Success Stories and Lessons Learned from Live Streaming in Singapore

1. Introduction to Live Streaming Services

Live streaming Singapore is the broadcasting of real-time, live video to an audience on social media platforms. Given the digital convenience, live stream service has grown popular as public interest is spurred by affordable technology and strong social platforms. Over the years, developments in multimedia and communication technologies have led to improved mobile transmission and better audio-visual capability. Smart mobile devices enable nearly everyone to produce and live broadcast video with great ease, while some live recording hardware allows people to view and contribute real-time chat messages to the content concurrently. They make live streaming a powerful tool for reaching hundreds of thousands of online viewers, attracting their excitement and interest.

We are now living in a digital age that is characterized by high-speed wireless internet and smart devices. Everyone now has the capability to live broadcast a wide range of personal or real-time events on social media platforms using live video streaming services. This initiative makes big events reachable to hundreds of thousands of online viewers, allowing them to share excitement with their peers. This paper presents the popularity of live broadcasting, highlighting government agencies in Singapore introducing live streaming services. Three different sectors, namely emergency services, defense, and the Central/National Library, recently started to use live streaming services. Their live broadcasts bring excitement to everyone when capturing fire-fighting operations, the defense force’s weapons demonstration, and a sold-out music concert at the library. Post-live broadcasting, all agencies noticed better results and share their insights and suggestions in this paper.

1.1. Definition and Evolution of Live Streaming

The growth of mobile live streaming is only two years old, but in that short time, notable changes have occurred in the form and function of the broadcasts. Initially, early experiments in live streaming were in the U.S. in 2008 (regarding the public senate session on YouTube) and at a social media workshop at the University of Texas in 2009. The software was written and shared as open source by another PhD student in 2010. The early live streams were effectively controlled centrally and were public or private, providing a space for people to co-locate even if physically thousands of miles apart.

A mobile live stream is similar to a live broadcast, with the camera often capturing the recording persona. The live stream, however, has an added participatory interaction provided by the attendees. This creates a greater level of connectedness, where the persona can broadcast their lives, passions, views, or whatever the subject, while engaging and connecting emotionally with their followers. The live-follower relationship is a form of parasocial interaction that entertains and informs the viewer, akin to the relationship between a television presenter and their audience. Due to the participants being in partnership with each other, the live broadcast is far less formal in terms of appearance, content, and topic.

1.2. Significance and Popularity of Live Streaming Services

Live streaming is a form of broadcasting live communications to the world, laden with potential to bring innovative and globalized educational concepts to distant or remote learners. With the development of technology, live streaming has become popular from personal entertainment to professional broadcasting. In addition to serving the entertainment and broadcast sector, live streaming technology, in a bid to nurture traditional industries such as agriculture, fashion, and law, is becoming increasingly popular to rejuvenate their businesses, helping these industries leap into the global market. Whether in the form of a live stream on various social or entertainment websites, yoga studios, universities, and other education centers, all walks of life begin to use the Internet to expand their services and to commercialize them through live broadcasts. Providing real-time services not only bridges the gap in time and space but also attracts a greater influx of consumer groups through promotion and information dissemination. Furthermore, it not only develops diversified business models but makes live broadcasts an indispensable part of modern lifestyle. With infinite time, distance, and content, increasing convenient real-time interaction is what people expect or demand from live streaming services.

2. Overview of Live Streaming in Singapore

To be sure, interviews and discussions such as this one can easily be done in a conventional radio or television show. What is unique about a webcast? The unbending belief from the IPOS leadership is that a live-streamed webcam builds intimacy. A webcast puts participants on the same stage as the PM, Deputy Prime Ministers, or other proud leaders. It is a profoundly psychological connection that is easily felt. So, how have the different IPOS webcast series used live streaming? With morning paper and coffee, staff gather around the computer or mobile to watch webinars from the Leadership Series, The New IPOS Series, the Ministerial Forum, and others, and ask questions of the presenters. With tea and biscuits, the leadership team gathers to watch webcasts from other series. Depending on one’s role and the urgency of one’s other duties, different series are recommended. With live streaming, all the activities can be informally shared among the various teams.

The Minister for Home Affairs, Mr K Shanmugam, recently shared about live streaming in the context of a publicity event in his Meet-the-People’s session (MPS). There are several precedents which show the real value of live streaming. Companies such as Apple and Microsoft regularly use live streaming to make announcements, which can be seen by millions from across the world at the same time. Leaders such as former US President Barack Obama use webcasts to communicate with Americans around the country. When Lee Kuan Yew lay in state at Parliament House for a week, live streaming was used so that many Singaporeans who could not join the physical queue at Parliament House could remember Mr Lee in a virtual queue. Today, organizations such as churches and national service counselors use live streaming to reach out to their audiences. Each use case teaches us new things. But are there rules that make live streaming more effective for home sessions, or discussion groups, or media interviews, or policy round tables, etc.?

2.1. Key Players and Platforms

The key players in this chapter have been re-grouped according to 1) Free for use platforms 2) Subscription based and 3) Pay-per-view and premium access. Starting with the free-for-use platforms, we have the following players offering attractive content to end-users.

In the last 12 months, there have been several developments in the live streaming landscape in Singapore. There have been new live streaming platforms entering the market as well as new revenue models introduced to help monetize live content. With this backdrop in mind, this section will present an update of the live streaming landscape and give a brief introduction to the key players. The information has been gathered from the respective press releases of the content players. The content platforms have been re-grouped and updated for the purpose of this chapter. If you are a live content player and are not included in this chapter, do drop us an email so that you could be included in the next edition.

2.2. Trends and Growth in the Singaporean Market

In video content, a report mentioned that owners of smartphones, tablets, computers, and smart TVs favor different devices for different content formats. Smartphones are claimed as the most prominent for short clips searched by those aged 55 to 64 years. Computers and smart TVs are the takeaway. This diverse market development will possibly evolve as service providers venture into more aggressive engagements and offer a wider variety of contents or systems to demographically address the preferences. Major players such as Netflix are serious about winning local hearts and hence, investing in the production of Singaporean content.

The youth receives the most attention and attraction in the streaming sphere, with an exchange of public conversations trending in the local context. Members from the older and working age group may not fall too far behind too, sharing some interests, which may be sought for different reasons.

The rise in digital consumption is evident today with half of our Singapore residents’ time spent on digital devices, daily. This digital crowd highly prefers video, as seen in the whopping 80% traffic out of all generated online traffic. In the Media Development Authority’s (MDA) survey, Singaporeans, on average, spend 2.1 hours or 126 minutes to engage daily with online media content, particularly the case for those aged 15 to 44.

3. Success Stories in Singapore

The Esplanade, Singapore’s national performing arts centre, was instrumental in showing a good example during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic, where people were quarantined at home. They offered live webcasts of selected performances such as the Chinese opera “Dream of the Red Chamber” as well as Sufi and Chinese dance performances to entertain those who were quarantined at home. The public appreciated this form of public partnership and this helped the Esplanade to boost its profile.

  1. Live streaming of art performances

A major cable TV provider released “Stairways to Heaven” simultaneously over their cable network and online. This created much interest as some Singaporeans who did not subscribe to this cable TV provider were curious to see the drama and were considering subscribing. To stave off netizens’ accusations of being “kiasu” (meaning “afraid to lose out” in Hokkien, the dialect spoken by the Chinese community in Singapore), the cable TV provider went on to release another drama “Mars vs Venus” with English and Malay subtitles. Many Singaporeans were happy to be able to watch good quality dramas in Mandarin and some expressed their satisfaction with this mode of watching cinemas. A similar scenario was replayed subsequently when a cable TV broadcaster released “The Little Nyonya” drama series on TV and online simultaneously.

  1. Live streaming of Chinese drama

3.1. Case Study 1: [Company Name]

Through [Company Name]’s Digital Learning Daytime Talks series, this relationship was able to contribute to support families by creating a small sense of community during a time of social distancing. The content is designed by educators in collaboration with parents, students, and [Company Name]. [Company Name]’s first series of live shows were the very first high-quality educational carousell live shopping shows produced entirely at home in Singapore.

[Company Name] is a global company with digital content that primarily targets an international audience that appreciates factual content and long-form narratives. The main objective for [Company Name]’s video content strategy at the start of this relationship (March 2020) was to reprogram their existing digital content and re-label it with COVID-19-related information (e.g. “coping with COVID-19”). However, given the restrictions at the time of calling for nonessential marketing services, [Company Name] jumped at the unique opportunity to experiment with live content and to co-produce educational live shows that could provide informative and entertaining content for children and parents at home during the daytime.

3.2. Case Study 2: [Company Name]

Their other strategic partners in [the company]’s live stream are product distributors, SME businesses, and budding entrepreneurs who would like to have relevant products featured on its live platform. Their goal is to increase their online sales, enhance their branding, and extend market reach. Most of the time, [the company] will have live games and giveaways during the live session to engage users and entice more audience participation. Users who are watching live can leave comments, send hearts, share live streams, and send virtual gifts as a show of appreciation and support to the performing artists. For users watching the live stream, they have the flexibility to give a thumbs up or down to show if they like or dislike the content that they are watching. The live streaming also allows live comments that are being screened before they are being shown on the mobile screen. Upon achieving a certain number of viewership, the system will start to recommend other entertainment live streams to help bring in more viewers and increase the online presence for the posted content. The reward for the streamer artist is a fixed salary and commission earning upon meeting the desired target set by the company for the performed live streams.

[Company Name] is a leading social media company and is also involved in online payments. Instead of depending on only traditional forms of marketing, [the company] embraced live streaming as another way to extend its market reach. It already has a strong following in Singapore on its existing social media platforms – Facebook, YouTube, etc. with millions of followers. To use its strong online presence and promote their line of products, [the company] has a group of local celebrities and their users involved in live-streaming activities. This usually includes short content as well as live selling, flash sales, and promotions across its various online platforms. The performing artists and the featured celebrities will conduct live sessions and share their beauty, skincare, and lifestyle tips and tricks.

4. Lessons Learned and Best Practices

Because the respondents came from varied backgrounds, reasons for being capable or incapable in undertaking livestreaming could be quite different. Nevertheless, everyone had something to contribute from their unique experiences. Curiously, it appears that the quality or proficiency in executing the skills is seldom brought up in discussions, which have been raised in similar studies. Indeed, a reality TV series about Singapore’s influencer industry shows that this is the biggest complaint about the industry. It raises concerns if the common perception of these new media skill sets and even expertise in livestreaming does not match the actual need, based on what the research has uncovered.

Livestreaming requires diverse and new skill sets in addition to traditional video producing skills like shooting or editing. Adaptability, multitasking, accountability, audience management, and appealing on-camera persona are some examples of relevant skills. Best practices coming out of livestreamings, such as pre-event preparation and establishing a rapport with the audience, show the relevance of these skills. Respondents thought the skills required were common sense or subjective, where talents like speaking, socializing, or thinking on-the-spot are seen as self-evident.

Livestreaming Skills and Perceptions

4.1. Engagement Strategies

The Stageweight podcast team recorded and published a podcast intended to generate listeners’ feedback about their thematic considerations of National Theatre Live’s presentation of “The Audience.” Specifically, they wanted to ask how the play’s historical significance translated across the sea to an American audience, many of whom were less familiar with the British context in which it was set. From a historical perspective, the topic was fertile and engaging, inviting academic and fabricating criticism. The podcast team recognized this and tried to generate that response through a themed engagement strategy that asked listeners to comment on the authenticity of the accents they heard in the play – some of which originated from well into the twentieth century. This approach connected with listeners and was, in part, successful in generating feedback from theater-goers that was then used in a creative, thematically reinforcing follow-up podcast.

The following case studies are intended to elaborate on the principles of engagement. Each developed specific strategies to engage their audiences. For The A List, its roundtable discussion featured an all-girl panel that was not afraid to jump into a debate or look a little silly. The Stageweight podcast on National Theatre Live’s “The Audience” went for a casual, slightly irreverent tone while still ensuring they drilled into the text to consider its themes and messages. The National Theatre’s TwitACritic pared the form and message of a critic into 140 characters before responding in 140 characters of their own. Four very different pieces with both a specific and broad strategy for engagement at their core. Each was successful – in part – through that connection with their audience. Comparing all four showed there was no single right approach to audience engagement, just multiple needs for a strong connection with the aim of driving content, offering choice and recognizing fans.

4.2. Monetization Techniques

Moreover, if the live streamer is a sports star, then no extra monies will be required to arrange a signing or interaction session for loyal fans. For the other live broadcasters or web stars, special occasions such as Q&A sessions or greetings are also welcomed. This could be a unique way of monetization for the web stars. Another feasible way of monetization could also come from the long-term sales incentive of advertised products. Different from the previous links, this monetization link is based on long-term performance and willingness by brand owners to keep regular on-board promotion activities. As the market for webcast advertising is gradually maturing, the live streamer’s inability to stimulate and participate in the purchasing intention during the activities is the main reason that contributes to users who are unable to convert the interaction with the live streamer into real purchases.

With many live streaming platforms available, it is equally important to study how to make use of them to help generate revenue for its users through different monetization techniques. Typically, after becoming a popular live streamer, one can earn revenue through donations from loyal followers. The donations are often small, but live streamers without any marketing skills would do well to encourage this method of monetization. Alternatively, the industry experts can solicit some trivial gifts through the methods of lucky draw and obtain gifts such as original or copy products from the relevant enterprises. These gifts can be used to reward followers who donate a certain amount of money. The number and economic benefits of the winners of the lucky draw or the copycat products will be arranged by the enterprise, and the compensation for the original products will have to be borne by the relevant enterprise.

5. Conclusion and Future Outlook

So what are the key factors to consider when producing a live stream and webcast? Three advice and direction can be provided by considering questions about the content to be produced, targeted audience, and business model. On content aspects, it is important that the main event is suitable for live stream, in terms of length of event, variety of content, level of interest, speaker quality, and nature of the audience. Broadcasting or capturing a quality picture and sound puts difficult demands on production, i.e., camera, audio, lighting, internet access, and available infrastructures of the event venue. The independence of quality hardware is vital because the investment premium will translate to a better delivery of streaming and webcasting. In addition, the implementation of IT protocols for audio-video data delivery will demand the investment in the quality of infrastructures (bandwidth, etc.) dedicated to circuits for the achievement of the streaming.

As viewers start to demand content of better quality and value on the go, there are opportunities for media content owners to consider another distribution platform for content of interest to viewers. Live streaming is something content owners should consider adding to their distribution toolkit and is a new growth opportunity. This paper shared the experience of Infocomm Media Development Authority, Singapore, in providing live streaming services for events and how it assisted content owners to achieve various outcomes. The paper has also highlighted some success stories and lessons learned.

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