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Technology Trends: Live Video Streaming For All
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Technology Trends: Live Video Streaming For All - Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: Live Video Streaming For All

Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: Live Video Streaming For All

Life is Live
Live video streaming is not new, but recent developments in high-profile platforms have made it more accessible, shaking up the delivery of media content, and brought to the mainstream major ethical, philosophical, and practical issues once limited to specialized corners of online culture. Facebook Live, a recently introduced feature allowing Facebook users to broadcast live from mobile devices, puts live-streaming into the hands of anyone with a smartphone, with an audience of practically limitless size. Such integration with a platform already in use by almost everyone opens up new possibilities for all kinds of content, and it seems that everyone from creators to consumers is paying attention.

How We Got Here
Early live streaming concepts have brought us to this point, though it would have been easy not to notice. Ten years ago, Justin.tv gave a free channel to anyone who wanted to broadcast something. The novelty seemed to wear off quickly for just about everyone except one specific group of viewers: young video game enthusiasts who enjoyed watching other gamers play their games. This led to the creation of Twitch, a video-game-specific live-streaming platform acquired by Amazon two years ago for a reported $970 million. Other streaming services carved out their own small, specific audiences. Ustream and Concert Window became popular with video bloggers and independent musicians as a way to connect directly with fans. Google Hangouts and Skype offered more private, conversational applications for meetings or personal interaction.

Live is Mobile
Then, in early 2015, the buzz out of the annual South by Southwest Interactive festival was all about Meerkat, a mobile app that allowed easy live streaming anywhere. Content creators could invite specific people to view live video, or could open it up to anyone who might stumble in. Since Meerkat could connect to Facebook and Twitter, followers could initially search for streamers by geographic location, drop in on live video as it was being streamed, and interact with creators. The massive size of Twitter and the interactivity made it an automatic real-time social network of deliverers and receivers.

Only a few weeks after Meerkat’s introduction, Twitter cut off Meerkat’s access to its social graph, the data that gave Meerkat its info about users’ geography and connectivity. Twitter then introduced its own recently acquired live streaming app, Periscope, which then had the advantages of Twitter’s giant user base and social connectivity. It remains popular with the Twitter-Instagram crowd.

Live is Already on Everyone’s Smartphone
Facebook Live was rolled out early this year. Now, users can touch an icon in an app they’re already familiar with, instantly streaming their own live video, and notifying their network of friends that they are doing so. Friends receive push notifications that “so-and-so is live,” making it as easy to view the live video as any other feature of the Facebook app. The learning curve is practically non-existent, and FB Live taps into the sense of fun that Meerkat and Periscope latched onto, but ad an accessibility that the other services can’t touch. When a 37-year-old Texas mother donned a Chewbacca mask and streamed herself live for four minutes, laughing joyously as she drove her car, the video she created was shared more than three million times by other users, turning her into a minor celebrity and showing everyone how easy and fun FB Live could be.

Live Impact
Seemingly overnight, everyone was broadcasting live. Parents streamed their kids’ baseball games. Concertgoers gave friends a glimpse of what they were missing out on. The casts of upcoming movies held Q & A sessions with their fans. Political candidates held virtual town hall meetings for their constituencies. Sharing live video became as easy as sharing a selfie; streaming had broken through to the masses.

Live Issues
It wasn’t long before the darker side of content delivery emerged. Issues that plagued Justin.tv ten years ago now intruded on FB Live, but of course on a much more enormous scale. What are the intellectual property implications of people streaming copyrighted content, such as movies or music? What behavior in live streaming is considered inappropriate or illegal, and how is Facebook going to monitor such activity when its user base is literally hundreds of millions of users? Facebook almost surely never planned to be an instrument of citizen journalism, but some of its more high-profile stories show that this is what many users want to do with it, bringing up even more questions about journalistic ethics when citizens don’t have the professional boundaries respected by traditional reporters.

Facebook’s size and considerable resources give it the wherewithal to address the issues head-on, something that smaller platforms could never do, so while red zones are popping up all over this new territory, if someone’s going figure out how to navigate it, it could very well be Facebook.

What’s Live Next
Major broadcasters are paying attention, many of them leaping at the opportunities for new ways of getting content into consumers’ hands. Last year, the National Football League streamed a football game on Yahoo, a meaningless, low-interest game that drew fifteen million viewers. The potential was clear, though, and this season, the NFL will broadcast ten Thursday night games for free, an agreement for which Twitter paid $10 million. Speculation is that Twitter will stream games along with a curated stream of live-tweeted reaction, which is how many sports fans watch games anyway, only now the game and the commentary will be on one screen, in one place. Facebook was reported to be in on the early talks for acquiring these rights, but it isn’t far-fetched to imagine that something similar in the realm of entertainment must be around the corner.

Possibilities seem endless and intriguing, and it’s going to be fun to keep an eye on this space as new developments emerge.


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Technology Trends: Live Video Streaming For All - Executive Leadership Articles

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