After years of making TV as polished and glamorous as possible, video content is going full circle, back to its roots in live broadcasting.
At TV and digital content event MIPTV a panel of experts called live streaming the “fasted growing area of digital”.
For Will Keenan, president of Stream Up, ‘live’ is the new disruption for television: “It is the new must-watch destination for television – it’s FOMO, fear of missing out,” he said. “I find it interesting that at the same time reality TV viewership was going down… viewership of online video bloggers, who in my mind became the new reality stars, was going way up. What was it about the online video bloggers? It was that genuineness, that authenticity.”
And how do you get more authentic than a video blogger making content in his bedroom? You speak to him live from his bedroom. “Now even viewership for online video blogging stars is going down,” explained Will. “Because you can’t get more genuine than live, you can’t fake it. A lot of the video bloggers now are looking overly polished and edited.”
For this new generation of online video star there is no fourth wall. Twitter’s Dan Biddle compared it to traditional linear TV: “TV is hermetically sealed…What’s interesting about YouTubers, people on Periscope and other platforms, they are aware of the frame”.
So the rise of live streaming platforms like Meerkat, Twitch and Periscope has grown from a desire for intimacy but also from a need for access and immediacy, as Dan Biddle put it: “It’s a drive towards that live moment… Now is better than later because later is closer to never.”
For many online influencers that move from platforms like YouTube or Instagram to live streaming apps, there is a relief that comes from a production time that’s basically zero. And a lot of them have found that the audience moves over to a new platform willingly. Although for mainstream media it would be more difficult according to Vigor Sörman from Unicorn Me, a company that creates apps for online talent: “If I create a Unicorn Me app with a traditional broadcaster we wouldn’t see that conversion… They can’t drive the same conversation as an influencer because the influencers have such a big impact on their audience… it becomes a tight family community.”
However that doesn’t mean that traditional media shouldn’t bother with live streaming. On the contrary, behind-the-scenes action, ad-break content and bonus interviews can help linear TV provide the 360 degree content viewers are looking for, and increasingly, expecting.
Obviously earning has to come in somewhere and for some live streaming platforms there are more and more innovative ways of monetising content. While Periscope doesn’t currently offer in-app monetisation there is always the option of branded content (something that might become easier now you can connect your GoPro, opening up a new freedom of movement for creators).
For the apps Stream Up and YouNow the monetisation options are more novel, with producers receiving virtual gifts (bought with real money) or cash “tips” from viewers. And we’re not talking about small change. According to Stream Up’s Will Keenan the top influencers can make up to $250 an hour. The money-making opportunities don’t stop there; apps can have their own ad networks and they are increasingly working on brand integration. Will summed it up perfectly to an audience in Cannes, “wherever the eyeballs go, the advertisers follow.”
Live taking over social
It isn’t just tailor-made platforms like the ones mentioned that are going after the ‘live’ view. According to the New York Post, Facebook and Twitter have also been battling it out for the rights to stream some of TV’s most conventional programming.
Currently only a small number of people use these apps, according to the Global Web Index 1.5% globally are engaging with Meerkat and just under 2% are using Periscope. But judging by the revelation that people on Facebook spend three times longer watching a live video compared to one that is no longer live, it’s not really surprising that the big players want a piece of the action.
Ad blocking also plays a part in the growing interest, as larger numbers of people are using apps to block publicity, everyone is looking towards a future where native advertising and branded content will play a much bigger role in our everyday viewing experiences.