On the birthday of Twitter’s Periscope, I thought I would take a deeper look into the “livestreaming” market of today. Periscope is the incumbent in this industry; it currently has the largest market share of the livestreaming market and Twitter is dedicated to build on its early success. However, other services have the backing of deeper pockets and look to compete in the space; “Facebook Live” is a top priority in Menlo Park, and it is surely going to challenge the success of Periscope. Google is also pushing its own live-streaming service through its video platform, YouTube Live. On the other end of the spectrum, Meerkat was an early player in the space, but competing with Twitter and Facebook as a smaller company wass nearly impossible, ultimately forcing the company to drop out of the space completely.
The Incumbent: Periscope
Twitter acquired Periscope in early 2015 and launched the app in March 2015 (one year ago from today). In January 2016, Periscope was partially integrated into the Twitter platform, which sky-rocketed the apps success. Although you cannot create videos through the Twitter platform, you can watch broadcasts through the app, which has drastically increased the tool’s usage. “Periscope’s number of total broadcasts doubled since January, when it surpassed 100 million.” Since the launch, Periscope has been used for over 200,000,000 broadcasts and users watch about 110 years (100,000,000 hours) of live broadcasts EVERY DAY.
I think at this point, it’s pretty obvious that the most successful thing that Twitter/Periscope has done is leverage the network of users to benefit Periscope’s growth. The integration of live-broadcasting into Twitter introduced all users to the new form of media, without forcing them to download the Periscope app. After people were introduced to the new medium, they were inclined to create their own. “Getting people to create videos, not just watch them, was one of the key hurdles that tripped Meerkat. Beykpour [Periscope’s CEO] says that challenge is ‘extremely’ important to Periscope moving forward.”
Whats Next? Although Periscope certainly has a hold on the market now, this upcoming year will be crucial for the company as new entrants threaten their position. One key question that the company will have to answer is if they intend to further integrate Periscope into Twitter. Although you can watch broadcasts through Twitter, the creation and interaction with broadcasts is still done through the Periscope app. Integrating all of these features into Twitter has pretty large implications for the company. For example, would Periscope lose some of its brand recognition if it is reduced to becoming a feature of Twitter as opposed to an individual livestreaming app? Finally, I think the main focus of Periscope is to keep its users creating new content on the app. Obviously, maintaining user loyalty is important for dealing with the new competition, but the app is reliant on people continuing to create new, interesting content. Although pairing with Twitter offers great advantages, such as knowing user’s interests and locations, Beykpour says “No matter how good your discovery tools are, if people aren’t creating content there’s going to be nothing to discover in the first place.” Next year, we will know if Periscope still sits on the Iron Throne, or if a new competitor has usurped its position.
The Rising Star: Facebook Live
Mark Zuckerberg has set his sights on the livestreaming market, which is a natural progression for the social media platform. Facebook is the source for much of today’s online conversation; we are constantly updating it with pictures and comments relating to what is happening in our lives now. Livestreaming fits perfectly into this sphere: let people know what is going on, right when it happens. “Live” is now available in 30 different countries around the world and Zuckerberg said that it is currently being rolled out to Android users.
What makes Twitter the most nervous? Aside from the fact that Facebook has a track-record of pumping out new products and features that take over a market, Twitter should be worried about the fact that Facebook is integrating its feature directly into its platform. Twitter has somewhat integrated Periscope, but as stated above, the intentions for further integration are unclear. Facebook on the other hand, is putting its livestreaming feature right in front of all of its users, making it immediately accessible. Why is this bad? Because Twitter and Facebook will be in a heated competition for users. “The key appears to be reach. Whichever company can ensure the most eyeballs will likely draw power users like celebrities, brands and content creators.” Making the service easy to use will certainly be a focus for Facebook, but it is already making it extremely easy to access. They have already put the complete application right in front of millions of people without any effort needed on the user’s end, which can’t be said about Twitter. This could be enough to attract new broadcasters, existing Periscopers, and celebrities. And speaking of celebrities, Facebook is considering paying celebrities to broadcast on the service. Facebook certainly looks like a real threat for Periscope’s dominance.
Collateral Damage: Meerkat
Meerkat was a live-streaming app that seemed destined for success in the market. Users were testing out its product at an incredible rate and it was generating a large amount of funding from VC’s across the country. Then the behemoth technology companies decided to take over the market, ending Meerkat’s run in the livestreaming market. Twitter acquired Periscope and took away Meerkat’s ability to effectively post on the social media platform. With the entrance of other players like Facebook and Google, Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin knew it was time to pivot out of the live broadcasting market. Ultimately, Meerkat did not have the base of users creating quality content to support the company’s existence in the industry. Rubin has said that it could attract new users at a sustainable rate, but they would not stick around for long, either leaving the app for a competitor or leaving the broadcasting space all-together.
Meerkat is shifting to becoming a live-video social media platform. “Rubin won’t talk much about his company’s new focus. It sounds more akin to Google Hangouts or Skype, with a priority on smaller, group video chats with people you know versus strangers tuning in.” The shift in scope seems to be a white flag for Rubin, but also a shift to capitalizing on a different market.
Each of these companies have taught us different lessons about this new media space. It is certainly a new chapter for social media and I’m sure there will be continual change over the next few years until the livestreaming space takes its (somewhat) permanent form.