The Truman Show is one of my favorite movies. It examined the possible future where every moment of a man's life might be broadcast on television for the world to see (EdTV, a similarly-premised movie, came out the same year). A few years ago, Justin.tv did just that—though, granted, it wasn't for 30+ years of his life. But the advent of live-streaming web video technology has made so-called "life-casting" possible, whereas it was still just a fanciful story concept back in 1998 when The Truman Show came out.
One thing we've learned in the relatively short lifespan of live streaming online video, is that audiencesare probably not going to tune in to watch every single second of one person's life—even Justin.tv saved some moments as private ones not for the viewers' consumption, and most viewers weren't interested in those moments to begin with. The mundane is front and center with lifecasting, and unless there is an obvious imminent event looming… viewers will get bored and tune out.
But they might tune in for a live stream that promises something unique and awe-inspiring on the horizon. Like a Bald Eagle cam. That's right… I'm suggesting viewers might be pretty darn interested in live-streaming video of bald eagles, and I'm suggesting it because they clearly are.
In fact, over 11 million people have tuned in at one time or another to watch a pair of bald eagles nesting in Iowa. Activity is only going to ramp up this week, as the last of the eggs is about to hatch. There's even a YouTube version of the first egg hatching a couple days ago (the YouTube clip itself has nearly a million views):
Let's put this into perspective a bit, shall we? Charlie Sheen… he of the recent media blitzkrieg, multiple interviews, public meltdowns, sold-out stage tours, and more… Charlie's live-streaming show on UStream hasn't yet reached 1 million viewers. That's right, the public is more interested in the birth of some baby eagles than in the incoherent ramblings of a burnout celebrity… by more than ten times.
Doesn't that just make you feel great about the world?
Of course, the eagles aren't the first baby-animal-live-streaming sensation. I'd probably have to give that honor to the Shiba-Inu puppies channel, which has amassed nearly 30 million views in the last three years (there have been multiple litters over that time).
What's the takeaway here? I'll make it as obvious as I can: live streaming video can pull huge viewership numbers. Huge. There have been critically acclaimed traditional online video ads with far-fewer views than the eagle cam has. While it's tempting to ignore live-streaming video, mostly because the viewers tend to love the on-demand nature of online video more than anything else, let's not make live-streaming too small a niche in our minds. It's potential is gigantic.
What live video does that on-demand cannot is create that feeling of "being there" for an exciting or historic event. For many viewers, there is an appeal to seeing something live that can't be reproduced by watching a taped-earlier version–such as with a sporting event, concert, or breaking news. This is where live streaming video will make its mark… and soon.
Heck, the just-completed NCAA men's basketball tournament drew 47% more online viewers than last year's event. 47% is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, I'm quite sure most businesses I work with would take a 47% increase in Twitter followers, new leads, or customers.
It's only a matter of time before YouTube releases their own live-streaming service—or purchases one–maybe they're taking so long because they're trying to perfect it. And as the bald eagles are teaching us this week, when the content is right… people will flock to live-streaming video footage in truly viral-type numbers.
If you're curious about the eagles—and not too scared of heights or squeamish about dead rodents in the nest—you should check it out. And the sooner the better—the final egg is expected to hatch any day now. Here's an embedded version of the live stream (click on the small play button in the control bar):