Global streaming-media network underway

If digital tech is going to blow old-fashioned music distribution out of the water, it will take a specialised network. Digital Island has just the thing.

The first global streaming media network for delivering multimedia content is being built by US-based network services company Digital Island. The network will allow content providers to deliver tailored, high quality streaming audio and video to consumers in specific geographic regions.

The network uses Real Networks' RealSystem G2 for delivering the content, and Inktomi's caching technology for distribution world-wide. Paul Levett vice president of technology at told ZDNet: "This is a great idea, especially the local caching, as if you want to guarantee quality you don't really want to expose yourself to the variable qualities of the national networks.

"This is good news for smaller players such as ourselves who can't foot the investment for this type of network. This will be important for us as we look at digital distribution at a time when broadband reaches penetration level," said Levett.

According to Digital Island this is the first geographically-aware streaming service. Using Digital Island's TraceWare technology, distributors can control delivery on a country-by-country basis, thus avoiding network congestion and legal issues. "Being able to able to distribute content on a geographical basis is very important," said Levett, "as with music deals there are often different royalty regimes to take into account."

Martin Brass, director of new media for research firm Entertainment Industry Research Consultants (EIRC), welcomed the news. "It is saying 'This is the network of the future for music distribution that allows companies to keep control of their copyright.' This is certainly one of the potential outcomes for the record industry," said Brass. "What Digital Island's network is leading towards is the possibility of creating a single content database so that third party resellers can offer tailor made content for niche markets. The main question is how well the system will work."

"It will be the arrival of broadband access in the UK that will lead to a demand for services such as Digital Islands'. There is no doubt that ADSL is going to change the world, this is the technology that is going to blow things out of the water. Within 18 months everyone will have access to it," said Brass.

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