Telus buys Toronto Webcast provider

Tim Macklaier couldn’t remember his new title now that he’s a member of Telus, but he did allow that he’s a little richer after the telecommunications company bought his Toronto-based Webcasting company.

Telus said this week that it has bought Fastvibe Inc. for an undisclosed sum of money to expand its business conference offerings.

The day before Wednesday’s announcement Macklaier was Fastvibe’s CEO. With help of a PR rep during an interview about the deal, he remembered his moniker is now Telus’ director of Web streaming solutions.

Telus officials said Thursday they were impressed with Fastvibe’s technology and the number of “blue-chip” publicly-traded companies it does work for.

“The backlog of demand” from customers, said Brian MacIntosh, vice-president of Telus’ managed IT and collaboration services, “is ringing in our ears.” Boris Kluck, Telus’ director of collaboration services, said the acquisition will allow Telus to expand its Webcasting capabilities, which he said was not as scalable as Fastvibe’s. In addition, Telus had to outsource or partner for some delivery services which it can now bring in-house.

In an e-mail interview, telecommunications consultant Iain Grant of the SeaBoard group said Fastvibe’s customer list is what likely caught Telus’ eye. “Having solutions on the leading edge will attract customers to Telus, who will buy other things as well,” Grant added.

“Certainly Webcasting and other internet-enabled presentation/meeting tools will be increasingly used by business to enable business, lower costs, avoid travel etc.,” he wrote.

The Fastvibe name will disappear almost immediately.

Although it has only nine full-time employees – who all shift to Telus – Fastvibe hosted Webcasts for companies ranging from bottler PepsiCo to Canadian government departments who want to put anything from an annual general meeting to a public hearing on the Internet and attract a wide audience.

“Event Webcasting has grown significantly in popularity” since the company began in 2000, Macklaier said. “When we started the company we weren’t sure it would be an interesting fad or a successful communications vehicle.”

Now the company charges up to $35,000 to host a Webcast, the price determined on whether Fastvibe has to supply cameras, whether the event goes over more than one day, the number of rooms it takes place in and the number of languages to be broadcast (each language has its own stream.)

Through a custom-built media streaming platform, it can also produce Internet broadcasting of sporting events and concerts. All Fastvibe needs is a high-speed Internet connection at the event site.

Until the acquistion, content had been distributed through a partnership with Limelight Networks, a Tempe, Arizona-based global content delivery company.

Macklaier founded the company, then called Custom Webcasting Solutions, in 2000 with Toronto investor relations advisor Ken Barnes, who both had the idea of using the Internet to broadcast meetings. They decided to partner rather than fight each other.

At the time Macklaier worked for Montreal Trust, managing annual meetings of its clients. “When I saw the Webcasting product I thought it was the perfect communications vehicle for companies to add on to the annual meeting for shareholders who were not able to participate,” he said.

It took two years to build the platform, but today the company runs 11 media servers, which can host 24 simultaneous Webcasts. Viewers can use common player such as Windows Media Player to view Webcasts. The application allows customers to include PowerPoint slides or a text editor so viewers can send in questions without exiting the presentation.

Competitors include Bell Canada’s Web solutions group, as well as a trio of start-ups: Calgary’s Jet Stream Digital Media, Burnaby, B.C.’s Interactive Netcasting Systems (Insinc); and Toronto’s Streamlogics.

Telus had been looking for some time to expand its Webcasting capabilities because of what Kluck called a “huge and burgeoning demand.” After chosing Fastvibe he approached Macklaier, whom he knew, two months ago. “I think the two (companies) together will provide a very complete package for business to take advantage of,” Macklaier said.