Seven years after co-founding StubHub, which was sold to eBay in 2007, Jeff Fluhr took a bit of a break. He noted a number of social media and technology trends before deciding on his next move.
“One thing I noticed was that what had been private conversations were becoming public conversations,” Fluhr says. “Ever since the advent of email, we’d been having these largely private, asynchronous conversations, text-based.
"Now with the rise of blogs, Twitter and Facebook, more and more of these conversations were happening in the public domain.”
Fast-forward to today, and meet Spreecast, a social video platform that allows people to continue those public conversations face to face in live broadcasts. It’s available in all major web browsers and in iOS.
Launched last November, Spreecast appears to be gaining impressive traction among early adopters, including celebrities, journalists, politicians, athletes, bloggers – “people who have a fan base,” notes Fluhr.
“Most were already using Facebook and Twitter to connect with their followers, and now they are trying out Spreecast for a new interactive way to connect in real time.”
Spreecasters include Reese Witherspoon, promoting her latest movie, “This Means War.” Or the boy band One Direction, which has had over 89,000 views of their recent video on Spreecast (in partnership with Vevo), presumably mainly by teenage girls.
Others gaining prominent audiences at this early stage include the producers of shows giving advice on how to raise birds, to learning how to be a better photographer, to sports programs.
Unlike Skype and other services, Spreecast does not require users to download an app. All you need is a reasonably recent browser and a webcam to get to work producing your show.
“Every Spreecast goes live on our platform initially and then is archived,” explains Fluhr, “and are therefore born on our platform.”
Since January, the company has added an embed function, so you can (as with YouTube videos) embed Spreecasts anywhere on the web.
There also is a live chat box, just like Skype, but much better implemented and easier to use. The quality of the video on Spreecast is notable.
“All of the technology trends are going in the right direction for this,” says Fluhr. “Bandwidth, processing power, graphics, chips, cameras. The devices, from laptops to tablets to phones are great and now 4G is coming, and that will be key for the future of video. It will make the Spreecast experience great on the iPhone.”
Video producers working alone or in teams see a dashboard on the right side of the screen, which allows them to see who is registering to join the show, who wants to comment, and who would like to join in one of the four split-screen boxes on the left to be a visible part of the broadcast.
Both the producers and the audience participants are held to a strict set of community guidelines, which prevent uses such as pornography from making it onto the public platform. The company first authenticates all user identities, mainly via Facebook Connect or Twitter, and in a smaller number of cases, with a verifiable email address.
No one can participate, i.e., ask a question or appear on camera, without signing in. If someone violates a community guideline, the first time they get a warning; the second time they are kicked off the platform altogether.
Spreecast maintains round-the-clock human monitoring of the site’s productions via a service located in the Philippines, which enforces the guidelines.
Meanwhile, Fluhr and his 15 colleagues in the company are busy iterating based on early usage patterns, adding features, and extending it across platforms, including Android devices.
Spreecast has gotten seed funding from Frank Biondi, former CEO of Viacom, Gordon Crawford, media and technology investor at The Capital Research Group, and Edward Scott, Jr., cofounder of BEA Systems.