“Yeah, but live video is just a fad”…

Although there is still much debate around who will be crowned the king of “live” (Facebook, Periscope or a dark horse of the future?), one thing is for certain, live video is making it’s mark and will continue to do so.

  The most viewed Facebook Live ever. 159 Million and counting…

The most viewed Facebook Live ever. 159 Million and counting…

Whether it’s a live stream of an over excited mum in a Chewbacca mask, or an on the ground look at the streets of Paris moments after it’s deadly terrorist attacks, there’s just something compelling about watching the world unfold live from your smartphone. Recent research by Facebook suggests that I’m not the only one who feels this addiction to live:

“People spend 3x longer watching live video compared to a video that’s pre-recorded (or no longer live).”

Why? Because it’s happening NOW. It’s live, it’s raw, anything can happen, and as humans we hate the idea that if we leave we might miss something that everyone else will be talking about tomorrow. Yes, FOMO! Live is an incredibly powerful tool that creates extremely loyal and active communities within a broadcast. As a viewer it makes you feel a part of something because you’re experiencing it in real time with the broadcaster and everyone else watching. The great thing about mobile live streaming is that ‘experiencing’ doesn’t mean just watching (like it does for traditional live TV). With apps such as Periscope and Facebook Live, live comments allows that active community of viewers to become highly engaged contributors who talk to the broadcaster (and other viewers) in real time. As a viewer, when you comment in a broadcast and you’re comment is acknowledged, you become even more invested in that broadcast. You’re more likely to continue watching (which is another reason why retention rates are higher for mobile live videos), and you’re also more likely to comment again. In fact, Facebook has seen a huge increase is comments on live videos compared to non-live:

… and just think about it for a second. When was the last time you left multiple comments on a YouTube video? But yet it feels absolutely natural to be sat in a live Periscope stream and sending 10 or 20 comments.

So why is this post titled “Yeah, but live video is just a fad”? Twitter bought Periscope for almost a $100m before the app was even released. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was quoted as saying that he was going “all in” with live video and that the company has made a “big decision to shift a lot of our video efforts to focus on Live”. And yet, I still get people tell me that live is “just a fad”. No, it’s not a fad, it’s the future.

Take politics for example, recently here in the UK, a lot of angry people put an X in a box and decided we no longer needed to be part of Europe. Like many political major events, the lead up to the vote was highly televised with multiple debates. However, politicians needed a way to reach a younger demographic. So for the first time ever, BuzzfeedUK teamed up with Facebook, invited 4 major political figures down to a makeshift studio, and live streamed the whole thing. Both the online audience and the live studio audience could put their questions to the political figures and watch them squirm as they tried to answer them. The online audience could even send in their ‘Facebook reactions’ which was then translated to a live swing-o-meter on screen to evaluate how each politician was resonating with those watching live on Facebook.

At the time of writing this blog post the four videos had cumulatively reached approximately 7.5 million views, bringing in more viewers than Sky News and ITV’s live TV debates combined (398,000 and 4 million respectively). Overall there have been 200,000 engagements across the four videos.

Where some people still believe Live Video is a fad, I can only see a rapidly growing future for the platform. We’re in the middle of a cord-cutting phase. Young people just aren’t interested in watching traditional TV anymore. In fact a study by the UK’s Ofcom revealed that since 2010, viewing on traditional TV dropped by over a quarter among 16–24 year olds. At a time where the future generations are watching less traditional TV, but their internet and social media usage is increasing, I don’t think it’s too far fetched to see the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Periscope etc as major players within TV 2.0 / Social TV in the near future. We’re already starting to see both Facebook and Twitter battling it out to obtain broadcasting rights to major worldwide events. Twitter announced in April that it will be live-streaming Thursday night NFL games this fall, and they recently tested their live streaming sports service with coverage of the Wimbledon tennis tournament. Meanwhile Facebook announced that the NBA will live-stream the US national team’s exhibition games on Facebook.

Future or Fad? You decide. Drop me a tweet @Alexpettitt and let me know what you think. You can also chat to me on Periscope by searching @AlexPettitt. I’m interested to hear your views on this 👍