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2015: The Year of Live Streaming Video
By: Luke Willoughby
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Mobile, crowdsourcing, and 3D printing have now all had their “year." In order to have a “year,” a digital category has to explode not just in user traffic, but also in investment, jobs, and coverage at SXSW. So what’s next? You wouldn’t have seen it this year.

Live streaming has been with users since the beginning, be it through Skype or the spherical webcam glued to your monitor circa 1999, the year American Pie was released. Streaming began as a hardware extension with a cord, but has evolved into a subset of social media with vast user communities, clever startups, and opportunistic business acquisitions.

In 2010 Microsoft bought Skype and its more than 700 million users for $8.5 billion. Compare that today with Facebook buying Whatsapp and its 450 million users for $19 billion. In comparison, even four years later, Skype is tremendously undervalued at less than half the price, for nearly twice the number of users — not to mention its more engaging, ad friendly visual experience. But the message is that the marketplace is now being valuated.

Currently the largest streaming service, outside of the traditional social utility, is Ustream. The platform focuses on business presentations, sports, gaming, or anything that may find an audience. Ustream was the SXSW and Silicon Valley darling of 2008, and now boasts 80 million registered users and a noteworthy roster that has included Barack Obama. But as of August 2013, Ustream had an Alexa ranking of only 880. There’s a lot of room for growth, especially when you associate live streaming with its social and lifestyle possibilities where people have demonstrated a thirst to upload.

YouTube, for example, has for years been streaming live events and partnering with business functions like QVC live shopping. But the timeline has been plagued with disappointment and lack of interest, even as recently as November 2013’s first annual YouTube Music Awards show. In December of 2013 it opened its streaming option up to a wider user base, now requiring only 100 followers. In doing so, it’s leveraging its competitive advantage in user scale and allowing the market to educate itself on live streaming. But the start-up community is poised with valuable lessons learned, and a clean slate for imagination.

Netflix is the now leader in on-demand entertainment, but do you think they’re content? Imagine if they had the rights to the NFL. Start-ups will now be focusing on other live streaming outlets like education and business communication, not just for internal meetings, but sales presentations and product releases where users can tweet feedback. Advertising will soon use big data to stream to you live and in the moment, in even more personal and engaging ways.

For all this to take shape, live streaming will need to have its “year." The technology is now available, the awareness has been since the beginning, but the startup community has just begun to rise to the occasion. The big players are also making their moves out of opportunity and desperation. For proof, look no further than Time Warner and Comcast.

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About the Author
Luke Willoughby works in the digital media landscape of New York across varying agencies and brands. He also has a background in video and content production, and is invested in the resurgence of the full-service advertising agency and the associated opportunities for the marketing industry. Originally from Denver, Colorado, he's a fan of most outdoor activities and otherwise enjoys reading and film.
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