Thursday, May 23, 2024

How Live Streaming Services Are Transforming the Entertainment Industry

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Live streaming has often been noted as the “way of the future” for television and video broadcasting because of the increasing bandwidth and power of internet connections. High-speed internet connections are no longer the bottleneck, and the quality of live video has increased significantly over the years. With the popularization of social media and video sharing sites, live streaming has also found its way to the general populace in various forms. Live streaming is available from major events and conferences to small-time streamers.

Live streamed video is footage that is sent over the internet with a broadcast to an encoder and then out to the server. Examples of live video include news and weather reports, video game broadcasts, and reality shows. Live video can range from compressed pre-recorded media, such as clips and trailers, to a simple live recording from a webcam or camcorder.

Live streaming is generally internet protocol (IP) multicasting between server and client. IP multicast is more efficient because it allows information to be sent out in packets from one server to many clients. It would be similar to saying that the information being sent out is one big file, unlike IP streaming. IP streaming would involve sending separate file segments on a specific delivery schedule to allow the client to view the stream.

Live streaming is a term used to describe the continuous delivery of video to computer systems or devices. Streaming can be done live or on demand. Live streams are generally more complex, as users starting up a live stream would have to ensure that the stream is constantly being broadcast without any interruptions for a specified amount of time. On the other hand, on-demand streams are outright less complex, as there are few intricacies involved unless it’s a video on demand with fast forward controls.

Streaming is a technology used to deliver content to computers and mobile devices over the internet, limiting the need for hard media from compact disks to DVDs. There are many forms of streaming, such as audio or video streaming. However, in this essay, I’ll only be referring to video streaming because this is how live streaming services work.

Impact of Live Streaming Services

This increase in streaming content and decrease in television viewing has a direct correlation to the revenue being generated from live streaming services. A survey conducted by Statista found that in the United States from 2013 to 2018, the revenue for streaming video on demand has increased by millions each year and is projected to reach 22,350m in revenue by the year 2023. TV advertising and subscription revenues, however, have been in a steady decline over the years and are projected to decrease further. Consumers are no longer wanting to sit through commercials or pay expensive subscriptions for television platforms. The content that is now being created to stream far surpasses the quality of content being shown on TV. With higher revenue standards for live streaming services, it’s safe to assume that the quality of content will continue to rise.

The shift from traditional television to live streaming services has proven to be a major game-changer in the way content is accessed and consumed. The advantages are clear and unavoidable to the regular consumer. Live streaming services can be accessed highly by any device with an internet connection. This is a huge departure from regular television viewing which can only be viewed in a static setting such as the family living room. The convenience of live streaming has overtaken people’s lives in the best way possible. In a 2016 study conducted by Deloitte, it was found that 56% of viewers stream movies at home, 53% stream TV shows and 45% stream user-generated content. This is a massive shift in the way people are accessing this type of content from years past. With how easy it is to access live streaming services, people are watching less regular television. In the same study conducted by Deloitte, it was found that 74% of the 2000 consumers surveyed are binge-watching and viewing multiple episodes at once. Only 41% of Americans are still viewing content from regular television.

Increased Access to Content

Live streaming has been able to alleviate this problem to a significant extent. The core technology of live streaming is relatively simple, with users simply needing a computer and a good internet connection to broadcast their own content to the world with a minimum of technical know-how. This has led to an explosion in the amount of broadcasting content available to consumers. Pioneered by sites such as twitch.tv with gaming content, to more recent ventures such as Facebook Live and YouTube Gaming, the constant improvement and cheapening of video capture technology has given rise to many content creators being able to regularly produce live entertainment for their viewers. This content is also often more varied than what the consumer would find in on-demand services, which favor big-budget productions due to their higher on-demand viewing shelf life. Live content, by contrast, can be more low-cost and spontaneous, being created simply for the fun of broadcasting or to generate tight-knit fan communities for particular games or activities.

The appropriate place to begin is to assess the impact live streaming has had on access to content, as it is a fertile area for exploration. Increased access has come about for a number of years in the entertainment industry, as new technologies and lower costs have made it progressively easier for consumers to find an ever wider array of content. From the introduction of VHS/Betamax, to the proliferation of cable television, up to today’s internet-based content delivery services, the trend has been to give consumers more for less. Even today, someone can feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of entertainment choices available to them, and as describe in their exploration of user behavior in video on demand systems, it is increasingly difficult for the consumer to navigate through a sea of content to the viewing choices they are truly satisfied with.

Changing Consumer Behavior

By having the show available in the same method as before is convenient to the viewer, nullifying the need to research the show and the company needed to access it. An example is Crunchyroll’s near-simultaneous availability of new Anime to all users, the result being a rapid decline in fansub releases for new series. Because the legal method is now familiar and convenient, it is the method which is now chosen. This example, though a specific case, reflects a pattern seen with various forms of content on many levels of entertainment. As companies continue to make all general forms of media familiar and convenient to the consumer through legal streaming methods, it will greatly reduce unauthorized access to said media.

Let’s assume that there is a fan of a popular show, and it is only available from a certain company which he is not familiar with. Analyses have shown that if the fan has no prior knowledge of the company, or a vested interest in its success, he will resort to unauthorized methods to access the show because it is familiar and convenient. It is highly detrimental to the particular company, turns a profitless effort regarding content production into a loss, and sometimes may even hinder the possibility of localizing or continuing said show.

A direct outcome of live streaming services’ global availability is changing how viewers access content. Take the Japanese Anime community, for example. Fans of Japanese animation often search the internet to find out when their favorite show or movie will be released, or if it will be available in their region. Simulcasts, or streaming a video in sync with the Japanese release, are a popular way to access the latest shows. It also assures international fans that the content will be legally available in their region. Some companies have capitalized by creating online subscription-based distribution in an attempt to reach all international fans. Here’s where things get interesting.

Challenges and Opportunities

Live streaming entertainment, despite its infancy, is quickly attaining a level of economic influence that is comparable to the music and movie industries. Analogous to those other entertainment media pathways, for many individual participants, it is becoming an alternative economic base. Sometimes, it is the appeal of new monetary opportunities which attracts people to live streaming in the first place. On the development side, venture capital with dreams of large profits is appearing in a manner reminiscent of the dot com boom. In contrast to trillions of existing web pages, the live streaming environment is in danger of becoming heavily oversaturated with content as everyone struggles to secure an audience. A survival of the fittest environment may appear where only the most popular content creators maintain their audience and, in a worst-case scenario, the medium could suffer a de-evolution of content reminiscent of modern-day television.

Copyright and Piracy Concerns

Safe harbor provisions are essential for internet service providers and platforms to avoid incurring potentially enormous costs of copyright litigation and liability for the infringement of their users. Live streaming service providers, to qualify for safe harbor protection, must adopt policies to promptly remove identified instances of copyright infringement, which may require implementation of monitoring and filtering technologies specific to copyrighted audio and video.

The US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) safe harbor provision, which has been important to the growth of the internet industry, shields service providers from liability for the infringing activities of their users, provided that they meet certain requirements. To qualify for safe harbor protection, the service provider must designate an agent to receive notifications of claimed infringement, must adopt and implement a policy accommodating and not interfering with standard technical measures used to protect copyrighted works, and must accommodate and not interfere with the standard technical measures used to identify and protect copyrighted works. The service provider must also expeditiously remove or disable access to infringing material of which it has actual knowledge and must not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity, in cases where the service provider has the right and ability to control such activity.

Live streaming of creative content, such as music, video games, and TV shows, raises legal and business issues long linked with traditional media, mostly copyright. By enabling the rebroadcasting of digital content to a potentially vast audience via internet platforms, live streaming raises new and significant risks of copyright infringement.

Monetization Strategies

Monetization strategies depend on many factors, such as what the site is offering, what its costs are, and who its target audience is. There are several ways to generate revenue from a website, and one of the most crucial is offering a service or product that people will pay for. The site must decide what is worth the user’s money. Some sites might offer “pay per view” services, while others might offer yearly subscriptions. Another way to generate revenue is through advertising, and in some cases, these ads might be the revenue. Deals with companies to promote and sell their products on an affiliate basis can also generate revenue. Some companies might trade services or content with one another. This way, the site can save on costs and put a value on what it traded. This also has the potential for increasing the value or quality of the site. Value is another important factor in monetization. Site owners can offer a higher quality of service or even something new and innovative that will draw a larger audience and buyers. Many entertainment websites have a database for user profiles and statistical information. This data has the potential to be extremely valuable when analyzing the target audience for a product or assisting in researching what will pique consumer interests. Any or all of the aforementioned strategies can be tested and analyzed through an A/B split test to determine which is the best course of action when trying to maximize revenue. This data can also be valuable when trying to secure funding or a loan for the company. The old saying “it takes money to make money” definitely applies to a business venture, and there is often a large amount of start-up costs associated with servers, manpower, and equipment for an online business.

Competition with Traditional Media

Though the live industry is in a good spot overall, there are still a few challenges concerning the aspirations for the future. The live industry as a whole would like to see more formal education about the prospects of working as a live engineer or in any other technical audio field. Often times, allowing people to realize the potential of working in the live field will steer them away from studio work. However, in today’s age, the traditional way of learning audio does not involve any live mixing. Studio equipment is costly and fragile, and studio environments can often hinder learning due to high-pressure situations involving expensive gear. Any mistakes made on a live console will only cost the user a little embarrassment and maybe a drink for the band. It is more cost-effective to lower a student into the live environment so that they may gain experience and knowledge. Sadly, this education process often comes at the expense of an inexperienced engineer possibly ruining a performer’s set. Though the young engineer may learn more from his mistakes, the performer is less likely to hire the engineer again for fear of repetition. This would hurt the engineer’s chances of continuous work.

Future Trends

In conclusion, live streaming’s ability to directly interact with viewers can allow for an unprecedented amount of quality viewer interaction and content delivery. This can cause a ripple effect in the entertainment industry as a whole and will change the way content is made and delivered. As more live streaming services become viable competitors to traditional TV services, more development and change will occur. With ambitious future trends and a continually evolving market, it’s clear that the entertainment industry will feel live streaming’s impact for many years to come.

The expansion of live streaming is not limited to just a few countries. Many global platforms have plans to expand into new territories. Dailymotion plans to re-enter the live streaming space and is targeting the Asia-Pacific region. Dailymotion’s Head of International Content commented that “the opportunity for live streaming is particularly apparent in the Asia-Pacific market, where advertisers are looking to engage with audiences through innovative formats.” YouTube has had live streaming since 2011 and is now trying to create a more global presence with its YouTube Gaming streams and various exclusive esports event broadcasts. With a more diverse array of live content from a myriad of different cultures, viewers are more likely to find live content that interests them.

As live streaming services have a more accurate depiction of who is watching their content, they can create better content recommendations than what traditional TV services can provide. A study by Parks Associates found that 40% of households with a head of household aged 18-24 find personalized recommendations extremely appealing. Companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu have had success with this and it has become an expected feature from these services. This can encourage longer watch times and more user engagement as viewers are more likely to find content they enjoy. In turn, this can help reduce the highly publicized issue of live streaming viewer drop off.

VR technology and content has seen a huge burst in popularity and adoption rates. The possibilities for live streaming in VR are endless. For example, NextVR has partnerships with professional sports leagues such as the NBA and NFL to broadcast live games. Live Nation has created a virtual reality experience for music festivals. Even simple VR integrations such as 360-degree video can add an immersive new way for fans to interact with their favorite events and show. As VR hardware becomes more accessible to the average consumer, VR integration will be an enticing new way to attract viewers.

Live streaming services are transforming the entertainment industry by broadening the definition of “live programming”. As live streaming becomes a common way to consume content, the future trends in the entertainment industry will undergo significant shifts.

4.1. Virtual Reality Integration

Consider new interactive experiences with live content and VR. In an IoT connected smart world, live streaming content viewed from VR devices will be an entry point for many real-world smart device applications. Control and monitoring applications developed for smart homes and smart technology will benefit from live streaming content integrated with VR to offer new interactive visualization experiences. One example may be an IoT system incorporating a home automation system, with the live streaming content being a VR simulation to showcase the latest in home automation technology. During this live-streamed VR simulation, users will be able to interact with the home automation environment showcased in the stream. With more complex and engaging VR experiences, live streaming content will become more effective in drawing in viewer traffic from many walks of life. Higher traffic will also drive more effective monetization of IoT VR content through relevant ads or even product placement in VR simulations.

Currently, the concept of virtual reality (VR) is still novel for many consumers, but the technology and the content available are advancing regularly. As a result, technological advancements in live streaming services and the integration of VR may allow consumers to come closer to experiencing “being there”. On top of that, VR is a great way to create content that is tailored to each individual consumer. By understanding a consumer’s VR preferences through their behaviors and the data they consume, providers will be able to deliver an experience that is most suitable to the viewer, which is an objective outlined in the next section. This means that they can create live and on-demand VR content that is highly likely to engage the viewer, thus increasing the likelihood that the viewing session results in increased revenue. This type of personalized VR content is not limited to immersive video but also applies to simulated environments such as virtual lounges or VR applications of social media platforms.

4.2. Personalized Content Recommendations

These real-time performances are engaging and exhilarating, and this exhilaration is amplified when viewers may play an interactive role in the progression of an event. For example, Netflix has in the past linked with Twitch (a popular streaming service primarily used by gamers) to create a live mystery interactive game. Twitch users worked to solve the game’s mystery by watching and controlling the actions of the main character who was in the “real world” at a coffee shop. This character was actually a professional Twitch streamer assigned to the role. The game featured 15 different endings and various twists influenced by the audience. The viewers could offer the streamer food and drink items that would uncover clues or cause unfortunate events from a list that was available for them to view using an online inventory. This Netflix game was a low-cost but innovative promotion for a new TV series, but most importantly, it demonstrates a new type of entertainment that is made possible through an emerging technology. The providers of these real-time virtual experiences feed off viewer participation and immediate feedback, and often times a game or event is designed to be altered or continue based on audience roleplaying or decisions. These types of complex game scenarios and interactive events may at times be difficult to prepare for and control based on live input and networked online game sessions. It would be greatly beneficial for these providers to simulate their event before the real publicized occurrence in order to foresee any possible forks in the game progression and also to gather data that will optimize the overall experience for the viewing and participating audience. This is another task which can be achieved through cloud-based live video solutions. Audience participation data from the real event can be evaluated and compared towards a prepared run through. On-demand reality TV show productions would also have the ability to edit and construct storylines based on viewer feedback in an actual game show simulcast.

4.3. Global Expansion of Live Streaming Platforms

While global expansion can be great for a platform’s success, it does not come without some backlash. Japan’s anime industry has become sensitive to the global market controls after many licensing disputes and high distribution costs. With Netflix having hundreds of hours of original anime content and Crunchyroll backing itself on being the global destination for anime, there is concern of competition and costs of content production rising too high. This fear was also echoed by Hulu’s global expansion causing more bidding conflicts over exclusive video-on-demand rights for content. This would suggest that more platforms would get into producing exclusive or original content that is location-specific in hopes of defending their audience from other platforms.

The final trend sees many of the video streaming services expand to a global scale by making the decision to produce their own original content for a wider audience. The perfect example of this comes from the announcement of the Netflix-funded television series of The Witcher that is to be released and produced by Netflix itself. This major decision will further push Netflix’s success in global expansion while providing potential for part of the audience from the video game series to also test their service after the high reviews of their adaptation of the Castlevania series. It was also seen with Amazon’s Video Direct program that opened up the opportunity for any video providers on a self-service program to distribute their content with rental, purchase, or ad-supported options across many countries.

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