Live Streaming: The Next Mega-Market?
The idea of streaming content online is hardly new. Broadcasters have been doing it for many years, effectively simulcasting broadcast channels, but with platform-specific branding and commercials. Latterly, they have been investing in integrated playout systems to deliver these online streaming services, taking and adapting the broadcast feed.
The revolution has come with the ability for many more people to live stream. Relatively simple and affordable software, like OBS Studio (which is actually free), means that anyone can deliver content via a computer to a streaming network. These users are then free to create whatever output they want, mixing live feeds, recorded sources, graphics and more.
The problem is that it becomes very complex operationally. Decades ago, playout software was seen as desirable because it replaced teams of people loading and cuing VTRs, operating character generators, and bringing all the elements together through a master control switcher.
Today, integrated playout software, like PlayBox Technology, is so simple to implement and operate that it can reach down through the market, bringing broadcast-quality seamless and rich playout to many more users. The consequence is that many more people – like community groups and churches – are creating sophisticated live streams, and “broadcasting” for extended periods, thanks to automation.
While many of these users have their own, direct delivery routes to reach their niche audiences, the idea of live streaming on a public scale has recently and very dramatically grown.
This stemmed from e-sports streaming. Experts would host shows in which they skillfully demonstrated a game while entertaining the audience. Some of the most popular names built huge audiences: TimTheTatman pulled in more than 100,000 concurrent viewers for a recent stream.
Platforms have sprung up to support live streaming – and to amply reward the online stars. The original headliner is Twitch, with 140 million active users a month. It still accounts for 65% of live streaming hours watched.
More recently, YouTube has looked for a piece of this action, launching YouTube Gaming (and poaching some of Twitch’s biggest names). YouTube Gaming’s pitch is that it can be more than just e-sports streaming, encouraging its creators to grow their channels with regular videos, stories, shorts and replays of previous events.
In turn, by moving away from the huge gaming dominance of Twitch, it opens the platform up to other creators who want to include live streaming as part of their output. Obviously the ubiquity of YouTube (which claims two billion users worldwide, or half the active internet users) opens up the potential for growth (and income).
“What I really want YouTube to be is a platform that allows creators to thrive and build their own communities,” head of YouTube Gaming Ryan Wyatt recently said. And Devin Nash of a leading streaming talent agency says he is “100% convinced” that YouTube will be the top live-streaming platform in the next four to five years, not least because of the powerful recommendation algorithms that we all recognise.
Live streaming has already become a hugely competitive marketplace, and if they want to make an impact creators will have to deliver rich, varied content and the potential for advertising income, all linked seamlessly.
This applies to those who want to appeal to a smaller community rather than the global mass of e-sports fans. Houses of worship will want to create the same feeling of engagement and devotion, of being a part of a wider community in faith. Public bodies will want to draw citizens in to information about civic issues. Clubs and societies will want members to routinely view to understand more about their goals and achievements.
To achieve this, live streaming has to offer a broadcast-like experience. Do not give the audience a chance to turn away. If the presentation is not professional, then why should the audience accept the message as professional?
That is why PlayBox Technology is introducing tools, like the Mega ICX platform, which delivers virtualised content playout automation for media companies at all levels. Its modular, service-oriented architecture makes it flexible and scalable for all users from individual live streamers to fully redundant, cloud-based broadcast platforms, with a simple, streamlined web-based user interface to allow anyone to set up and deliver extended, complex, graphics-rich live broadcasting. Or streaming.