An industry report released in July 11, 2001 by Jupiter Research stated that the webcasting industry would grow to 1.26 billion dollars by 2005. According to market research commissioned by the ICIA (International Communications Industries Association), the streaming/media/webcasting market reached approximately $272 million at the end of 2003.
Not quite there yet, it seems.
The growth of the category may not have evolved as quickly as we would have liked, but it's obvious that webcasts have become a significant part of the fabric of communications that surround us in our daily lives. We view news streams, movie trailers, games, and more on our computers as webcasts and perhaps we are beginning to rely on them as portals into the world at large.
For example, I've just been watching Bill Gates and Conan O'Brien performing the keynote presentation at CES 2005 (my favorite bit happens when Gates can't get a demo to run and Conan says "nine people just got fired...digitally...over wireless!"). Webcasting truly brings the world to your doorstep.
How the growth in webcasting has affected the staging industry is another, less clear issue. I remember back in 2001 going to InfoComm and looking at streaming encoders and assuming those would become a fixture in our inventory. For my company, that has not turned out to be the case, although many of the events we support do have a webcast requirement. Typically, the company that hosts the webcast supplies the encoders and we give them an audio and video feed and that's it. Whether the event is a webcast matters not, in most cases.
It could be argued that the growth in webcasting has increased the number of events that use camera systems. Increases in our use of these systems supports that argument. In addition, we have seen increased demand for video switchers with multiple mix/effect busses and in some cases the requirement is related to webcasting as the additional busses allow for a specific switched feed to the encoder.
I don't think webcasting affects the type and quality of display systems used on shows, since clients rarely care how the display looks on a webcast. Typically, cameras will be directed for tight shots and a wide shot showing the display will only be seen for a moment. There is one aspect to consider in terms of display technology for webcast and that is the look of LED tiles if they provide background to the primary camera angles. In this type of stage configuration, LED tiles can appear pixilated and over saturated. Further, if the subject of the shot is foreground of the LED display, a really vibrant "Max Headroom" effect can be obtained, which may not be in the client's best interest.
Since the appearance of the webcast presenter is critical, lighting systems and design have to be more than adequate to insure that Mr. President and CEO looks presentable and healthy. Maybe not to the degree one would go to if it were the Grammy Awards, but a little make-up wouldn't hurt. Going back to the example of the CES webcast, while the demos didn't work so well, the camera work and lighting did and Mr. Gates and Mr. O'Brien, while seeming a little ill at ease, looked perfectly fine.
I think it's safe to say that the staging world has seen some benefit from the prevalence of webcasting but it has not shaken our world, nor does it appear likely to. However, there is one business segment that has used webcasting as a vehicle for growth and is now one of the largest marketers of webcasting services. Did you know that for a reasonable fee many funeral homes will provide a webcast of a funeral service?