The battle to be the top live streaming service is in full swing. Periscope, YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and others all seem to be competing for the “iron throne” of live streaming, a pocket of social media which will occupy a sizable niche in the forthcoming years.
Sounds interesting, right? Almost like a movie. The problem is this: the winner is obvious, and the ensuing battle will be more like a 4 game sweep, less like a 7 game series.
The Winner is Going to be Facebook Live… and it Won’t Even be Close
Now, this doesn’t mean there won’t be room for other live streaming services. There will always be room for a Lyft where there is an Uber, a Pepsi where there is a Coke, and a Burger King where there is a McDonald’s. What this does mean is the clear-cut market leader will be Facebook.
Here are some reasons why…
1. There’s No Escaping It
On Facebook, if someone is live streaming, you will be notified. At least once, but probably more like 12 damn times.
This is because it is part of a platform that is bigger than Facebook Live. Between your mobile devices, desktop and beyond, Facebook is everywhere now. Whereas Live.Me and other standalone apps are only able to reach those people inside their app.
You could make the argument that YouTube Live and Periscope are also part of a platform bigger than themselves, but Twitter does not boast a billion person user base and YouTube for the most part acts as a stop-and-go platform for users.
2. Unafraid to Shamelessly Copy
Facebook Live’s competitors do have some distinct advantages over it. Here are a few…
Connecting with an already close-knit community of YouTubers in a more intimate setting. Facebook influencers do not have anywhere near the voracious fandom YouTube stars do.
Periscope has the advantage of leveraging an influencer’s Twitter audience. Now that Meerkat is gone, it also has the first dibs factor when it comes to the live streaming marketplace, which Facebook Live lacks.
Live.Me & Other Apps
The advantages of Live.Me and other hipper live streaming apps is simple: younger people, particularly millennials, like it better. This is even more true for kids in their mid to late teens, who consider Facebook about as unsexy as HP, Yahoo, or Joe Biden in a speedo.
While it is true these services have advantages Facebook Live does not. The issue here is if Facebook doesn’t have something, they’ll just create their own. And they’ll create it quickly.
With Instagram Stories, Messenger Day, Workplace by Facebook, Facebook Gaming, ephemeral messaging, and a ton more, it’s clear Facebook does not care whether they shamelessly clone a product or not. I’m sure the trend will continue.
3. The Decline of Twitter
The decline of Twitter has already led to one of social media’s all stars dying: Vine.
This brings up the question if Periscope is set to face the same fate. It is not entirely clear where Periscope fits into the future plans of Twitter. In fact, it is not very clear what the future plans of Twitter are at all.
The volatility seen at Twitter in the past year gives rise to concern when it comes to Periscope and it’s other peripheral ventures.
4. Built-in audience
Live streaming is nerve racking. Very nerve racking. For content creators, going live is as close to standup comedy as you can get. If you screw up while filming a YouTube video, it’s not a big deal. Just edit it out. If you screw up 55 minutes into a live streaming session with 10,000 tuning in, well then you’re outta luck.
On top of the already nerve-racking nature of live streaming, it can be disheartening to creators who have planned out a live streaming session, and a whopping two people show up for it.
Facebook takes care of this problem by having a built-in audience for you: your followers and friends. In a service like YouTube, you’re building an audience from the ground up, which for many may not be an option they’re willing to take. In a service like Periscope, you do have the luxury of utilizing your Twitter followers but engagement is so low on the platform and the content is so fleeting that it does not move the needle much.
Which brings us to our next point…
5. Pay to play is attractive to brands, advertisers, and more
With Facebook Live, creators are able to put some dollars behind their content to boost it. While this may seem like a total cheapskate move to many, it is a genius move in terms of monetization. Now, brands and individuals with money to blow will essentially be able to bypass creating an audience from the ground up by shoveling money into their content.
Now brands, advertisers, and new creators will have a decision to make:
Using a platform where you must create great content to have a chance it gets seen by a sizable audience, or using a platform where you must create great content and put cash behind it to ensure it gets seen by a sizable audience?
From the perspective of a brand, which option would you choose? It’s almost a no-brainer.
6. Facebook owns Oculus Rift
Virtual reality and live streaming go together like Beyonce and Jay Z. Imagine being able to see 360 degree videos from the vantage point of a base jumper about to break a world record, or of a protest taking place in Europe? Now, imagine being able to see all of this in real time…
In short, VR and live streaming are going to rock the socks off users and it’ll be an extremely exciting time. And guess who’s winning the VR race at the moment? Palmer Lucky and the Oculus Rift team. And guess who owns Oculus Rift? Zuck and the gang.
Starting to see a pattern here?
Periscope has made some power moves, such as partnering with GoPro to bring action-packed, live streaming content to their users, but it will likely pale in comparison to Facebook’s monster Oculus Rift.
7. Competitor’s problems are a lot bigger than Facebook’s problems
It is much easier for Facebook to pay one of their thousand engineering teams to clone a feature than it is for a competing app to reach 1 billion users.
And that’s about all that needs to be said for Point #7…
8. Because they really really want to
At the end of the day, if Facebook wants to do something then they are in a great position to do it. It is crystal clear Facebook Live is the company’s next big pet project. TV ads, posters at bus stops, subway ads, prioritizing Live videos on EdgeRank, and adding the Live button to Facebook’s main navigation are just a handful of ways they are pushing the feature.
Zuck is out for blood, and other live streaming companies (however much we would like for them to beat Facebook) should be very concerned.
It’s not all peaches and cream for Facebook though. There are still some significant obstacles in it’s path.
#1. Young people
Most kids don’t want their uncles and aunts seeing them cursing and acting goofy like they do around their friends. Kids act differently around their peers than they do their relatives. For some reason, it doesn’t seem like ANY social media platform apart from Snapchat understands this principle.
For this reason, social media platforms have a limited lifespan in the eyes of young people. This is because they use the platform first, it gets popular, their parents and uncles begin to use it, and the kids either stop engaging as much as they used to or go off it altogether.
People want to be able to let loose and live their lives privately without consequences. For many, social media is a means to reinvent yourself; much like moving to a new state or school as a kid. And platforms like Facebook, even though they are attempting to correct it with leveraging more hip platforms they own like Instagram, will always have that problem.
#2. Growing animosity towards Facebook
While most people posting to Facebook Live will not care about Facebook’s monopoly, a lot of content creators and members of the social media community will and do. The growing animosity, or at least annoyance, of Facebook copycatting every single feature it doesn’t have, could hold it back.
Elon Musk recounted how, “When Henry Ford made cheap, reliable cars people said, ‘Nah, what’s wrong with horses?’”
Things take a while for the masses to get used to. It’s easy to get caught in the tech bubble, but the fact is is that most people don’t give a shit about live streaming. Most people wouldn’t trust a self-driving car. Most people wouldn’t trust a robot to grade their homework.
Innovation takes a while to settle in for the majority of people in the marketplace.
As much as we would like to see another live streaming platform take the crown, it is unlikely Facebook will lose this competition.
I would go as far to say this: The landscape of live streaming should not be thought of as a battle. But instead as a kingdom slowly starving out it’s neighboring areas, waiting for them to die.