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Monday, August 12, 2013

Daily Report: NBC to Buy Start-Up to Stream Video From Phones

NBC News, a unit of Comcast’s NBCUniversal, on Monday will announce its acquisition of Stringwire, an early stage Web service that enables streaming live video straight to its control rooms in New York from the cellphones of witnesses.

Vivian Schiller, the chief digital officer for NBC News, said she imagined using Stringwire for coverage of all-consuming protests like those that occurred in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Brian Stelter reports.

“You could get 30 people all feeding video, holding up their smartphones, and then we could look at that,” she said in an interview by phone. “We’ll be able to publish and broadcast some of them.”

Such a vision fits neatly into the future many academics predict. That future has fewer professional news-gatherers but many more unpaid eyes and ears contributing to news coverage.

Stringwire is embryonic. What NBC is really acquiring is Phil Groman, who developed the technology while a graduate student in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University.

Such “acqui-hiring,” in which a start-up is bought primarily for its talent, is normally associated with technology companies like Google and Apple, not television networks like NBC. But that is partly the point of Monday’s announcement, Ms. Schiller said: to send a message that the network news division wants more entrepreneurs like Mr. Groman.

Mr. Groman, who graduated from N.Y.U. in May, will become a product lead, based at the NBC News Digital Group’s office in San Francisco, where he will finish building Stringwire. The service works by tapping into the multitudes of people who send Twitter messages when they witness a news event.

Those people will receive a Twitter post that asks them to click a link and point their camera at what they are seeing. Without any special app, the service will start streaming live video to NBC. The video submissions will be vetted just like any other material the network uses, Ms. Schiller said