The State of Corporate Streaming 2016
In the corporate space, 2015 was the year of new, easy-to-access live streaming platforms, as well as the continuing development of on-demand video platforms, and both will continue to flourish in 2016.
Since last March’s SXSW, where Meerkat made its first big splash, the talk among social media and video teams has been about what these platforms can be used for and how they can benefit the average corporate communications strategy.
Video Explodes on Social Media
Periscope, Facebook Live, and (for a while, Meerkat) offer similar experiences, allowing a user to stream live directly from a mobile phone. Apps that do exactly the same thing have been in existence for years, but have never really become mainstream tools for three primary reasons: reliability and stream quality, video production quality, and the lack of functionality to make them available to a wide audience.
What’s different with these new apps is better integration with social media, an increase in phone camera quality, and to some degree, hype.
Social integration is fundamental to the resurgence of these kinds of apps, as this functionality attracts an audience to a live stream and in turn drives more social traffic. That was the reasoning behind Twitter’s acquisition of Periscope for a reported $57 million while it was still in beta.
Around the same time as the acquisition, Twitter also blocked Meerkat’s use of its social graph, which was used to help distribute live links. Even though this slowed down Meerkat’s growth curve, it led the platform to develop a relationship with Facebook so it can now publish to both platforms—making it the neutral proposition between Facebook and Twitter. Still, Meerkat was never able to rebound from Twitter's social graph blocking, and pivoted away from live steraming in early 2016.
The third platform is Facebook Live, which was released in autumn 2015 as part of the Mentions package. Mentions is a series of tools originally available to particular verified accounts, such as celebrities and sports stars. Facebook began rolling out the feature to other users in December, and has since expanded availability to all users.
Facebook Live offers very similar functionality to Periscope.
These apps have garnered significant exposure. But how does that translate into raw numbers?
Numbers for Facebook Live have not been available, mainly due to the userbase being only verified users, but now that it is out of beta we expect there to be some update in total viewer numbers in the first half of 2016.
Periscope has about 10 million registered users, with the most users in the U.S., Turkey, and Brazil. About 2 million of them are active daily, generating around 350,000 hours of video per day. Meerkat had a significantly lower number of registered users, at around 2 million, but had a similar ratio of one in five who were active every day, for about 400,000 active daily users.
Due to Meerkat’s ability to generate URLs for live streams up to 24 hours ahead of going live, there was considerable anecdotal evidence that viewership for branded streams is considerably higher than on Periscope. This is obviously due to the fact that static URLs can be marketed through social media a day in advance so viewers know when to tune in, rather than simply relying on viewers to be there when the stream goes live. But even that advantage wasn't enough to save Meerkat's live streaming.
In terms of attracting an audience, the integration of these live streams with social newsfeeds is most valuable and is the key to the apps’ growth. Many analysts believe that if Twitter can fully integrate Periscope streams within the newsfeed, it will lead to a real breakthrough in audience growth. Twitter is already a real-time source of information around breaking news and major events, and adding video streams that autoplay into the timeline could radically enhance its offering and the attractiveness of the platform to brands that are looking for live interactive content as a key engagement strategy.
Of course, Facebook is now a major video streaming platform in its own right, even without the addition of Facebook Live. In Q3 2015 Facebook saw 8 billion average daily video views from around 500 million users, doubling the number of views in about 7 months. Twitter’s video views grew 150 times over in Q3 after introducing autoplay video, but specific numbers are hard to come by.
That’s a staggeringly high number for Facebook, and Twitter’s large quarter-over-quarter growth suggests video views are on the rise but probably from a very low base. The real question is what Facebook and Twitter count as a “view.” On both, a view equates to just 3 seconds of playback to a viewer. YouTube, by comparison, doesn’t count a view until after 30 seconds.
However even at just 3 seconds per view, this would mean Facebook is generating 760 years’ worth of material each day. Even if that total includes videos that autoplay as users scroll past them without paying attention, this represents a massive advertising opportunity.
Facebook has yet to give any real numbers regarding length of engagement with content. Through my work with Facebook, I have found that audiences who have engaged with a brand previously by, for example, liking the brand page, will watch several minutes of content. This anecdotal evidence would indicate why Facebook has been testing a Suggested Video feature in the browser and mobile app that recommends additional clips to watch based on user information.
Of course it is this personal data that could give Facebook an edge in discovery and relevancy as it competes directly with YouTube. Facebook is also testing a dedicated video feed where people can browse different channels of videos that are shared by friends, trending on Facebook, or grouped by relevant themes. This would take Facebook even further down the line of helping the user with discovery, offering corporates the chance to create dedicated channels.
Video is obviously critical for the future of Facebook’s business, as video commands higher rates in terms of advertising. However Facebook is also becoming a very clear route to consumers outside of simple advertising. Research by Ooyala has found that videos are 10 times more likely to be shared through Facebook than Twitter, making Facebook the primary source of content for a large number of consumers.
Even though video is thriving behind the firewall and companies are finding new ways to succeed with streamed content, signs point to rocky waters ahead for online video platforms.
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