Amid the plethora of platforms, devices and audience fragmentation issues faced by media buyers within the television ecosystem (never mind media as a whole), analyzing livestreaming’s implications may not be No. 1 on the priorities list.
But livestreaming is arguably the most organic viewing format for mobile and social media — and no one’s discounting
the revolutionary effects on advertising of those two juggernauts.
In fact, livestreaming is already starting to earn a place alongside traditional television programming formats and channels, and will only grow in importance because of the behaviors and lifestyles of Millennials and Gen Z, according to three media pros on a livestreaming and broadcast TV panel at MediaPost’s OMMA Video event, held during Advertising Week New York.
“Even though the user base is still small — in the low millions for either Periscope or Facebook Live, the two [livestreaming] leaders — the growth and number of views and engagement are amazing,” said Marla Skiko, EVP, director of digital and data solutions, Publicis Media. “The time spent there is enormous. Periscope says that it now has over 110 years’ worth of video per day, and Periscope didn’t even exist not long ago.
Marketers are “obsessed” with Millennials, and Millennials — particularly the young African-American, Asian and Hispanic consumers who make up half of the cohort — are not only tech pioneers, but have integrated it into nearly every moment of their lives.
Socializing and sharing are “in the nature of everything they do, and they’re mobile all the time,” she said. “If you look at the intersection of social and mobile, you’ll also find a tendency to be their own content creators and producers.” There isn’t enough relevant content created for Millennials and young multicultural audiences, in particular, she said, “and since it’s not there, they say, ‘Let me do it myself.’ And whereas you used to need all kinds of equipment, today, you need a smartphone — and you’re done. You can produce quality content and go live with that device.”
Recognizing Major New Marketing
All Millennials are also inclined to gravitate to of-the-moment, livestreamed content from publishers and brands because it allows them to see new, exclusive content first and then share it, Skiko added.
All of which adds up to a major, yet-to-be-tapped “sweet spot” for advertisers, she stressed.
Further, Gen Z consumers are essentially “Millennials on steroids” when it comes to their communication and media habits, Skiko said. “There’s no texting — it’s all rapid-fire snaps,” she said, noting that her own children send out “hundreds” of snaps just while they’re eating breakfast. Those in both Gen Y and Gen Z create their own worlds as they go live in the world, by continually sharing real-time images, and “that’s the type of instantaneous video they’re hungry for” from media and brands, as well, she said.
“Advertisers need to be interested in leaning into [livestreaming] even though it’s a very new marketing space,” Skiko summed up. “If that’s how consumers are living their lives and how their digital day progresses, to be relevant, marketers need to figure how they’re going to live in and create value in that space. And that means creating content specifically for that space, not repurposing. [Livestreaming] requires an entirely new way to think about media.”
Brands are still in the mindset of researching audiences and producing “beautiful, polished, 30-second TV spots,” the idea of “live” is scary for some, she said. “But it’s not necessarily the counter to TV. It’s ‘How can I be relevant to an audience that’s always connected through mobile devices and is now consuming more and more content in real time?’; ‘How am I going to be effective in that environment?’ It’s undoing or blowing up a mindset that’s been around for a long time, much as brands had to do when they first got active on any of the social platforms.”
PBS Reaching New Audiences
PBS’ broadcast audience is strong in the early childhood and older adult demos, but weak in Millennials, confirmed Don Wilcox, who as VP, multiplatform marketing and content oversees all marketing strategy, PBS.org (including all of its content verticals) and PBS Digital Studios, its original YouTube programming network. “But now, with YouTube, we’re actually driving 34 million views a month among those 18 to 34, and half of those are actually 18 to 24,” he reported. “So we’re reaching a new audience. You have to think of all of these new platforms as new audiences to tap into.”
Rather than fearing cannibalization, he and others coming out of traditional TV “have to believe that it’s additive and you’re going to grow the pie by being in all of these spaces,” he added. “The writing is on the wall, the multiplatform world is here. The numbers are undeniable. The challenge is getting the legacy people to start thinking about the economics and nimbleness of the Web. Still, the holdouts become fewer and fewer with each passing week.”
Wilcox, like his co-panelists, stressed the need to create original, authentic content that makes sense for the format. As with virtual reality, it makes no sense to use livestreaming unless it adds value to the experience, he said: “A lot of broadcasters will cut down a long-form program and think they have a YouTube video. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You have to reach them where they are in the formats they like. Increasingly, I think people in the traditional broadcast industry are seeing the upside and the inevitability of that.”
PBS’s growing experience with livestreaming has included a live natural history event co-produced with the BBC this past summer from California’s Monterey Bay, which explored the marine mammal conservation success story there. “It was fascinating to bring almost a live sports coverage energy to a nature show,” Wilcox said. “We did a lot of multiplatform activations — so not only was the show streaming live, but we were Periscoping from behind the scenes to give another live perspective. We also had one of our YouTube hosts creating original episodes on the fly, and putting them out the same day.”
Viewership and engagement were high, and viewers reported satisfying experiences regardless of which platform they used, he said. Regardless of how people are reached, “if you make a great brand impression, it’s a win,” he said.
Another example: On a recent “Frontline,” PBS featured a popular candidate matchup format, “The Choice.” In addition to the broadcast, it was livestreamed on PBS.org, Facebook Live and YouTube. Also, prior to the program, PBS did a Snapchat takeover for the show. “Snapchat is very intimate and unpolished and spontaneous and super-authentic,” Wilcox observes. “YouTube is more polished and produced, and can create a lot more work. So there’s a big spectrum there, but we’re trying to figure out our place in all those.”
‘Tons of Brand Integration Opportunities’
Mario Armstrong, technology contributor on NBC’s “Today Show,” is also the creator and host of “Never Settle,” a “crowd-produced” talk show to be broadcast live on the Internet starting in March, which will integrate viewer interaction through social media.
“Some people still see [livestreaming] as something to play with, but I’m seeing it from a completely different perspective,” Armstrong said. “We’re seeing tons of brand integration opportunities, lots of data and analytics, and things like the Live Fronts [upfronts for video] happening. It’s not just some young person watching in a corner; adults are starting to livestream in place of other content.”
Also, he argued, “The brand conversions are happening right in streams now. If you have a product placement or integration, you may have only 100 people watching a stream, but if 45 actually take some action, that’s massive. And you can repeat that over and over again in different ways and have different CTAs that deliver real, measurable results.”
Looking ahead, Armstrong believes there will be a wide range of levels of live production quality, ranging from something like a chef using a smartphone on a mount in her kitchen to others using Facebook’s API to run multiple camera content into a tricaster and push it to a Facebook Live stream. “All of a sudden there are brand sponsorship opportunities inside that video, and tech tools to use inside Facebook, so you don’t need a network to greenlight” a programming concept, he said.
“I’m also seeing more brands do some livestreaming themselves on their page or channel, or starting to get into routine of actually creating live content on their page,” he reported, noting that he’s working with Capital One on covering the red carpet at a Kennedy Center event on Facebook Live — an idea that was the brand’s.