A live experience is one of the most powerful, and most sharable, forms of status currency. Because let’s face it, if you weren’t there, then where were you?
It makes sense that institutions and brands are embracing live-streaming to open up these experiences to a wider audience. For World Ballet Day, the Royal Opera House broadcast 20 hours of non-stop filming from five of the world's top ballet companies, live across the globe. In September, Grey Goose and Chase sponsored Andy Roddick’s U.S. Open Periscope livestream and, every day, Livelist aggregates thousands of free live streamed music concerts and festivals.
But Streaming is not just for huge events. A host of platforms including Facebook Live, Snapchat and Periscope give us a window directly to our fans and followers, whenever we like. When BuzzFeed filmed two people putting rubber bands around a watermelon until it burst, the live video peaked at 807,000 viewers. Last summer, Grazia and Facebook collaborated on a series of live feature broadcasts from Facebook’s London HQ. The most successful was a roundtable debate concerning Brexit, where the format allowed viewers to submit questions over social media and feel like they were an integral part of the discussion.
As viewing habits switch from TV to social, the ability to interact with the content we’re watching will have even more value. YouTube recently introduced Super Chat. If a fan watching a live broadcast wants to stand out from the crowd, they can buy a message that will be highlighted in a bright colour and stay at the top of the chat window for up to five hours.
This form of social-streaming is huge in China. The number of app users topped 325 million at the end of June last year. Similarly to YouTube, video-sharing and live-streaming platforms such as Kuaishou, allow viewers to buy virtual stickers in return for a song or joke, or just to chat. The revenue is split between the app store, the broadcaster, and the live streaming platform. Although the amounts are small, added together they can make a big difference to someone on a low wage.
Alibaba, the ‘eBay of China’, has launched a separate app, Taobao Live, where viewers can watch live broadcasts of sellers describing their merchandise. Content streamed so far includes product reviews, new product launches, and limited-time discounts. To boost their earnings, sellers can also receive virtual gifts for their broadcast.
Live-streaming adds humanness on scale. It can bring brands and individuals closer to their fans, and it can make live experiences available to the masses. It allows us to talk in context, make connections and embrace imperfection. Everyone gets a front row seat.