June 4, 2015

Keeping PeriKat On The Up and Up

In the age of selfies and “citizen journalists,” it seems only natural that live streaming would become a trend. Over the years a number of companies have tried to make personal broadcast streaming a reality, but two newcomers appear to have succeeded: Meerkat and Periscope, the former a startup backed by the likes of actor Jared Leto, the latter a startup purchased by Twitter only a few months ago.

They both burst onto the stage in April during the Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao fight (known on the interwebs as #MayPac). The reason? Dozens of people were live streaming the $100 pay-per-view broadcast of the fight. Unsurprisingly, HBO and other rights holders were a bit unhappy about these unauthorized broadcasts, and even more unhappy about what they felt was Twitter’s lack of a serious response to their takedown requests.

Many in the industry rolled their eyes at HBO, noting that the shaky, hand-held streams were hardly a replacement for an HD broadcast and that the network was getting all bent out of shape over nothing.

So were HBO and other rights holders justified in coming down hard on Periscope and Meerkat? Or was it, yet again, much ado about nothing? Change is inevitable, right?

I think their concern is a valid one. Today’s shaky handheld streams are tomorrow’s professionally-shot broadcasts, with tripods, lighting, color correction, and possibly even advertising. If everyone with a Periscope or Meerkat account is allowed to stream rights-protected programming with impunity, this scenario is not all that implausible.

Can Periscope and Meerkat chase down everyone with an account and put a stop to illegal streaming? Quite likely. YouTube, long home to illegal recordings, has a software solution that quickly identifies pirated or illegal content and blocks it. There’s no reason Periscope and Meerkat couldn’t implement such a tool.

And given the millions of dollars networks, MVPDs, and other broadcasters pay for the rights to these events, as well as the producers counting on that revenue, there is sufficient motivation to quash these illegal streams. Allowing unfettered live streaming seriously threatens these investments and opens the door to further piracy.

That said, the argument that ‘change is inevitable’ is a valid one and I’d urge rights holders to think about adding a live streaming option to their repertoire. I’m not suggesting that they live stream an entire event, but rather ancillary pieces such as behind-the-scenes action both before and after the event, live interviews with the athletes, reactions from fans, etc.

Such live streamed content helps to promote the main event, creating buzz around it, and it may even convince some fence-sitters to pony up and pay for the broadcast once they’ve gotten caught up in the excitement. It creates a more complete picture of the event, as well, giving paying fans a sense that they are there, at the arena, while further helping to humanize the athletes and coaches.

Used correctly (e.g., legally) live streaming is a powerful tool in a marketer’s arsenal. Meerkat and Periscope are already enjoying extensive use–Periscope is often in the top 10 on the App Annie charts. There are already Periscope and Meerkat “stars,” people whose live streams attract thousands of viewers. The trick for both apps is to ensure that these streams are legal and to find ways to shut down the ones that aren’t.

Stick with TDG and stay ahead of the curve.

Alan Wolk is one of the industry’s most influential thought leaders and futurists. He writes frequently on advertising models, OTT and social TV.

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