Sentimental Look: Ford's LIVE Introduction of New Explorer Confirms TACH's Vision +VIDEO
The Auto Channel, Proud Parents of LIVE Streaming Video
By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL
Wednesday evening, January 9th, I was watching the live video stream on TheAutoChannel.com of the 2020 Ford Explorer introduction and feeling really proud.
Ford did a fabulous job in their nearly 50-minute live event. The video quality was excellent - even full screen on my 30-inch desktop computer monitor. The audio was great, the switching to taped elements was flawless, the video compositing was terrific. It was a top-notch broadcast production job.
It was just what my business partner and I had in mind when we pioneered the use of streaming video over the Internet 23 years ago!
In September 1995, Bob Gordon and I had the opportunity to make a pitch to Pennzoil about this new technology and media called the World Wide Web on the Internet. We had had a preliminary website up for about a year that utilized the very one-dimensional, static Mosaic browser. It was little more than a single bulletin board image. But we had vision, and others had a vision of what will happen.
We sold Pennzoil on our vision, a vision that began in 1986 as we were launching Bob's broadcast TV station in Sacramento, California. Our belief back then was that someday all computers would be linked around the world; that we would have not a 500 channel TV universe, but an unlimited universe of programming and information sources. We believed that every TV set would be a computer monitor, and every computer monitor would be a TV set.
When we launched our syndicated broadcast TV series in 1989, we touted the coming of a time when consumers at home would be able to watch a show about automobiles (or any other subject) and be able to push a button that connected them with a local car dealer to schedule a test drive.
The only thing we needed was the technology...and that was coming.
In selling our vision to Pennzoil, we produced a video showing what The Auto Channel website of the future would look like, how it would function, and how users would be able to watch streaming video clips and full-length programs. The Pennzoil guys went wild. They asked if we could do this now. We said "no," but that it was coming. A few months later, it came. It came in the form of the new dynamic Netscape browser and a virtually unknown Israeli company called "VDO Net." Their streaming video software was called VDOLive, and it was the first workable streaming video solution. TheAutoChannel.com was the first website in the world to deploy the streaming video when we "webcast" the full-length video of the latest Camel Trophy Off-road Race in February 1996. Within days, we had several new car video clips online to compliment our text reviews, and in March 1996 we webcast video from a press conference at Sears Point Raceway. We were off and running with our vision. Slowly, over the next few months, other websites started emulating TheAutoChannel.com and started posting video clips using either VDOLive or Real Video
In October 1996, we sold a Los Angeles Jaguar dealer on the idea of sponsoring a LIVE Internet unveiling of the new Jaguar XK8 at Petersen Auto Museum. The only problem was that there was no workable LIVE streaming video solution for the Internet - not VDOLive, not Real Video, nothing. But we made the sale, what would we do?
We created our own solution. It was rinky-dink, it had limited frame rate, the image size was very small. But if the end-user had an ISDN connection or even the latest thing... a 56k modem, they were able to watch the unveiling live over the Internet. This was the first LIVE streaming video Internet broadcast. Three days later, we brought our gear to Sears Point Raceway. We broadcast the entire NASCAR Super Trucks race in video. This was the world's first live Internet video of a motor sports event.
A couple of weeks later, we brought our cameras and computers to the automotive aftermarket trade show in Las Vegas (SEMA and AAIW), and we broadcast LIVE video interviews from our exhibit space at Sands Convention Center.
By January 1997, a new software player emerged, Vxtreme. Their live solution was far better than ours, so we switched over. Using Vxtreme we were able to broadcast live from the hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center for the 1997 L.A. Auto Show. We spent the next two weeks making history. We broadcast live and taped press conferences, interviews, and we even staged game shows during the public days of the show. This was the first live video coverage on the Internet of an auto show. The video was raw, it was rough, it buffered a lot, but it was the start of something grand, as evidenced in Wednesday's Ford presentation.
In May 1997, we brought our gear to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500. We webcast about 150 hours of live video of the month-long events leading up to the race, and some portions of the race itself. From this experience, Vxtreme was able to sell their company and technology to Microsoft for what became known as WebTheater 3 (today it's known as Windows Media Video). This gave Microsoft the leading technology it needed to surpass all other then current streaming technologies.
And now you know the beginning of the story. And we give special thanks to all those special people who helped make it happen:
Here's the Ford event, by the way: