be live-streamed online for a fee to anyone the family selected to view the service. The idea has been so well received, that Foudy and the business announced 10 new jobs to cater for the growing demand.

Behind the job news is an insight into a sector which has been slow to grow in Ireland, and yet globally, has been moving from strength to strength.

In Europe alone, huge amounts of internet traffic is comprised of media content alone through sites such as YouTube and Netflix, as well as music-streaming websites such as Spotify and SoundCloud.

According to figures obtained by Steaming Media Europe, in a country like Germany, there has been a 70pc increase in content streaming and live media recording through smartphones in 2013 alone, while 24m Italians are estimated to be watching an average of 144 videos per month, putting them at a total audience growth of 27pc across all platforms.

The European market is also seen as worthy of investment, as in January Netflix announced it had set aside €400m as part of a European expansion based on consumer demand for its service.

Demand for live streaming

But what about Ireland? John Sheridan is director of Cue Media, a company that is trying to make headway in the fledgling streaming market in Ireland and a recent recipient of €50,000 in funding from Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund. According to an analysis when Cue Media established two years ago, there was a demand from companies and organisations looking to live stream events, in particular.

Now, with its Cue247 service, the company has worked with major government organisations, such as Ireland’s Office of Public Works, and has broadcast events under Ireland’s presidency of the European Union last year.

According to Sheridan, the nature of the internet means that the notion of a small national market is out of date and similar companies setting up in Ireland have to look outside of its national borders.

“From our point of view, we are using Ireland as our launchpad (to a global market) … just because we’re in Ireland doesn’t mean that we don’t have the same possibility (to succeed) as anywhere else in the world.”

Broadband in Ireland

However, while the internet may allow content to be accessed anywhere, a service such as Cue Media or Funerals Live is only as good as Ireland’s broadband service, which is not quite what consumers would expect outside of major urban centres.

As part of the Government’s National Broadband Plan, it had envisaged the entire country would have a minimum broadband speed of 30Mbps by 2015, a figure which seems hopelessly optimistic given uSwitch’s recent report that found only 53.4pc of all fixed-broadband subscriptions offer speeds of 10Mbps or greater, despite this being a significant improvement on the same figure in the previous year.

While acknowledging the lack of established broadband in rural areas will hamper a company’s ability to stream, it is Sheridan’s opinion that the greater challenge lies in the technology involved in actually streaming an event.

As more companies and organisations look to bring their events to a wider audience, Sheridan’s dealings with companies have shown they have a good understanding of the concept, but have little faith in the execution.

“What (corporates) are concerned about is if you want to do a live screen, it’s a complicated set-up that comes with it. You need to send an engineer, you need to connect it to a code division multiplexing (CDM) network, you need someone to design a page for them, etc. All of this just means stress so with that in the equation, they are more likely to do it once and then never revisit the idea.”

The future, as Sheridan sees it, is in simplifying the process by introducing a ‘plug in and play’ type model, where the likes of Cue Media act more like a conduit with a basic camera set-up as opposed to the cumbersome AV equipment that exists today.

“That will open up the streaming side of things, more than any of the country’s broadband limitations,” said Sheridan.

Content streaming image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic