AlphaStar Rises Again As TV Webcaster9/05/1999 8:00 PM Eastern
From the ashes of AlphaStar Television Network, the
company's current owner, Mahmoud Wahba, has decided to abandon television to focus on
video streaming. Now called AlphaStarWebcasting.com,
Inc., the company has spent the past six months creating a global Web site that aggregates
live television stations, movies, Webcams and other video programming from all over the
Asked why he held on to the AlphaStar name, Wahba replied:
"Because it's a brand name. It's tarnished -- no doubt about it -- but it's a brand
name just the same."
The AlphaStar medium-power satellite service went bankrupt
two years ago, following an unsuccessful attempt to gain share in a direct-broadcast
satellite market dominated by smaller-dish systems. Wahba bought the remaining assets,
including its Oxford, Conn., satellite facility, several months later.
The East Coast teleport location allows AlphaStar to
downlink satellite feeds from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America, as well
as North America, Wahba said. This makes the Web site attractive to a wide audience.
"The minute you're able to put video on the Internet,
you've done three things," Wahba said. "It suddenly becomes global. It has the
ability to become interactive. And you know who your viewer is and what advertisements he
AlphaStar plans to promote its new Web site sometime in
mid-September, but the site has already received hits -- and e-mail -- from Web users
across the world, Wahba said. The site will have more than 50 television channels at
launch, and has signed agreements for 75.
Although many of the channels already have their own
Internet sites, Wahba believes having one global aggregator will help the programmers
attract more eyeballs.
"People don't want to go to hundreds of pages to find
different television stations," he said. "We will become a portal for world
Most of the international television stations that
AlphaStar receives via satellite for use on its Web site are government-supported
stations, which means AlphaStar has not yet had to address thorny copyright issues. The
U.S. television channels it carries, such as Bloomberg and C-SPAN, are there by way of
Internet links, not satellite.
The timing was right to consider a video-streaming business
for a number of reasons, according to Wahba. More Web users are moving to high-speed
Internet access, and new multicasting software from Real Networks Inc., Microsoft Corp.
and others brings video streaming picture quality closer than ever to broadcast television
The company may eventually offer subscription-based
programming as an add-on, Wahba said. At that point, AlphaStar would need to negotiate
license fees and copyright arrangements with networks.
"Internet streaming will probably lead to a change in
the copyright laws," Wahba predicted. "How do you define franchises
Before the company offers subscription programming, there
may be opportunities to charge one-time fees for special events, such as concerts and
sporting events, especially those that appeal to a global audience.
AlphaStar also hopes its wide reach will lead to
electronic-commerce opportunities. The company is already testing interactive video
technology on its site that will allow users to view products or real estate from a
360-degree angle using a roving camera technique.
"There are things that can be done on the Internet
that can't be done with traditional television," Wahba said.
Specialized video programming will be developed just for
the Internet, Wahba said. AlphaStar has signed agreements with a handful of content
companies, including ZeroOneFilms.com Inc., a
24-hour movie streaming service run by Wahba's two filmmaker sons.
Wahba said he expects to take AlphaStar public someday.
That could be a true test of the brand's resilience.