Barclays New York Challenge a Coming-Out Party for Veetle

Missing the World Cup action? Well, you’re in luck: Palo Alto-based P2P startup Veetle will live stream all matches from the Barclays New York Challenge starting at 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. Pacific today. The three-day tournament consists of four games between the New York Red Bulls, Tottenham Hotspur,  Machester City and Sporting Lisbon — but for Veetle, it’s about more than just good soccer.

The New York Challenge is Veetle’s first major partnership for a live event, and the four-year old company is hoping that other content owners will soon jump on board as well. Veetle’s proposition to rights holders is simple: The company says it can stream live events in full 720p HD, no matter how many people tune in. And at least initially, it won’t charge content partners a dime.

HD, high reliability and low costs are made possible by Veetle’s proprietary P2P technology, which was developed by Stanford graduates. Veetle’s Thomas Ahn Hicks told me during a phone conversation yesterday that Veetle is able to offload an estimated 80 percent of its traffic to its P2P component.

The company does offer a Flash stream for its top 15 most popular live feeds, but users are encouraged to install the Veetle plugin to watch streams in HD, and less popular programming is only available with the P2P plugin installed. Veetle utilizes VLC to play its H.264 video streams, and Hicks told me that a lot of work went into fine-tuning the video quality.

Visit the Veetle home page, and you’ll get mixed results. Some streams look really good, but others are barely enjoyable. The company explains these discrepancies with the bandwidth available to the original broadcaster. Most of these broadcasters are regular Internet users, which not only explains varying degrees of video quality, but also the fact that much of the material broadcast via Veetle seems strangely familiar.

A number of users utilize the service to showcase their favorite movies and TV shows, and you’ll also find the occasional sports event relayed from TV broadcasters or cable networks. Hicks told me that the company is adhering to the DMCA and immediately removing content upon request. Of course, piracy is a touchy subject when it comes to live streaming, and one can only imagine that Veetle might feel more heat once it’s going to be more in the spotlight as well.

But the spotlight is exactly where Veetle wants to be, with hopes to sign up more content partners soon. Of course, it’s not the first company to use P2P for live streaming, and it likely won’t be the last. BitTorrent Inc’s founder Bram Cohen is working on a P2P streaming protocol as well, and the company is poised to unveil a live streaming offering any day now. Veetle is following these developments with interest, but believes it’s positioned well with its own technology. “It would take a long time to replicate it,” said Hicks.

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