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A typical webcast, playing in an embedded media player.

A webcast is a media presentation distributed over the Internet using streaming media technology to distribute a single content source to many simultaneous listeners/viewers. A webcast may either be distributed live or on demand. Essentially, webcasting is “broadcasting” over the Internet.

The largest "webcasters" include existing radio and TV stations, who "simulcast" their output through online TV or online radio streaming, as well as a multitude of Internet only "stations". The term webcasting usually refers to non-interactive linear streams or events. Rights and licensing bodies offer specific "webcasting licenses" to those wishing to carry out Internet broadcasting using copyrighted material.

Webcasting is also used extensively in the commercial sector for investor relations presentations (such as annual general meetings), in e-learning (to transmit seminars), and for related communications activities. However, webcasting does not bear much, if any, relationship to web conferencing, which is designed for many-to-many interaction.[1]

The ability to webcast using cheap/accessible technology has allowed independent media to flourish. There are many notable independent shows that broadcast regularly online. Often produced by average citizens in their homes they cover many interests and topics. Webcasts relating to computers, technology, and news are particularly popular and many new shows are added regularly.

Webcasting differs from podcasting in that webcasting refers to live streaming while podcasting simply refers to media files placed on the Internet.[2]


  • History 1
  • Origins of the term 2
  • Wedcast 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5


Webcasting is the distribution of media files through the internet.The earliest webcast equivalent of an online concert and one of the earliest examples of webcasting itself was by Apple Computer's Webcasting Group in partnership with the entrepreneurs Michael Dorf and Andrew Rasiej. Together with David B. Pakman from Apple, they launched the Macintosh New York Music Festival from July 17–22, 1995. This event audio webcast concerts from more than 15 clubs in New York City. Apple later webcast a concert by Metallica on June 10, 1996 live from Slim's in San Francisco.[3]

In 1992 Marc Scarpa produced "Agrippa – The Transmission", a viral online campaign which "transmitted" to personal computers a unique story that upon reading would self-destruct or disappear. This new project was an offshoot of "Agrippa (a book of the dead)", the 1992 literary and technology collaboration between artist Dennis Ashbaugh, author William Gibson, and publisher Kevin Begos, Jr.

In 1995, Benford E. Standley produced one of the first audio/video webcasts in history.[4]

On October 31, 1996, UK rock band Caduseus broadcast their one-hour concert from 11pm to 12am (UT) at Celtica in Machynlleth, Wales, UK – the first live streamed audio and simultaneous live streamed video multicast – around the globe to more than twenty direct "mirrors" in more than twenty countries.[5][6]

In 1996, Apple webcast the Recording Academy Grammy awards. In 1996, digital pioneer Marc Scarpa produced the first large-scale, online, live broadcast in history, the Adam Yauch-led Tibetan Freedom Concert, an event that would define the format of social change broadcasts.

In January 1997, the launch of UK NetYear was webcast from London. Managed by Chelgate, it was the second webcast in the UK, the first being a David Bowie concert some months earlier. The UK NetYear webcast was only watched by a handful of people, although it was also simultaneously broadcast by satellite from London to Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast, and to 23 schools around the country.

In September 1997, Nebraska Public Television first started webcasting Big Red Wrap Up from Lincoln, Nebraska. Hosted by sportscaster Bill Doleman, Produced by Jim Carmichael, webcast and social media Produced by Dorothy McGrath, the series still being webcast today, combines highlights from every Cornhusker football game, coverage of the coaches' weekly press conferences, analysis with Nebraska sportswriters, appearances by special guests and questions and answers with viewers. Internet users are able to have their questions answered on Big Red Wrap-Up by e-mailing their queries. Dorothy McGrath also produced an interactive chat session after the show with the hosts and the viewers.

"It is extremely exciting for us at Nebraska ETV to utilize, with the assistance of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the latest communications technologies to bring Big Red fans around the country this series," said Steve Alvis, senior producer of Big Red Wrap-Up. "Through our efforts, we hope to reach an even broader audience that wants Nebraska football information."[7]

In November 1997 New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani became the first elected official in history to broadcast his inaugural speech online. Marc Scarpa produced the Webcast and was subsequently asked by the Mayor’s office in conjunction with DoITT to re-build New York City Hall’s Blue Room as a multi-platform broadcast facility which enabled daily press conferences to be broadcast live over the Web, TV and radio simultaneously.

March 28, 1998 was the first known webcast of a Professional Soccer Match. The Quarterfinal match between Spartak-Moscow and Ajax-Amsterdam. The broadcast originated from Moscow, and was transmitted via satellite to the Reston, VA studios of "", a subsidiary of PSINet. At the studio, commentators were added, and the signal was compressed and webcast to the Internet live, as the game was being played in Moscow. The game resulted in a 1-0 win for Spartak-Moscow, and an aggregate win of 4-1 over Ajax-Amsterdam. While ratings are impossible, traffic reports showed over 10,000 unique visitors during the broadcast.

On August 13, 1998, it is generally believed the first webcast wedding took place, between Alan K'necht and Carrie Silverman in Toronto Canada.[8][9]

On October 22, 1998, the first Billy Graham Crusade was broadcast live to a worldwide audience from the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Florida courtesy of Dale Ficken and the WebcastCenter in Pennsylvania. The live signal was broadcast via satellite to PA, then encoded and streamed via the BGEA website.[10]

The first teleconferenced/webcast wedding to date is believed to have occurred on December 31, 1998. Dale Ficken and Lorrie Scarangella wed on this date as they stood in a church in Pennsylvania, and were married by Jerry Falwell while he sat in his office in Lynchburg, Virginia.[11]

A notable webcast took place in September 1999 to launch New York concert featuring Bono of U2 and Wyclef Jean; and a Geneva concert.

On November 8, 1999, Marc Scarpa produced and directed the first presidential Webcast entitled Townhall with President Bill Clinton hosted by Al From for the Excite@Home Network in partnership with the Democratic Leadership Council. It was the first online Townhall meeting and the only program of its kind in a Presidential Library. In 1999, Scarpa produced WoodStock ’99, the largest online music broadcast of the 20th century with 2.4 million participants which outperformed the mere 140,000 people watching on pay per view.

More recently, Live8 (AOL) claimed around 170,000 concurrent viewers (up to 400 kbit/s) and the BBC received about the same (10 Gbit/s) on the day of the 7 July 2005 bombings in London. The growth of webcast traffic has roughly doubled, year on year, since 1995 and is directly linked to broadband penetration.

The first free Sunday morning webcast of a live worship service in the United States was initiated in January 2005 at Wekiva Presbyterian Church of Longwood, FL; this webcast ministry is ongoing.[12]

Connecting Media was one of the first companies to do live webcasting using a special IFP Van (Internet Field Production) dedicated to webcasting.

Today, webcasts are being used more frequently and by novice users. Live webcasts enable the viewing of presentations, business meetings, and seminars etc. for those that telecommute rather than attend. Such sites offer live broadcasting as an affordable alternative to attending physical public speaking events expanding the viewing audience to anyone that has an internet connection. Other live webcasts are held completely online independent of any offline component. Webcast content network sites can enable users to find content that interests them by searching the site.

Live sporting events, both local and national, have also quickly become frequent webcast subjects. With regard to smaller events such as Little League, amateur sports, small college sports, and high school sports, webcasting allows these events to have full audio or video coverage online when they may not be able to book standard radio or TV time. Websites like Meridix Webcast Network, Texas Sports Radio Network, SportsJuice, and others allow local schools, teams, and broadcasters to produce their own webcasts, which also have the advantage of being accessible to anyone with an internet connection (i.e. relatives several states away), unlike the range and market limitations of terrestrial radio and TV.

Virtually all major broadcasters now have a webcast of their output, from the BBC to CNN to Al Jazeera to UNTV in television to Radio China, Vatican Radio,[13] United Nations Radio and the World Service in radio.

Origins of the term

"Webcasting" was first publicly described and presented by Brian Raila of GTE Laboratories in 1989 at InterTainment '89 held in New York City, USA. Raila recognized that a viewer/listener need not download the entirety of a program to view/listen to a portion thereof, so long as the receiving device ("client computer") could, over time, receive and present data more rapidly than the user could digest the same. Raila used the term "buffered media" to describe this concept.

Raila was joined by James Paschetto of GTE Laboratories to further demonstrate the concept. Paschetto was singularly responsible for the first workable prototype of streaming media, which Raila presented and demonstrated at the Voice Mail Association of Europe 1995 Fall Meeting of October 1995, in Montreux, Switzerland. Alan Saperstein (Visual Data, now known as Onstream Media (Nasdaq:ONSM), was the first company to feature video webcasting in June 1993 with HotelView,[14] a travel library of two-minute videos featuring thousands of hotel properties worldwide.

On November 4, 1994, Stef van der Ziel distributed the first live video images over the web from the Simplon venue in Groningen.[15] On November 7, 1994, WXYC, the college radio station of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill became the first radio station in the world to broadcast its signal over the internet.[16][17]

The term webcasting was coined (in the early/mid-1990s) when webcast/streaming pioneers Mark Cuban (Audionet), Howard Gordon (Xing Technologies), William Mutual (, Craig Schmieder (Applied Media Resources) and Peggy Miles (InterVox Communications) got together with a community of webcasters to pick a term to describe the technology of sending audio and video on the Net... that might make sense to people. The term netcasting was a consideration, but one of the early webcast community members owned a company called NetCast, so that term was not used, seeking a name that would not be branded to one company. Discussions were also conducted about the term with the National Association of Broadcasters for their books — Internet Age Broadcaster I and II, written by Peggy Miles and Dean Sakai.

The actual word "webcast" was coined by Daniel Keys Moran in his 1988 novel The Armageddon Blues:

...DataWeb News had done an in-depth on it not two weeks ago, and tourists had been trekking up into the New York hills ever since the webcast.
— page 191 of the Bantam paperback

Translated versions including Subtitling are now possible using SMIL Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language.


A wedcast is a webcast of a wedding.[18][19] It allows family and friends of the couple to watch the wedding in real time on the Internet. It is sometimes used for weddings in exotic locations, such as Cancun and the Riviera Maya,[20] Hawaii or the Caribbean, for which it is very expensive or difficult for people to travel to see the wedding in person.[18]

Webcasting a funeral is also a service provided by some funeral homes. Although it has been around for a decade, cheaper broadband, the financial strain of travel, and deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have all led to a recent increase in this phenomenon.[21]

See also


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  12. ^ Live weekly service and archived Wekiva Presbyterian Church Unfortunately, loud hum in latest videos interferes with low volume audio. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
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