Sports are canceled, concerts are canceled, conferences are canceled, anything involving interacting with other people in the physical world in real-time is canceled. Video chat has taken over communication with friends, family, and co-workers, but I’ve seen another trend, that I’d argue is just as powerful, involving how people and organizations are trying to reach their large audiences: Live-streaming.
From a galactic/alien-level view, you can simplify sports into business terms as a major market shareholder of the “live events” industry. For a few weeks already, and seemingly a few more months, (Disclaimer: I don’t know anything) that chunk of the market is completely wiped out, leaving a huge opportunity for other experiences to gain eyeballs.
Instagram Live, Facebook Live, Periscope (Twitter), and others have been around and widely-accessible for plenty of years already, but they’re now having their moment in the sun. The top bar of my Instagram and Twitter has been filled with live streams for weeks, I watched the ending of my favorite NBA Finals game replayed on Periscope, I’ve seen scheduled live-stream Q+As, and (maybe the wildest of them all) I saw a “periscope-hopping” audience making previously-anonymous people famous overnight. People have also been turning on-demand viewing into a “live event” with Netflix Party. Even HQ Trivia, the massive multiplayer live mobile game show came back.
There a few experiences that I think we’re seeing accelerate under quarantine:
- Direct-to-Viewer Live Content: The accelerated adoption of Periscope, IG Live, and other services could lead to an evolution of live-content that take us beyond “talking into phones.” We could start seeing content creators producing TV show equivalents by going live on these platforms, eventually having the potential to remove the need go through and middle-men or cable/satellite TV, while engaging their audience.
- Co-Viewing Platforms: Twitter previously streamed Thursday Night Football with an accompanying tweet-feed, but this only lasted for a year. To my memory, users could see a stream of either all tweets, or limit to a set of reporters. Netflix Party took a different approach to co-viewing, by enabling you to watch and talk with friends (people that you actually know). My opinion here is that a well implemented co-viewing network could drive stronger viewer engagement and retention by turning viewing into a group activity.
- Collaborative Shows: The IG Live pre-planned shows emerging so far are largely Q+A based, where the content creator is responding to select questions from their followers. Sports radio has had listener call-ins forever, but if a caller gets through screeners, they have the undivided attention of the hosts and the audience (which may not be ideal). Could the right creator strike the right mix of audience collaboration to develop a new type of entertainment medium that we haven’t seen yet?
A few ideas popped in my mind, which could be starting points for the next manifestation of these content/streaming experiences, if they are truly accelerating.
- Direct-to-Viewer Programmatic Advertising: New “direct-to-viewer” programmatic ad services could help creators monetize from live-streaming, and make automated targeted advertising accessible to any organization or content creator. This could incentivize less-viewed events (e.g., High School Sports) to stream, and over time develop better and better production in order to build their audience and increase advertising revenue. The streaming entity benefits since the increased content and viewership can bring in more ad dollars.
Side Note: Why isn’t programmatic targeted advertising in regular TV yet?
- Co-Viewing Anywhere: Create a collaborative viewing experience that can plug into any kind of content. Imagine you’re watching a game or reality show, and the feed of your friends and favorite commentators/bloggers who are also watching are streaming down the side, where you can directly interact. This experience could also be a group of friends all talking together while co-viewing, or a popular entity (e.g., sports blog) streaming their watch party. This could by tested by measuring viewer retention of co-viewing parties vs solo parties.
- Both (Direct-to-Viewer + Co-Viewing): A live-streaming service could could develop a new form of entertainment for live events by providing viewers with a co-viewing experience (high engagement) while providing direct-to-viewer broadcasters with programmatic advertising capabilities (incentive for broadcasters – no production costs to the streamer). This could start small with the less-viewed events, and if the co-viewing and advertising are both successful for viewers and creators, convince large-scale events or shows to forgo TV network incentives (pay per season/episode) for direct-to-viewer advertising incentives.