Live Video Streaming A Wild Card for Growth

Remember when tuning in live to an online program meant the video buffered? It stopped, it stuttered, and it lagged.

While those bumps may still line the viewing road, watching live video online has changed for the better in the last few years. A smoother viewing experience, coupled with more content, means the growth and availability of live streaming could impact the TV and media business in new and unexpected ways in the near term.

To date, most of the viewing of live streams has been for sports and news, with Olympics and other tentpole events drawing eyeballs. Generally, live ad views have grown with video views, but in the third quarter live video views exceeded live ad views, online TV tech firm Freewheel said. That was due to the rise in short-form videos in the third quarter coming from election news, since short-form content usually includes fewer ads, Freewheel noted. However, in that quarter live viewing grew 60%, underscoring the willingness to tune into live videos online.



Does this growth signal more willingness to watch videos live online? Perhaps. The Diffusion Group analyst Joel Espelien noted in a report on live viewing that he watched President Obama’s farewell address live from his phone, and is tuning into more sports live online. This may become the norm. Indeed, the appetite for news and sports could ease the transition to tune into live video online rather than on broadcast TV. That brings other challenges to the TV business. “The much larger issue is the emergence of robust on-demand broadband video services, which means legacy TV is increasingly seen principally as a source of live content,” Espelien wrote in the TDG report.

Ooyala pointed out in its state of the industry report that live sports and news will benefit in the months ahead from a push to OTT. Viewers want live content, and OTT services will hunt for ways to deliver it. Hulu is planning a live offering this year, and more live videos will likely populate on social channels, which drives awareness of live video options. Ooyala said more than 2.7 billion minutes were live-streamed during the summer Olympics. Regional sports live streaming will likely grow, and professional football will also play a role too in expanding the awareness and viewing of live videos, Ooyala said.

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