With requests for its Web-based conference call technology on a sharp rise, CCBN.com, an outsourcer of Web-based investor relations services, strengthened its partnership with Akamai Technologies to increase support for the growing technology. The new partnership is an extension of an existing agreement between Boston-based CCBN and Akamai, a provider of distributed content, streaming media and applications delivery services. While the new deal doesn't add new functionality, it does include an increase in dollars and breadth, according to Rob Adler, president of CCBN. "What we get back is a higher level of commitment to make us a priority client," he says. "It gives us 'platinum' service."
That should be critical if demand for CCBN's Web-based conference calls increases at current levels. Adler says he expects to provide the functionality to about 2,000 companies in the current earnings period. "Probably two companies did this on their sites in 1998," he says.
CCBN provides several levels of functionality for its 1,500 clients. At the very least, the company hosts a client's investor relations Web page on their site, in a seamless, transparent manner-handling technology development, maintenance and, in some cases, data. In addition, the company now puts clients' conference calls with analysts and media on their sites via RealAudio streams. Those conference calls can take several forms: A basic level service allows the client to give CCBN a phone number for its conference call. That number is given to Akamai, provides a URL that is placed on the client's site, allowing users to click on the address and, using RealAudio, listen to the call. A second level offers marketing services to generate interest in the call. A third level allows the client to integrate Power Point presentations into the live call.
The new agreement provides a more automatic interface between CCBN and Cambridge, Mass.-based Akamai. Previous communications were largely batch, e-mail-based. Now, the two companies use an Internet gateway to have real-time data transferred from CCBN's databases to Akamai's which confirms the conference call and provides a URL and dialing information in less than a minute.
"It just involved them doing a little programming using standardized XML stuff," says Bill Wheaton, director of sales, conference services, at Akamai. "Our system is fully Java- and XML-based."
CCBN's Adler says video streaming is the next major hurdle to approach in presenting investor calls on the Web, although he contends more widespread use of the functionality is about five years away.