When Sony announced the schedule and broadcast details of its press conference at the E3 2015 event, its broadcasting outlets pretty much summed up what future Internet marketers were looking at. Sony live-streamed its press event on 15th June, 2015 via YouTube and Twitch.
Going Live, Online
Increasingly, live events are being broadcast and streamed live through video streaming websites like YouTube, UStream, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Twitch TV etc. and/or through mobile-based broadcast apps such as Periscope, Meerkat, etc. While Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) and Google’s I/O conference (both annual conferences are live-streamed for a few years now, considering their importance to the developer community and the web world in general) have always found live-streaming on multiple channels across the web, Periscope and Meerkat seem to have put the broadcasting and streaming power in the common user’s hands.
At the Coachella Music Festival 2015, this was more evident than anything else. While the festival has been streamed live on YouTube for nearly half a decade, the stream is pretty much a synthesis of what the organizers have planned for the streaming. A performance, followed by an interview, followed by another performance, and so on. 2015 was different though.
With Periscope and Meerkat available for users, many music lovers sitting at home got a peek into the festival from a festival-goer’s point of view. Needless to say, this lent a new dimension to the way people saw Coachella from the comfort of their homes. From backstage feeds to private parties and visitor interviews, Periscope and Meerkat covered Coachella in a way its official stream did not!
Needless to say, user-created broadcasts are a hit amongst smartphone users. I downloaded Periscope app the day it was launched on Google Play Store (Periscope started as an iPhone only app with an Android version under development during its launch) and could see that many were excited about using it without having much of an idea of what the app’s ultimate purpose was. Amongst the first few broadcasts I watched was one unending still-motion broadcast of Toronto’s harbour-front with routine afternoon traffic whizzing past, the camera perched on top of what seemed like a skyscraper. It was pretty much a senseless broadcast (a live version of Google Maps if you may call it) with rather ordinary video quality, and yet, close to 80 people were watching it simultaneously. And this, only about an hour since the app went live on Play Store.
Twitch.tv, launched in 2011, have 100 million unique users every month with 11 million videos (Source) being broadcast per month! The new challengers to Twitch aren’t far behind either, with Meerkat acquiring a user base of 2 million within 3 months of its launch, while Periscope crossed the 1 million user mark within 10 days of its launch (Source). The biggest argument the new apps have in their favor is expediency. Periscope and Meerkat are free, convenient, and easy to use interfaces. Periscope (which is a Twitter app), allows users to share their broadcasts on Twitter. In this circumstance, where Twitch loses out is that it is seen as (and maybe is) largely a gaming-specific streaming site.
As discussed above, if Twitch is looking for a larger audience, it needs to broaden its appeal. Then again, it is still clocking more users and streams than Periscope and Meerkat and hence has time to catch up. While the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. have their niche and user base (Netflix has more subscribers than Digital Cable TV provider Comcast in the US) established, they carry streams provided by producers and organizers. The end-user can only subscribe and watch. Periscope and Meerkat puts this very end-user in the driver’s seat when it comes to broadcasting.
But it is a dicey game to play. The Floyd Mayweather – Manny Pacquiao boxing match last month drew unwanted attention for over 50 odd streams that were live on Periscope, illegally. Since the number of streams at any given point of time as of now is pretty low, it seems possible for a team of humans to counter withdrawal requests and take down streams but what about when streams and traffic to these streams increases?
Meerkat and Periscope are going to have to come up with some sort of mechanism to auto-block or auto-withdraw illegitimate streams on requests, and do it quickly. YouTube has it in place already and there’s no wonder it is one of the leading sites on the web today. As the user base on some of these new streaming apps increases, piracy concerns over its content too would increase. To stay ahead of it, they would need to start thinking, if not acting, immediately, to put an anti-piracy apparatus in place.