After months (and years?) of speculation from all kinds of bloggers and media members, we finally have an official answer to the question of whether YouTube will ever get into the live-streaming video game: they will. YouTube today announced YouTube Live, which "will integrate live streaming capabilities and discovery tools directly into the YouTube platform."
The Details On YouTube Live
Everyone jumping for joy right now should probably calm down a bit and relax because YouTube Live is not rolling out to everyone just yet. Well, not for broadcasting purposes at least. Only select partners will be given the ability to stream live video, though it certainly sounds like more and more creators will be given access over time:
"Today, we'll also start gradually rolling out our live streaming beta platform, which will allow certain YouTube partners with accounts in good standing to stream live content on YouTube. The goal is to provide thousands of partners with the capability to live stream from their channels in the months ahead. In order to ensure a great live stream viewing experience, we'll roll this offering out incrementally over time."
It sounds like the same plan they've used for a lot of their added features: roll it out slowly to select partners first, eventually open it up to all creators. They probably don't want to overtax a new system (that's still in beta) and they also sound concerned about quality versus noise, which makes complete sense.
So, in other words, it's YouTube, only just for upcoming live streaming content. Sweet. There are also live comments, as you'd find on other live-streaming services, that allow viewers to interact with each other during the performance.
They've obviously been planning and coordinating this quietly behind the scenes for some time. Otherwise, there wouldn't be nearly as much upcoming live content.
What Are The Implications Of YouTube Live
They're huge. Phenomenally huge. I don't care what UStream's CEO says about not being scared of YouTube, he should be. While there are tons of video sharing sites and even several live streaming video sites, YouTube has brand recognition, reach, and consumer trust at levels that no one else in the game can compete with. They also have more funding and some of the world's top engineers on the payroll.
This announcement is a Mack truck. This is YouTube saying, "Oh hello there, UStream and Justin.TV, I hope you enjoyed your time as live streaming pioneers, but we'll be taking over the marketplace now."
Which isn't to suggest YouTube will put other live-streaming sites out of business. After all, there are plenty of competitors thriving in the traditional video platform space but those sites will never topple YouTube. They're able to carve out a nice slice of the marketplace, but it will never be the biggest. The same will likely occur in live streaming video. The existing services will probably survive, but they've most likely missed the window to own this market. They'll have to play the role of Pepsi, and settle for second place, which can be quite profitable in its own right.
Live streaming is a format that simply doesn't work for every content variety, topic, or performer. It won't replace traditional on-demand video. It's a niche, but it's one that has huge upside in the world of sports, music, entertainment, and other genres and, as we discussed recently, live streaming broadcasts can go just as viral as on-demand video. It was only a matter of time before YouTube jumped into this game, because it was only a matter of time before the users demanded it.
We've only seen the beginnings of what live streaming video can be used for, I'm thinking about education specifically, as a field with a huge upside for live video. You can bet that now that YouTube is officially in the live-streaming market, the format will flourish and begin to expand.