Online video is incredibly popular, and owes a good deal of that popularity to its on-demand nature---users can watch what they want, when they want. However, there's a growing market for the exact opposite type of video content: live streaming. Live streaming video is maturing at a pretty impressive rate, as several events this week have shown. There are more streams, more viewers, and more platforms for live streams than ever before.
And audiences are proving they're willing to make exceptions to their online viewing habits when the live streams consist of the right type of content. It may take some time to figure out the content varieties that work best with online live streaming video, but a few are already becoming clear.
In recent weeks, we've seen record viewer totals for sports, concert events, and even a few animal-based broadcasts. And as distribution options continue to expand, live streaming is only going to grow.
Live Streaming Sports
The NBA streams its playoff games online--they are, of course, also on television. But this week the league is reporting a 93% increase in online viewers over last year's totals. That's astounding. It essentially means they've doubled their live streaming audience in a single year. More than 114 million views were recorded in the first week of the playoffs alone.
It's not too surprising in this case, because the NBA broke online viewer records during the regular season as well. In fact, live-streaming audiences are up for most major sporting events year-over-year, including the Masters and the NCAA March Madness tournament.
Live Streaming Animal Babies
Animals are turning into one of the more popular content topics for live streaming video, particularly when their young are concerned. Three weeks ago I wrote about the Bald Eagle live webcam that had gone viral. At the time the article was published, 11 million viewers had tuned in over a period of a few weeks---even more have watched since then.
That's been blown out of the water now, though, by the Shiba Inu puppies. You might remember the Shiba Inu puppies bursting onto the scene in 2008, when over four million people watched the young dogs play and grow and interact with each other. The owners have continued to breed their dogs, and the most recent litter is drawing an obscene number of viewers.
After only two weeks of broadcasting, over 27 million viewers have tuned in to check out the adorable little puppies (as I write this, 15,284 viewers are watching the feed live). That's... mind-boggling. It's as though the Internet has never seen a cute puppy before, which we know isn't the case. There's something about knowing the footage is live that draws viewers in a way that on-demand video never can.
Have a look for yourself:
Live Streaming Concerts
This year's Coachella music festival drew over 4 million viewers to the live-streaming coverage on YouTube, dramatically increasing the festival's reach far beyond those fans who physically attended (though I'm not sure I'm ready to agree with the Cnet author that the live streams changed the world).
It gave non-attendees an opportunity to experience the festival without having to travel or purchase a ticket. It was so successful, I think you might start seeing festivals like Coachella or Bonnaroo start charging a small fee for online access, as a way to boost revenue.
New Live Streaming Distribution Options
And now, as we reported a few weeks ago, YouTube is making their live-streaming technology available to partners, rather than using it for select special events. That means you're about to see a whole new world of live streaming video content--everything from musical performances to cooking shows to stand up comedy.
Now content producers can create and market live video content without leaving the comfort (and the revenue-generating ability) of YouTube.
The technology to broadcast live streaming video is cheap enough that almost anyone can afford to jump into the fray. As distribution options continue to expand---including the potential for YouTube to make live streaming capabilities open to every user---we're only going to see more and more live video content. Not all formats and genres will translate well to live video. But those that do---sports, animals, concerts, etc.---are likely to continue growing in popularity and total views for some time to come.