A few highlights of my career


Erik Schwartz speaking on the Imagine Park stage at INTX in Boston in May of 2016

BitTorrent Live

I ran the BitTorrent Live business unit. I led a high performing, data driven Scrum team of engineers, designers, and business development pros that built and launched a subscription based, end to end live video streaming TV platform on mobile (iOS/Android), OTT (tvOS/FireTV/AndroidTV), desktop and browser, based on a totally custom technology stack.

As a platform, BitTorrent Live was both a B2B service (to broadcasters) and a consumer service (to subscribers).

The team built:

Scaling-Costs.jpg
  • Custom P2P live video streaming protocol that scales to any number of concurrent viewers at a fixed cost
  • Custom cross platform openGL UX framework optimized to overlay video
  • Live video ingest systems via satellite and internet
  • Monitoring and Ops tools
  • Automated video archive and play-out servers for live to VOD
  • Dynamic video ad insertion system based on programming, user profile, and pod size
  • Transaction and payment systems.
  • User authentication systems
  • Content protection and DRM systems
  • Raspberry Pi based dashboards
  • Metadata/scheduling systems

The launch of BitTorrent Live got a lot of press coverage:


BitTorrent News

BitTorrent News was an ephemeral live video news network that ran during the 2016 US presidential election. Its genesis was at the 2016 New Hampshire primary as a way to experiment with live video, push data, and community. We ran through the primary and debate season. We were credentialed by the House of Representatives TV and Radio gallery to provide live coverage from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the Democratic National convention in Philadelphia. On a very limited budget and with a skeleton crew we did 100 hours of live coverage from the conventions. BitTorrent News continued to cover the general election, the debates, through the inauguration.

Below are some sample clips from the RNC and the DNC and also some press coverage of our coverage (how meta). 

Politico write up

The New York Times gave a write up to our RNC coverage.

 

Synchronize.TV

I ran a research project operating in Google Ventures startup lab on integrating second screen mobile devices with television. The focus was on tying real time push data to live TV.

The team built:

  • Hybrid video/data systems. Custom targeted data overlays over live video
  • Situational statistics - live, context sensitive, second screen, push sports statistics
  • Automated content recognition system and synchronization system and associated APIs
  • Natural language processing tools to parse TV content in real time using Python NLTK
  • Tools for correlating TV transcripts with social media stream and video clipping tools (SnappyTV)
  • Natural language based content recommendation system

 

Deconstructed Television

Television is rarely just a stream of images coming from a camera. It is a composite presentation of multiple sources of video, with data overlays assembled at the broadcast or streaming source. Deconstructed television keeps all of the data sources separate through the transmission process. This enables the creation of a medium in which video and data are delivered in native form across all of a user’s devices, where it can be composed, consumed, shared, and interacted with, on the most appropriate screen and with the most appropriate tools.

2011 Demo of Synchronize TV NewsMapper application and integrated video clipping service

2011 demo of our Context API provides information about the content of programming in the form of keyword density in a given time window on a channel or in a specific show.

Very early SynchTV demos from October 2010.

Some press coverage:

 

Situational Statistics

We also built a live, first screen-aware, context sensitive, second screen, push sports application.

sitastat2.jpg
SitStat1.jpg

Foneshow

In 2006 I saw the cell phone become an mainstream device. But in 2006 building a mobile application required a partnership with a cellular carrier and handset manufacturers. My long time friend Nic Wolff and I invented a method to leverage existing applications and capabilities of the handset (SMS and voice) to create a new kind of off-deck broadcast application. We sent users an access number via SMS. By then cross referencing the number we sent with the automatic number identification of the handset they are dialing from we were able to offer an almost limitless catalog programming with only a small number of access numbers.

We patented the technology and in 2007 raised $2M in venture capital.

The backend was based on Asterisk open source PBX. We virtualized almost all our services on the very early versions of Amazon's S3 and EC2 services.

Foneshow mobilized the radio industry and changed it from a broadcast model to a cell phone based, on-demand, narrowcast model. As CEO I managed operations, product, and business development of both SaaS and consumer product lines. We had deals with the top brands in radio including CBS, ABC, Fox News, Triton, NPR, Premiere Radio, and many others. In addition we had deals with several sports leagues including the NHL, PGA, and NASCAR.

In 2008 we launched Foneshow Breaking News. Foneshow Breaking News offered a free, advertising-based solution to news organizations seeking a more efficient platform to distribute information to their audience. By leveraging the cellular telephone network, Foneshow Breaking News enables reporters to file stories on-site as news breaks and allows producers to distribute information to virtually any wireless phone in the world.

Every step of the news distribution process was made easier with the Foneshow Breaking News. Wherever or whenever there is a breaking news event, a reporter, producer, web staff, or other personnel can file a report from their cell phone by simply dialing a number provided by Foneshow. As a story is filed it is instantly sent to a producer or editor via email, who merely has to add a headline and any necessary text to publish the "Foneshow." Audience members sign up to receive news alerts on a content provider's website, and as soon as news breaks they receive a text message with a customized embedded phone number to call and listen to the audio report of the news.


Yahoo!

In early 1997 I was hired by Yahoo! as their first employee focused on entertainment. The mandate I was given when I arrived was to build a team from scratch and develop what were essentially news sites about entertainment.

I wanted to do more than that.

I wanted to make Yahoo! a destination for entertainment, not just a resource for information about entertainment. I wanted Yahoo! itself to be entertaining, not just informative. This primarily manifested itself in the creation of Yahoo! Games (which for 15 years was the internet's leading casual, social game site) and Yahoo! Radio (which was our first foray into streaming media). I built the team and managed the P&L (which grew from zero to ~$50M).

While I was there my team built:

  • Y!/MTV UnfURLed - A co-branded site with MTV Networks
  • Yahoo! Games
  • Yahoo! Movies
  • Yahoo! TV
  • Yahoo! Comics
  • Yahoo! Astrology
  • Yahoo! Radio
  • Yahoo! Music
  • Yahoo! Entertainment

By late 1999 I started to become very frustrated by Yahoo!'s direction. Despite my very loud protestations about hiring and directions Yahoo! continued down what I saw as a destructive path. I tried as hard as I could to turn the ship but I was unsuccessful in fixing what saw going wrong. I eventually left and Yahoo! never recovered their central role in the development of the internet.


ICTV

In 1990 I was hired as part of the initial team at ICTV. ICTV was one of the first companies working on interactive television. 

My initial role was a software engineer developing UI and UX for use in an NTSC environment. We did a lot of prototyping with Hypercard, SuperCard, and MacroMind Director with serially controlled laser disc players as a video source. We developed custom hardware including IR remote controls and set top boxes. I did some of the first work in interactive television interface paradigms that are used to this day in applications like Netflix and Amazon Video. ICTV patented much of the seminal work I was involved in and those patents were the subject of ICTV winning a $78 million judgment against Verizon.

In 1992 ICTV partnered with Cox Cable, IBM, and Zenith to deploy our technology on Cox's cable plant in Omaha Nebraska. My role transitioned from engineering to product and program management. I was mentored and trained by some terrific IBM product managers. One of my jobs was working with IBM Media lab in Atlanta and the Hollywood studios supervising some of the first MPEG digitization of Hollywood programming. In 1994 we deployed the first fully digital video on demand (VOD) over cable system in Omaha. The video was served from an IBM ES9000 main frame computer. While the technology worked, the economics of using a main frame to deliver video did not work.

In 1995 I led the product side of the team, working in conjunction with the engineering team, which refocused the company from VOD to delivering content from the brand new world wide web to consumer's television sets. Cox (who was also an investor) agreed to let us trial the new system on their Santa Barbara California plant.

During 1995 and 1996 as Director of Content I led the team that developed HTML interfaces for an NTSC environment. We built applications. We partnered with third parties to assure their programming working within the colorspace and interlace challenges of NTSC.

At the end of 1996 my background working both in Silicon Valley as a product manager and working with Hollywood studios brought me to the attention of Yahoo! who recruited me to start their entertainment group.

ICTV has since merged with Active Video and is currently owned by Arris and Charter Communications.


convergence.jpg

Speaking

I have been privileged to regularly speak to my peers and colleagues at conferences and seminars in the areas of technology, media, and journalism.

This is an incomplete list:

  • NAB (National Association of Broadcasters)
  • INTX (The Cable TV Show)
  • Streaming Media East
  • Streaming Media West
  • TVOT (TV of Tomorrow)
  • Digital Hollywood
  • Radio Ink Convergence
  • Radio Ink Forecast
  • Podcamp
  • Online News Association
  • Radio and Television News Directors Association
  • Talkers New Media
  • VentureWire Wireless Innovations
  • Venture Summit East
  • WebInno
  • The Conclave

 


Publications:

Well, not strictly speaking publications in the canonical academic sense. While I have written thousands of pages of specifications, market requirements documents, product roadmaps, and product manifestos, they remain the proprietary intellectual property of my past employers. But the press has written a lot about products I have built. You can find a selection of those clippings, a few blog posts I have written and a patent application here.



I used to blog regularly. Here is an archive of some old blog posts mostly centered around starting up and running Foneshow from 2006-2010