Sharing of live video streams has been around for a few years, with providers like Livestream allowing users to capture and share live streams via a camera, smartphone, or any other device. However, we haven’t seen live streaming become popular, as the existing streaming solutions have not been able to combine social media with an easy-to-use smartphone app.
Startups like Meerkat, Stre.am, and Periscope are now trying to disrupt live streaming by providing apps that allow users to live stream any experience from their smartphone through social media like Twitter or to any other platform. Meerkat, which launched in February 2015, was the most talked about company at South by Southwest (SXSW) 2015, the annual gathering of media and technology enthusiasts. At the event, the Meerkat CEO said that 20% of the company’s users are also consumers of content and watch 2 hours of video daily. Twitter also acquired Periscope for a reported $100 million in February 2015, and Periscope is expected to provide close competition to Meerkat.
The smartphone is the main driver for apps like Meerkat and Periscope as it becomes the main video capture device, providing both good quality cameras and mobile connectivity for streaming videos. The almost ubiquitous availability of high-bandwidth 3G and 4G networks is also a big contributor to the success of live streaming apps.
However, as live streaming goes mainstream, with celebrities starting to adopt these apps and providing live video feeds of their daily lives and experiences, and brands starting to use live streaming to enhance their reach to consumers, we are entering a new normal. This is a world where millennials have fewer reasons to turn on the TV with linear video programming finding it harder to compete for eyeballs.
The smartphone will remain the main vehicle of disruption, but wearable cameras provide a much better user interface for capturing longer videos or action sports moments that need hands-free capabilities. A wearable camera that is clipped or mounted on a user is more useful in specific circumstances, where the user can control the camera via a smartphone but no longer has to worry about holding the camera up for long periods of time. For example, news and media outlets can directly source live feeds from users in the case of breaking events, where journalists aren’t available, or possibly even have journalists use wearable cameras along with a smartphone to provide unique and different perspectives.
GoPro has already enabled live feeds for its Hero4 camera and has been streaming live game footage from athletes during NHL and XGames events. A GoPro Meerkat or Periscope channel has the potential to become as valuable as a GoPro YouTube channel, or perhaps even more so.
Lifelogging cameras like Narrative don’t support video today, but as the hardware improves and users demand video capabilities, lifelogging cameras will eventually support live video streaming. This trend could lead to a wider acceptance of wearable cameras in the consumer space, which has so far seen slow adoption. Continuous lifelogging is marketed as the main use case, but most users are unlikely to do continuous capture of images and moments. However, using a wearable camera for specific events like a birthday, wedding, or road trip makes much more sense, using it as an ad hoc device rather than something you wear all day, every day. And with live streaming, users have the option to capture a live video feed and share it with the world from their wearable camera, rather than their smartphone. Or simply have it handy in their pocket as and when needed.