The Evolution of Live Streaming Services: From Niche to Mainstream

An investigator saw a consistent request in the live streaming industry. As individuals shift increasingly more of their TV viewing – whether online or through cable cutting – to live and on-demand streaming platforms, today’s traditional TV broadcast will fade, giving way to an entirely new incarnation of programming. The file, “The Evolving Landscape of Live Streaming on Twitch: The Role of Game Broadcasting,” published in 2018, examines what content creators understand about the impact. It also compares the broadcast medium of yore with its existing and future modes, detailing the ways in which live and scheduled shows have changed. The study uses qualitative content analysis to identify the salient traits of live streaming programming, including mukbang and art streams. From here, it is easy to infer that the future of long-form live content will continue to polarize away from traditional TV. While its number of viewers pales in comparison to the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Hulu, live broadcast is ultimately a form of video on demand. The aforementioned content analysis study also mentions that certain video platforms changed their user interfaces to now auto-link to live channels instead of on-demand movies. It is apparent that mainstreaming live streaming is a long-term goal for these companies. On Twitch, the ability to search brand-specific sponsored streams and deals allows advertisers to effectively monetize ad revenue. This gives way to a new wave of high-quality commercial content specially created during live programs.

The Rise of Live Streaming Services

The growth of live streaming services has transformed the ways in which individuals and organizations are able to engage with new audiences. Live streaming has evolved from a niche form of entertainment to a mainstream avenue for sharing and receiving content. In terms of social media, we have seen a significant increase in the number of celebrities engaging with their fans via live streaming, an activity which has since translated to fans of all ages around the world. Live streaming is becoming an integral part of how people are consuming and sharing content, making it easier than ever for people to broadcast live to friends, family, and followers.

The Emergence of Platforms

At the time of the study, Facebook Live is becoming increasingly popular and has been known to notify followers of a streamer’s activity more successfully than some other websites. This may mean that streamers who already possess a moderate to large following on Facebook have a smoother transition into live streaming. An advantage unique to YouTube is that live streams are directly linked to channel subscribers, which could benefit consistency between regular content and live content, as well as ease of viewer accessibility. Most sites have an internal page dedicated to live streams with a specified section for popular or live channels. In the case of Twitch, it is possible for the stream with the most viewers to be featured on the entire site’s front page. The method in which viewers access streams varies between platforms, but in general, the more convenient it is to find a stream, the more likely it is to be viewed.

As of 2020, sole proprietorships and businesses have a variety of online platforms that they can use to conduct their live streams. The sites listed above are some of the most popular, and each one has its own distinct features and limitations. It is important to consider different platform options before going live. Time should be spent researching and comparing various website functions in order to find the right fit. It is entirely possible for the same stream to be multicast across multiple sites, which will help streamers reach wider audiences, although it may be at the expense of optimal viewer numbers on a singular platform. However, if a stream does gain traction, there is potentially less competition for viewer traffic on a smaller site.

The Impact of Social Media

Moreover, social media provides a platform for streamers to engage their audience in the time frame between live streams. Whether it be posting highlights of previous streams or a poll for what game to play next, these actions create ongoing activity involving the live streamer and his/her community. This community development is a crucial aspect of gaining a large and regularly returning fan base, and it all begins with simply engaging an audience.

Facebook has also joined the live streaming scene by creating Facebook Live. An advantage of this platform is that it is free, meaning that viewers do not need to pay to watch event content. This applies well to small organizations and sports teams looking to stream events, as viewers may already be stretching their wallets enough simply to attend. By doing a free live stream on Facebook Live, it could attract more viewers both now and in the future.

Social media has been a key driver of live streaming by providing a constantly available marketing tool. As a bridge to larger audiences, social media provides ground for independent streamers to grow. By sharing their live stream content on social media platform, they are able to direct their followers to their Twitch channel, thus growing view numbers from both new and pre-existing followers. This strategy not only helps bring people to live streams but also raises awareness of the streamer’s brand. Twitter has been particularly helpful in this regard, as the use of hashtags can directly place a tweet in a pool of like-interested individuals.

Changing Consumer Behavior

A prevalent example illustrating this change in consumer behavior is YouTube’s success in the previous year with live streaming platforms. YouTube is the most successful platform for individual content creators, many doing this as a full-time profession. The implementation of the YouTube live application for mobile streaming has allowed these creators to interact directly with their audience and stream gameplay, tutorials, podcasts, and more. This content was already previously being consumed on VOD, but now there is little reason for audience members to watch it on the YouTube competitor Twitch TV. YouTube already hosts the subscribers’ original content and now offers an alternative in the same location, combined with the ability to receive mobile notifications. It is much easier to have a guaranteed audience. Audience members need no longer miss their favorite streams viewing scheduled VOD, and the content is far more accessible from a mobile device.

The increase in the popularity of live streaming has changed the way in which audience members now intend to consume media. In traditional media, much of the television content is picked for consumers and must be viewed at a specific time. Changing consumer behavior has led to the desire for more personalized content. This is catered for with video on demand services and has now transitioned to live streaming, sparking a shift in content viewing habits. Live streaming offers an array of content, often for free, and can be accessed at any time using a mobile device. With more content being consumed on mobile devices than ever before, this provides an alternative option to paying a bill for a TV service and can be viewed on a device usually always at hand. The generic content produced by large television corporations may no longer appeal to a younger audience, so they turn to their favorite online personalities who often produce content catering to their specific audience. Live streaming offers a chance for this audience to interact in real time from anywhere around the world, and the intimacy of this is lost on traditional media.

Challenges and Opportunities

The final category mentioned is that of tech support and future product development. As video streaming becomes a mission-critical part of communication within your organization, reliability, responsiveness, and features of your service will become increasingly potential opportunities abound. It can be anticipated that streaming might require higher service level agreements with guaranteed uptime and performance levels. Companies will also realize the potential to white label video streaming applications and embed them within their own web portals. This may lead to requests for custom applications and additional software features to support specific use cases. All of these points are investments into the future of the product, and they can be minimized or maximized depending on the revenue generated and specific customer requirements.

One important aspect to consider is that all customers are interested in a scenario analysis about how video streaming and live streaming services will affect their bandwidth intake and, as a result, what it will cost. This need for clarity about the costs and benefits associated with streaming will likely increase demand for analytical software to monitor and predict usage patterns.

To be successful as an organization, live streaming software companies have to know their payment patterns. Not all video streaming software company designs are the same. Costing and billing models can differ significantly, and the best way to succeed is to have a targeted mixture of methods. Potential sources for revenue consist of a pay-per-use or utility billing method. Cost-free software utilizes an advertising-based revenue design.

Copyright and Intellectual Property

Issues are also emerging regarding the rights of individuals to publicly broadcast or stream while in possession of copyrighted music or other material. Under current laws, this is considered to be a public performance, which may require royalties to be paid to copyright holders. The burden of determining whether material is copyrighted will fall on the individual, who may then be held responsible for content that was not known to be copyrighted. Due to the enormity of copyrighted material and lack of public awareness on copyright laws, this presents a substantial risk to individuals using peer-to-peer streaming services. One favorable decision in recent litigation is the rejection of vicarious liability for copyright infringement on peer-to-peer network operators. In this dynamic and complex environment of technological change, some laws may require continual reassessment and modification to maintain a fair balance of interests between copyright owners and consumers or technology innovators.

Several legal issues arise from the use and storage of copyrighted data on streaming platforms. The European Union is to extend the length of time copyright is assigned for from 50 to 90 years. There are also new marketing rights given to copyright owners. This will act as a means of control on copyrighted data that is not being commercially sold—a category that will encompass a substantial portion of material stored on streaming databases. This legislation will require a shift in business models for streaming platforms, as well as a removal of content from databases that is no longer directly earning money. Failure to comply with these laws can result in the obligation to pay retroactive royalties, as well as the loss of access to certain data for consumers. These laws will serve to increase the cost of operating a streaming service and decrease the availability of content for consumers. Measures can be taken to assess the exact benefits of copyright extensions on different types of data, considering the increased cost and reduced access and availability may, in some cases, be detrimental to copyright owners and consumers. A system of compulsory licensing can also be implemented as a means of regulating older data for which copyright holders can no longer be found. On the whole, copyright legislation will require streaming services to allocate a higher percentage of their expenditures to storage and maintenance and result in higher subscription fees for consumers.

Monetization Strategies

Donations and tipping are a popular method of revenue generation due to their simplicity and direct connection with viewers. While successful donation campaigns are usually the result of building a loyal and generous viewer community, some larger live stream channels have received generous one-time donations and tips totaling tens of thousands of dollars.

Pay-per-view, a simple and straightforward method of selling access to premium content, is well suited for special events such as tournaments or concerts that occur within a live stream. Viewers pay the designated price to gain access to the stream or a special stream channel, with the revenue usually being split between the service provider and the content provider. Pay-per-view may also be used in conjunction with freemium content, where viewers are enticed to purchase virtual goods or access to additional content. With Twitch’s recent partnership with gaming peripheral company Razer, one can speculate that Razer may be using pay-per-view to promote and sell Razer products to Twitch’s gaming demographic.

Advertising offers a consistent form of revenue generation that scales along with the size and activity of an audience. Static image ads and video commercials can be displayed at the beginning, during intermission, or at the end of the stream, with ad revenue being divvied up between the content provider and the service provider. A more direct form of advertising involves sponsorship, where a company will pay a content provider to promote a product during a stream. Because advertising revenue is proportionate to the size of an audience and the audience’s purchasing power, advertising is most effective for streams with a large and/or loyal viewer base.

For content providers to fully embrace live streaming as an alternative form of entertainment and content delivery, they must implement a variety of monetization methods that make the activity profitable. Effective revenue generation is crucial to the sustainability and success of live streaming as a major form of media. Fortunately, live streaming provides a wide array of methods for monetization, both traditional and innovative. These methods primarily consist of advertising, pay-per-view, freemium content, and donations/tipping.

Content Moderation and Safety

While effective, the downside to human moderation is that troubling images and marks that it can leave on individuals who have to sift through them. Step would modernize image content moderation, ensuring that it is performed by a global team distributed over all time zones. By splitting up the team globally, we can allow for around-the-clock moderation with the end goal to cover as much content as possible. We are also looking into gathering a team from a wider spread of countries to better understand and identify what may be troubling content in different regions around the world.

As a video sharing community, YouTube has publicly announced that it is seeking to use more moderating technology to monitor videos, although this would be difficult given the vast amount of videos being uploaded and the variance in context that different cultures can attribute to a single video. The primary measures that websites are utilizing are still human-based. At Twitch, we utilize a team of humans who manually sift through chat and/or videos and audit any content that has been flagged by automatic detection systems.

The importance of regulating and moderating online content is becoming increasingly crucial within digital and media industries. While there are not yet regulated laws and policies in place, websites that facilitate user-created content are starting to take their own measures in moderating what they publish. Outsourced to companies such as IBM, Monitor110, or even freelance ‘virtual police’, web content is beginning to be monitored through the use of keywords.

Technological Advancements

Today, the use of live streaming as a platform for delivering media has become an attractive option for content providers with the improved quality and affordability of live streaming services. This is due to the prevalence of third-party cloud-based live streaming platforms and the proliferation of Platform as a Service (PaaS) architectures for building custom streaming solutions. The advantage of PaaS architectures is that they often require little direct investment in infrastructure and support auto scaling to manage network load by only consuming resources as they are needed. This essentially allows providers to trial cost-effective live streaming solutions with minimal commitment.

A second major area of technological advancement has been in the cost, ease of use, and scalability of live streaming platforms and associated services. In the early years of live streaming, the process of setting up live events and streams was considered cumbersome and required a certain level of technical expertise. This typically involved contracting a streaming service provider or setting up server infrastructure to manage and deliver media. High costs and an uncertain market meant that few providers chose to invest in live streaming technologies.

Video compression techniques have improved to an extent where near real time encoding of video with acceptable quality is feasible over consumer-grade internet connections. This creates opportunities for providers to stream live video without investing in expensive content delivery network infrastructure and facilities. However, the improvement in video quality also makes the highly perceptible trade-offs involved with modern video compression less acceptable to regular users who have become accustomed to higher quality levels.

Live and interactive video applications are highly demanding in terms of network quality. The dynamic and adaptive nature of live streaming to context and user behaviors means that there is minimal scope for buffering or downgrading visual quality of a stream. While advances in video compression have made live streaming more feasible, which have both positive and negative implications.

The history of live streaming services has shown the process of improvement to be a dynamic and iterative one as companies attempt to keep pace with competitive threats while also building sustainability. One of the most significant advancements and sources of instability has been in the area of video compression, which has had major implications for both ‘near real time’ applications like gaming and the asynchronous delivery of video on demand.

Future Trends and Implications

The biggest merit in using microservices for a cloud service is undoubtedly scalability. A cloud service composed of microservices can increase the number of instances only for the necessary microservices to respond to access traffic. Since there is no need to increase the number of instances for the entire cloud service, this greatly reduces running costs. Furthermore, upgrades and patches can be done to individual microservices while the cloud service is running. This is a significant reduction in maintenance downtime and system complexity, which can still require days or weeks of maintenance to upgrade a large cloud service. Building or transitioning an existing cloud service to a microservices-based architecture requires careful planning to delineate the microservices of the entire system. Multiple microservices coordinating with cloud data can end up complex and difficult to manage. In addition, with an increasing number of microservices, the complexity of version control for each service also becomes high. When developing microservices, while it is important to prevent excess microservice relationship complexity, it is also effective to use a microservice to replace an outdated system of the current cloud service to help transition to a microservices-based architecture. The impact of a microservices-based cloud service is groundbreaking in the creation of an architecture more fitting to diverse cloud environments.

Upon review of current trends in cloud application development and deployment, a second look at existing cloud service development technology should be considered. With the combination of various small but useful applications instead of one monolithic cloud service application, cloud developers are in a unique position to benefit from the architecture of a cloud service composed of various microservices. A microservices-based cloud service is scalable and can coordinate with various cloud technologies that exist or new forms of technology that may arise in the future. The easiest way to develop a microservices-based cloud service is the architecture of one monolithic application running multiple instances booting the designated microservices application itself. From instances with low configurations to avoid high cost, to testing and developing individual microservices on a PC, the development of microservices can be done on various equipment. The runtime environment for cloud service development has become more diverse than simply using the cloud environment. With the utilization of container technology like Docker, it has become possible to build and test cloud service microservices on a single PC and then package it in containers to be deployed in a cloud environment.

Integration with Virtual Reality

Live streaming services will increasingly integrate with virtual reality platforms. This will serve to maintain live stream audiences and attract new ones. Live streaming platforms such as Twitch already have a close connection with the gaming industry. In recent years, Twitch has integrated a host of features to make live streaming and archived video more appealing to gamers. Twitch has a system where a streamer can have an “on stream” notification when a viewer makes a donation. Basically, a notification will show in the corner of the stream with the user’s text and dollar amount. YouTube has stepped into the live streaming world, most notably with the inclusion of YouTube Gaming, and has been in competition with Twitch, gaining ground with more and more streamers moving over to their platform. This has led to a future prediction from VP of Mad Catz, Mark Julio, who predicted that YouTube would be the new medium for spectating games. With VR headed to be the new medium for spectating games, it is possible that gaming content, whether it be live streams or pre-recorded content, could lead to new and innovative ways to entertain audiences with VR technology. This could be something as simple as using VR to create a new and interactive way to have a “let’s play” series, giving viewers an immersive experience of both the game and the player. It could also lead to new methods of streaming competitive gaming by giving viewers an immersive experience of the game from a player’s perspective. With interactive VR content around the corner, it’s very possible that gaming and VR will have a very close relationship with one another, and live streaming services will integrate VR not only as a means to entertain the audience but also as a means to advertise and expand their VR content.

Personalization and Customization

Personalization and customization are trends present in many successful modern web-based applications and are not limited to live streaming services. As competition continues to grow within the industry, integrating these features in more ways will become an essential method of retaining a viewer base and gaining new ones.

For example, imagine a video game streaming site user who can set preferences for a specific game, e.g., only show League of Legends streams in the game directory. They can also choose whether to automatically follow their favorite streamers with an email alert set for when they go live. Saveable user preferences such as these will become a common thing for live streaming in the future.

Quite recently, live streaming service providers have moved to offer users functionality to create their own custom audio conferences. This includes the choice of moderator controls, who can speak, polling, Q&A, survey, and customized registration forms. Allowing these functions has raised the value of holding a web conference for clients, increasing rates of conversion on leads delivered through this medium. As the increase in demand for these features continues, customization for event pages and URLs is expected to be the next step. This allows users to maintain brand consistency between their own sites and the pages for their live streaming service provider. Customization of this kind will greatly benefit a group or organization looking to promote a specific product or cause with a stronger call to action. In terms of the individual viewer, saving personal settings for any future live streams a user attends will enable a more personalized experience.

Live Streaming in the Gaming Industry

The top live stream video platform, “Twitch,” for games and eSports, has viewerships that get close to the figures of concurrent logins of the game “League of Legends” just to watch people play the game. In early 2016, they watched a total of 459,366 years’ worth of “League of Legends” gameplay, and 321,512 years’ worth of “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” gameplay. This is a huge figure for the game companies, and it also makes live streaming game events a profitable venture. Live streaming platforms are now striking deals with game companies to promote their games and to live stream their game events. This benefits both the viewer and the person playing the game. Game company sponsorships have seen a rise in event prize pools, and people playing the game can now make a living off live streams of them playing the game.

Live streaming in the gaming industry has revolutionized the way games are watched and played. Live stream is a real-time recording of an activity, and most often it refers to a data feed from an analogue camera. With the growing success of eSports games and their ever-increasing prize pools, there has been a rise in people viewing competitions. The live streaming of an event to the public has been around for a few years, such as the 2011 League of Legends World Championship, which had 1.6 million viewers watching a free standard definition stream, and this peaked at 210,000 viewers on a high-definition stream. The increase in the number of viewers for the live stream was due to word getting out about the game and its sponsorship from its developer, as well as Riot’s effort in publicizing the event. High-definition streams are now the standard with the rise of high-speed internet, and people value higher quality in video.

The video game industry has become one of the leading entertainment industries by providing non-interactive and interactive experiences. The gaming industry has succeeded in achieving both experiences, with a flow of around $17.05 billion dollars spent on the United States game industry market in 2011, where $16.6 billion was spent on gaming content only. This revenue is greater than the music industry and the movie industry combined. On-demand video service revenue in the US was only $16.5 billion, which is less than the spending on gaming content. This tells us that a lot of people are willing to spend money on gaming than any other media entertainment.

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