Unleashing the possibilities of the APs new live video initative

he Associated Press may soon radically change the landscape of our news media as part of a new initiative announced this week.ap_logo

“Every major news story that breaks will have live coverage from a video eye-witness within minutes of it happening,” Sandy MacIntyre, AP’s director of global video, told Journalism.co.uk.

As 4G LTE networks continue to expand across cities and towns, the expensive satellite trucks that were once needed to remotely transmit live breaking news are becoming obsolete. While cell phones still cannot reliably transmit the professional-quality HD footage that networks depend on, LiveU, a company the AP has partnered with, has developed technology to transmit a 1080p signal over multiple cellular connections that is battery powered and easily fits in a backpack.

Many television stations are already using LiveU to supplement their much more expensive satellite trucks, and a couple years ago one of LiveU’s customers loaned out streaming backpacks to several of the more popular live streamers who were participating in the Occupy demonstrations around the country. The AP has also utilized LiveU to help it cover a number of stories this year, including its video coverage from Nelson Mandela’s hospital.

LiveU Head of US Marketing Ken Zamkow told JTM that for about $2,000 a month, anyone can lease the equipment they need to stream live video. There are numerous hardware options available, including packages that are much smaller the LiveU backpacks, said Zamkow.

The company has also developed software that allows broadcasters to simultaneously use both cellular and wifi connections to increase the bandwidth available to stream video from both phones and laptops. And the AP plans to use its computer software in addition to the company’s hardware, said Zamkow.

I’ve been exploring mobile-live-video for several years; in 2008 I helped produce a multiple-camera live news broadcast that set out to cover the Olympic torch relay and the accompanying protests as it winded its way through San Francisco (as it turned out the torch was shuttled by van to an undisclosed location and neither of our mobile teams managed to catch any footage of the elusive torch). It quickly became apparent at that time that cellular transmission rates weren’t fast enough and the necessary hardware was clunky at best.

Things have changed a lot in the last five years, and what was once science fiction is effectively now reality. Anyone with a smart  phone can distribute live video across the globe, and under the right conditions that footage can look and sound amazing.

In addition to its partnership with LiveU, the AP has also purchased a minority stake in Bambuser, one of several companies that let consumers stream live video from their phones. In a recent article Journalism.co.uk explained how these two partnerships will allow the AP to offer live video from both professional and citizen reporters.

With LiveU, the news agency is able to provide professional-quality live streams more quickly and easily, while Bambuser puts live video capabilities in the hands of the public who may be able to provide footage before journalists arrive at the scene of a story.

“Companies like LiveU and Bambuser are changing the way real-time video news is transmitted from the field to broadcasters and digital publishers – and how it flows through the social media space,” MacIntyre said. “AP needs to be at the heart of that change; harnessing the new technology, adding our news judgment, helping viewers understand what the news they are seeing live actually means and explaining why they should care.”

If the APs entire army of reporters were constantly at the ready to broadcast live, the possibility for new content to augment news sites and even TV broadcasts is incredible. Every press conference attended by an AP reporter could easily be streamed to the thousands of news agencies that subscribe to the AP. And footage from breaking news would not only bring in a larger sustained audience, but it would also create additional material to enhance TV broadcasts.

When you combine that potentially-massive influx of video with the possibility of a curated stream of live video from the millions of people carrying smart phones and you have the potential to create a rich immersive journalism environment that until now remained a distant fantasy.

I haven’t been able to speak to anyone at AP about their plans, but I’ll be updating this post when I’m able to learn more about the companies plans to implement this new partnership.

UPDATED: (07/22/13) Added comments from LiveU’s Ken Zamkow and corrected story to explain that the LiveU backpacks were loaned to people at Occupy by one of LiveU’s customers.

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