The Livestreaming Arms Race

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Live video is making the world more interconnected than ever before. Real-time broadcasting is now being leveraged for a multitude of purposes, whether it is uploading a video to a friend’s social media page, reporting breaking news, or updating audiences digitally from a major event. It comes as no surprise that the tech titans in the industry have jumped headfirst into the trend—Facebook pays celebrities millions of dollars to use Facebook Live, YouTube has brought “live” to mobile, Instagram has unveiled a new “stories” feature, and Twitter is rumored to be exploring a deal with Apple TV to stream its live content.

The History of Livestreaming

Livestreaming is not a revolutionary technology; it has been on the internet in various forms for over a decade. Mark Cuban’s stream of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in 1999 was the most notable turning point (despite being a very slow rendering one). Livestreaming then went personal with such services as Justin.TV, UStream, Meerkat, Periscope and Twitter entered the market by acquiring Periscope and Amazon made waves by buying Twitch in a billion dollar play. So what triggered the “Big Internet Companies” to push Live with such vigor?

Why Now?

Consumers’ on-demand mindset triggered the rise of new technologies such as DVRs, time-shifted TV, even “Netflix and Chill,” and has led to the increased importance of live content for TV over the years. It’s no secret that Internet giants covet TV ad dollars so there certainly are motivations to pursue Live video. However, one could argue that there is a more pressing strategic driver: the growth of Snapchat.

The Paradigm Shift

While Snapchat does not offer truly live video, it has prompted a paradigm shift through its Live Stories and selfie-centric camera to a more organic and ‘first person perspective’ focused on capturing the NOW. Enabling a casual, stream-of-consciousness broadcasting of what people are doing in the moment, Live Stories, if done correctly, can make users feel like they are present with the person Snapping – a solution for satisfying your inner voyeur. It’s for this reason that celebrities have become heavy users of the platform; they can connect with their fans by taking them to the red carpet, behind the scenes or show makeup tutorials all in real time.

For these reasons, Snapchat’s Live Stories have been eating into the mindshare of the other major social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, as it gives users the most real, of-the-moment experience. The company’s continuous innovation is continuing to garner a larger and larger audience as it launches new capabilities such as selfie filters, enabling people to see what’s going on in the world with Discover and connecting celebrities with their fans on an unprecedented level. It all comes back to the successful strategy: what is happening NOW.

The Tech Titans’ Response

Snapchat’s remarkable success with personal, in-the-moment video, has triggered the other Tech Titans to follow suit. Since Snapchat’s launch and tremendous rate of growth, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram have all rolled out live video stories and are investing millions to ensure their success.

As of right now, Facebook Live and the recently launched copy of Live Stories within Instagram are moving most aggressively toward Snapchat. Back when Snapchat was mostly about ephemeral messaging, Facebook showed its appreciation of what Snapchat might become by trying to acquire it with a multi-billion dollar offer. After being rebuffed, the once “cool” platform to share and connect with young people attempted to mimic Snapchat with Poke, but now Snapchat has become the place to share and be seen in real time.

What Lies Ahead

The NOW has become the focus of all social platforms, especially Facebook, who has demonstrated an uncanny ability to rally the troops around perceived “threats.” The infamous stories of how Facebook went into a lockdown to ward off Google+ are now part of Silicon Valley lore. Now, Facebook Live is essentially its version of lockdown for Snapchat. And the fact that Facebook Live is being used to broadcast protests and other pivotal events, as controversial and gut-wrenching as it has been at times, is validation that Facebook’s approach is starting to work.

Snapchat started the NOW revolution and forced the other platforms to take notice and recognize that live video is their best shot at recapturing consumer and brands’ mindshare. The livestreaming arms race is well underway, but which platform will become the dominant player in owning the NOW?

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