I read an interesting article on Social Media Today regarding live streaming. It was an analysis of the viewers and content providers on Periscope. If you haven’t heard, Periscope was a start up company with an app that let anyone live stream. Twitter bought them for a reported $100 million and relaunched the app earlier this year.
The author wanted to know how many of the 10 million Periscope users were actually live streaming versus viewers who were watching. He performed an analysis of Tweets with links to Periscope streams and found that less than 3% were actually live streaming.
From there the author went on to show other studies that highlighted the fact that not that many people or brands are actually live streaming. It just seems that way because of how information is shared over social networks.
The article concluded with the following:
“The future of Periscope, and live streaming technology in general, is unclear. Will it be a flash in the pan, or will it morph into something transformative?”
I say that’s just a silly question (well, the live streaming part. I’ll give him the fact that Periscope’s future is unclear). Live streaming is here to stay, and it’s not a fad or flash in the pan. The technology behind it gets easier and easier with each iteration. As the technology gets better it reduces some of the risks involved in live streaming. That in turn makes it easier to plan, which will make it easier for more people and brands to use. Note that it isn’t necessarily hard today, it just takes preparation.
And as the technology gets better (and by that I mean both the equipment needed and the bandwidth available for streaming), the cost usually decreases as well. We’ve seen that with just about every kind of consumer technology including computers, Blu-ray players, and mobile phones.
Assuming that is all true, why wouldn’t live streaming have a bright future?
The truth is that live streaming has already begun to transform our world, and many of our lives. The easiest example to show that is live sports. It used to be your choices for watching live sports were to go to the event yourself, or watch whatever the broadcast networks wanted to show you. Now, you can find pretty much any professional sport live streaming online. And you can choose which teams or games you want to watch. If you’re a sports fan, that’s pretty transformative.
Another, completely different, application of live streaming is in the medical field. Last year a surgeon streamed a surgery using Google Glasses. He took questions from some of the 13,000 medical students watching him perform the procedure. Those students had the opportunity to experience the surgery from his point of view as well as get his first hand account of what was happening. Those students, and thousands of others watching live surgeries of all kinds, will ultimately be better prepared when they become surgeons. If you ever end up in hospital, that will be a comforting thought.
And as a consumer of live video, I have to say it holds a certain charm. It’s like watching a football game live versus a recording of it on your DVR the next morning. It’s seeing all the “wardrobe malfunctions” as they happen rather than after they’ve been edited out. Live is just more exciting.
Ultimately, that’s what will help live streaming grow in usage: Because people want to watch it and be a part of the action even if it is on the end of a very long Internet connection.
What do you think? Will live streaming become even more common, or will it be reserved for special niches like medicine and sports?