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Blue Jeans video service, Primetime, enables interactive online events

The new Blue Jeans video service, Primetime, enables large-scale -- and interactive -- webcasting events.

Blue Jeans has introduced a new cloud-based service geared toward interactive online events, Blue Jeans Primetime. Unlike other, one-way streaming video platforms and broadcasting services, the new Blue Jeans video service can scale to connect thousands of participants to an event with the engagement features of traditional video conferencing technology.

Blue Jeans Primetime is filling a gap in the market for interactive, streaming video meetings. There are video conferencing and collaboration services on the market that enable intimate meetings and allow meeting participants to engage, but these platforms often don't have the ability to scale very well. The webcasting tools that do scale up to thousands of users typically lack the interactivity and engagement a video conferencing platform can provide.  

"The Primetime service is the first of its kind that allows for large audience participation, not just by text chat through a moderator, but also by voice and video, said Andrew Davis, senior partner of Wainhouse Research LLC, based in Duxbury, Mass. "This gives anyone with a browser a chance to be interactive."

Blue Jeans video service enables two-way webcasting

If remote attendees want to be a part of an event today, they often have to tweet their questions with a hashtag that moderators are tracking. "It's kind of a cumbersome model, and there hasn't been any forum for banter with remote participants -- there's a real distinction between people who are physically at an event, and those who aren't," said Stu Aaron, chief commercial officer for Blue Jeans.

Blue Jeans' Primetime platform allows businesses to stream events to a worldwide audience. Attendees can enter into any event via a link -- similar to Blue Jeans' flagship cloud-based video service. Both presenters and attendees have the option to join from any video or audio device, such as room-based systems, computers and mobile devices.

Primetime administrators can assign roles to participants, including moderator, presenter or active participant, or passive observer. Primetime's role switching feature allows IT to promote any participant from a one-way, observer mode, to a two-way, interactive mode. Once inside the event, attendees can virtually raise their hand, and the event moderator can allow the attendee to actively participant. Once the user agrees to "go live" with either their camera or audio-only, they are able to engage with the presenters or become part of a panel via audio or video.

"[Blue Jeans has] built a service that would bring speakers and participants from different locations around the world together into an engaging, scalable event that could then be viewable by thousands of attendees that could also engage directly, face-to-face with the presenters," Aaron said. The service will be charged on a per-event basis, he said.

Primetime is making large-scale events easier and more accessible for businesses because professional, white-glove service isn't required, Wainhouse's Davis said. In-house enterprise IT teams can act as event moderators, with a control panel to mute participants, promote attendees and record the meetings. Moderators can also prep presenters in a "green room" setting before they go live, according to Blue Jeans. Attendees also can join and view events, with the ability to raise their hand, share video and content, and interact with other participants though their own browser-based interface.

Software provider Red Hat uses Blue Jeans for video conferencing to connect with its remote sales associates and engineers. The vendor has been beta testing Primetime. "We have hundreds of people in these meetings, so we very quickly got beyond what the normal video conferencing service could handle," said Chrissy Linzy, supervisor of voice and video collaboration for Red Hat.

Red Hat has tried other webcasting and video conferencing services in the past to meet its need to scale to thousands of users at times, but it has been a very labor-intensive process, Linzy said. "We'd have to get video cameras set up, an operator on the line, and then we've always needed troubleshooting. The cool thing about Primetime is you don't need IT resources to support these large meetings -- anyone can just [schedule a meeting] themselves," she said.

Moderators can easily send out links to attendees and presenters for the event, allowing participants to enter the meeting as whichever role the moderator designates. "Presenters can still see reactions from other presenters or active participants, and see if there are conversations going on within the chat function to make sure they leave time for questions, but the data doesn't clog up the screen in an overwhelming way," Linzy said.

In addition to scale, Red Hat wanted a better way for meeting attendees to interact when they were asking questions. "With Primetime, it feels like you are having a one-on-one conversation with the presenter, and that's a much better experience than what we've had."

Blue Jeans video lends itself to revenue opportunities

Blue Jeans' Primetime won't be only limited to meetings. In the future, the video service could be used to generate revenue for some businesses, Wainhouse's Davis said.

"Businesses could have special events like Q&As with a famous figure, or events that attendees have to pay to join," he said. And the interactive features will help keep attendees in the events longer, Davis said.

Blue Jeans Primetime is actively being tested by customers in limited availability, and will be generally available in Q1 of 2015.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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