Live streaming has been in existence for nearly two decades, but in the past 18 months it has become the white hot topic of the media, technology and social industries. Although I’ve been in the live streaming space since its inception, it’s a nascent business with impactful and outright amazing possibilities for all stake holders, including content owners, brands, creators, platforms, enterprises and influencers.
How did we get here?
Internet and digital video has become the focal point of our connected society. In the next several years, 10 billion additional connected devices will enter the market, and a billion more people will obtain internet connectivity. This means video will only continue to thrive.
The online video world for the past two plus decades has been architected with a video on-demand focus. If you want to watch a music video, you visit VEVO. If you want to watch a TV show, you visit Hulu. For movies, you turn to Netflix. And for any and all on-demand video, there's YouTube.
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Over the past several years, we’ve experienced a dual phenomenon -- an explosion of connected devices, most notably smartphones with the ability to play pristine HD high quality video and propagation of rapidly adopted social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat.
In a highly connected digital world, it turns out people want to have collaborative, participatory exchanges in real time. Moreover, the world in parallel is moving to an experience economy, largely fueled by the millennial generation. This group is estimated to be 77 million strong, and they place a priority on attending events and having experiences versus acquiring and purchasing material possessions. If they cannot be there in person, they greatly desire to attend virtually and live stream these experiences to connect with their friends anywhere, in real time via their connected devices.
The growth and expansion of the digital and live music business is a perfect example. Live Nation is thriving as a provider of concerts, festivals and music tours all over the world. On Nov. 2, the company reported its best third quarter in company history and is on track for a record year for earnings and operating incoming. In the U.S., one in five millennials will attend at least one music festival, traveling an average of 903 miles to do so. According to Havas, 52 percent of Americans would tune into a live stream festival or concert if were available to them.
The watershed moment.
Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg has championed live video and made it both a priority and a passion at Facebook. In the spring of 2016, Facebook launched live video and later that year, made it a priority on the platform. Soon after, Facebook was reporting that live video was being watched three times longer than non-live video, and a transformative engagement strategy was both born and validated.
The 3-headed monster facing Madison Ave.
Entering 2017, brand marketers and advertisers were facing full-on disruption in the form of both cord-cutting and ad blocking. Thought to be myth for many years, the cord-cutting epidemic has arrived. An estimated 700,000 U.S. households will cut the cord in 2017, pushing the total number of cord-cutting households to 7.4 million, according to data firm Emarketer.
Verizon estimates the millennial cord-cutting percentage to be 40 percent. The millennial consumer is not watching NBC on Thursday night and sitting through the State Farm commercial. A total of 22.2 million U.S. adults will have cut the cord on cable, satellite or telco TV service to date. That's up 33 percent from 2016. Meanwhile, the number of “cord-nevers” (consumers who have never subscribed to pay TV) will rise 5.8 percent this year, to 34.4 million.
Compounding the problem for brands is the silent killer -- ad blockers. Ad blockers are now reported to be installed on more than 615 million devices. Ad efficacy has become a documented challenge.
In 2017, brand safety became a third major problem for advertisers in that brands found their ad inventory next to dubious user generated content -- fake news, propaganda, polarizing videos, etc. In fact, P&G slashed digital ads spending by $140 million over brand safety concerns in Q2 of 2017. Verizon, AT&T and Johnson & Johnson canceled significant ad spends on YouTube in 2017 due to brand safety issues.
Live stream video powered and presented by brands. Viewers want that real time collaboration and participation, and they are more than happy to have that made available to them by a brand.
The Red Bull space jump had massive tune-in on platforms. Coachella’s live stream on YouTube features three simultaneous channels of live performances all weekend from more than six stages with iconic, multiplatinum and emerging artists presented to the viewer by T-Mobile. (And in past years by Wrigley’s 5 Gum and State Farm.)
The live streaming platform Twitch, now part of Amazon -- a $900 million acquisition -- draws millions of viewers who collaboratively watch live gaming and other forms of live media.
Coca-Cola Mexico live streams the iconic Vive Latino music festival in Mexico City out to the whole country from their CocaCola.fm property. This past year, it offered the live stream on their Facebook, YouTube and Twitter channels, including a live VR and 360 stream on YouTube, directed by the band Muse’s video director.
Snickers broadcasted a live commercial in the third quarter of the Super Bowl and augmented that with 36 hours of continuous live streaming on snickerslive.com and Facebook live. The results were startling: 1.5 billion unique impressions, 5 million live streams served and 20 million minutes of branded content consumed.
Artists like Esperanza Spalding live streamed the making of her new record in a continuous 77-hour live stream, and Katy Perry offered a 96-hour live stream of her life to promote her Witness tour.
Five years ago, I launched a live streaming agency. We were very early to the market and had to conduct a lot of evangelism and education. Today, we have a live streaming industry bursting at the seams and opportunities abound for companies, agencies, platforms and entrepreneurs.
The impact that live streaming offers is undeniable, especially in the concept of engagement. We’ve seen live streaming experiences where the average viewer duration times exceeds 20, 30, 40, 50, even 60+ minutes. The experience economy is also the attention economy and capitalizing on this ability to connect and engage viewers is an industry in and of itself.
Live streaming has connection and engagement possibilities in all content genres: music, art, fashion, food, wellness, news, learning, faith, causes, etc. It allows for real time feedback where you can introduce polling and trivia into an experience. The companion social stream helps drive and shape the conversation. The resulting data tells the content owner or brand where people are, how long they watched, what were trending topics and what device profiles were used. Who was on Android versus who was on iOS for example. This is data that will develop go-forward strategies.
Entrepreneurs can specialize in not only the content genres, but tech, execution, marketing, education and platforms like Facebook, Twitter Periscope and YouTube offer very user friendly ways to broadcast yourself. Live streaming is a compelling way to develop and reach an audience at scale. Building a schedule of ongoing live programming brings the audience along to subsequent events and builds a cadence. Live events and experiential engagements are meaningful ways to connect with consumers in a room of any size.