Technology · August 5, 2022

How LiveU defined the industry it once revolutionized

In this weekly series, CNBC takes a look at companies that made the first Disruptor 50 list 10 years later.

After attending a football game with a bulky, nondescript production setup in 2006, LiveU founders Avi Cohen, Samuel Wasserman and Rony Ohayon were inspired to create a product that would consolidate video production materials and make live video broadcasting a smoother and easier process.

Investors were impressed by the Israeli startup’s demo hardware, which was only half the size of a laptop and was said to deliver reliably and cheaply up to 2 MB per second in its first year.

And so did their mission – to use existing cellular, Wi-Fi and WiMAX signals to transmit live video and provide a more reliable and affordable alternative to TV news satellite broadcast trucks.

LiveU was launched at a pivotal time as both traditional broadcasters and online outlets delivered a rapidly growing demand for cellular-based live video transmission. Not only were TV broadcasters locked into higher standards of quality and turnaround time, but mass streaming services like YouTube and Justin.tv (now Twitch) gained mainstream popularity, creating demand for online video consumption and live streaming. That promise resulted in a total of $23 million in series AC funding.

And LiveU was ready to meet that demand. By 2012, the company’s evolving technology had become the go-to place for many companies looking to uplink HD video in the field, including the BBC and NBC. That same year, the company raised an additional $27,000,000 in Series D funding.

This marked a turning point for the company as it moved beyond its hardware roots, specifically its 3G/4G LTE backpack, which plugged into a video camera to allow a producer to transmit high-quality video streams in real-time, rather than relying on being concentrate a solution-oriented company.

One such solution was LiveU Solo, which allowed users to broadcast live streams from professional cameras directly to platforms like YouTube Live and Facebook.

But ultimately, LiveU caused the biggest disruption in news broadcasting.

While LiveU’s technology enhanced standalone broadcast events like the soccer games that originally inspired the company, it helped bring “news gathering into the internet age,” described Ronen Artman, vice president of marketing at LiveU, in a company blog post.

LiveU’s technology enabled journalists and broadcasters to get up close and personal with the action – and stream it instantly.

ABC News President James Goldston directly credited LiveU for its development for news channels in a 2014 memo to employees: “From the streets of Ferguson to the Pope’s daily Mass, everyone at ABC News now has the opportunity to own the LiveU app use their mobile devices to live stream what’s happening on-site anytime, anywhere across our digital, broadcast and Apple TV platforms.

LiveU found a promising niche within political news as networks increasingly relied on LiveU technology to broadcast elections worldwide, including the 2016 and 2020 US elections.

This growth helped propel the company into the private equity spotlight. In 2019, Francisco Partners, a global, technology-focused private equity firm, along with co-investor IGP Capital, acquired LiveU for $200 million.

Then, 25 months later in TK, LiveU was acquired by the Carlyle Group for $400 million.

A nearly doubling of the rating in less than two years indicated not only the increasing sophistication of its solutions, but also the growing demand for live video content, which continued to grow alongside the Internet.

This demand was then dramatically amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic as important events such as weddings, graduations and sporting events had to be attended virtually. And it was these large, heavily frequented events in particular that required new streaming sophistication.

Because of this, LiveU’s new product developments are focused on disrupting esports, much like the broadcast news industry has done.

In 2020, during the Tokyo Olympics where a live audience was not possible, LiveU enabled a deeply intimate streaming experience that not only covered the main events, “but also let the viewers experience so many other moments – the reactions of the athletes after crossing the finish line, spectators in front of the stadiums, feedback from the coaches in the changing rooms and the award ceremonies,” says CEO Samuel Wasserman.

“With the growing demand for live content, our solutions help build a bridge between athletes and viewers worldwide, delivering the full sports experience,” he continued.

LiveU’s customers now include global broadcasters and news agencies, as well as NASA, American Airlines and Amazon, whose products are behind the coverage of some of the most-attended live broadcasts such as the US Presidential Election, the FIFA World Cup, the Winter and Summer Olympics and the Super Bowl.

Earlier this year, LiveU turned its ambitions to the cloud, launching a solution for automatic live video recording and metadata tagging, propelling LiveU’s evolution from a hardware alternative to satellite trucks to an end-to-end -End video post, a production and follow-up distribution solution.

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