Video streaming on social media platforms has accelerated recently due to Meerkat and Periscope launching viewing apps and Facebook Live announcing its partnership with the NBA for the upcoming season. Although it is too early to fully understand what success will look like in the video-streaming space, it is clear that platforms have a long way to go before eating into the time people spend watching video via more traditional services. The video-streaming format offers interesting opportunities for rights owners, but production quality needs to improve and the best content needs to be found for the format to garner mass adoption.
Video streaming has huge potential – but needs improvement
The scale of many social media platforms provides professionals and amateurs alike with opportunities to promote and create entertaining and informative content that can be viewed by millions.
Examples of this include the "Exploding Watermelon Experiment" featured on BuzzFeed, where two employees of the company used a number of rubber bands to blow up a piece of fruit. The stream attracted a large number of viewers, but it did not use the same methodology as television, which suggested a much lower level of engagement than a similar audience in the linear space. Another example is Yahoo's stream of an NFL game which generated 33.6 million streams, but only accounted for 15.2 million unique viewers. Translated into a linear measurement, this would equate to an average audience of 2.4 million across the entire telecast, which pales in comparison to a linear broadcast.
Twitter has announced many partnerships in this space, including those with the NFL for the upcoming season, where it has reportedly sold a significant proportion of its ad inventory. It is also partnering with CBS for coverage of the Republican and Democratic political parties in the US during their respective conventions and has partnered with ESPN for coverage of the Wimbledon tournament.
Although these partnerships are impressive, the medium lacks the production quality and quality viewing experience of linear television that audiences and – more importantly for the social media platforms – advertisers value.
The BBC's coverage of the European football championship in France included live streaming fans' reactions in the fan viewing areas across Paris. This didn't work as well as its more professional efforts of covering the action in the stadiums. The impact of live streaming on breaking news was evident in the coverage of the recent terrorist attacks in Nice, France or the Black Lives Matters protests against the police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; however, these are not events that advertisers necessarily want to be associated with.
So far, real success has been offered by user-generated content such as the delight of Candice Paynes (aka "Chewbacca Mom") shown when filming herself unboxing a toy in a Dallas, Texas parking lot. The video, which she filmed on her phone, garnered 117 million views on Facebook, shattering records for video content on the platform.
This strange and unexpected gem perhaps best explains why, for now, success in the live streaming space won't be driven by expensive partnerships and highly paid professionals. New platforms create new forms of value, which often defy the tried and trusted mediums and methods of old.
"Concert promoters looking to build live-streaming businesses," ME0001-000166 (April 2015)
"Live performance video streaming moves towards the mainstream," ME0001-000367(April 2016)
Robin Lake, Principal Analyst, Digital Media