An Untapped Vertical for Live Streaming

The competition among streaming platforms has never been hotter. However despite the multitude of options there seems to only be one value proposition.

A user (streamer) seeks to create content with the goal of attracting the largest possible audience. The platform and streamer then seek to monetize the audience primarily via advertising and donations. In exchange for their attention, viewers expect to be entertained.

One of the downsides of this model is that only a fraction of streamers will be entertaining, diligent, and lucky enough to build a large audience. As a user your chances of achieving the perceived criteria for success are low. This imbalance leads to a poor experience for both streamers (who get upset at lack of CCU) & viewers (who have to wade through tons of content that fails to entertain). So despite creating a pretty good two-sided network effects loop, the low success rate is causing a pretty hefty churn rate on active streamers.

The problems streaming platforms should be focused on solving are:

  • How does a platform make streamers feel successful with low CCU numbers?
  • How does a platform increase the value of content to a viewer?

At it’s core both of these are curation issues. But before we get to the solution, lets take a detour to the early 00's.

Has streaming tech finally caught up?

Any red-blooded tech connoisseur will remember the era of Metallica vs Napster. First the pirates came for the music, then the movies, then the video games, and now they’ve come for the live video. The order of this process was a result of the complexity & size of the items being distributed. Step one was music because it was the smallest file size, movies were step two because they were larger and required high speed internet to download. Games were even larger so they took longer and finally live streaming was last as it required the most sophisticated distribution system.

This progression illustrates that the optimal distribution of content is frequently inhibited by the technology available at the time. However when technology catches up, new opportunities open up.

Streaming as an In-Game Communication Tool

The tools for in-game communication are currently limited to text and audio. As audio requires a small amount of bandwidth and offers limited delay it has thus far been the favored medium of communication. However the low streaming delays many platforms recently achieved finally put them in a position to compete for this vertical. To gain traction platforms need to reframe the success criteria from:

“You are successful when you have amassed a large viewership” ->> “You are successful when you win your game.”

For viewers the value proposition changes from:

“Streamers will entertain you.” ->> “Streamers will improve your chances of winning your current game.”

To achieve the above, a platform will need to monitor the current game state of a streamer and then seamlessly pair the stream to everyone on the team. With the additional real time information available to them, the team will improve their odds of winning the game. Video streaming can offer another tier of communication in addition to voice chat.

A Case Study in Visual Communication

Early in March I attended the Halo World Championship Qualifiers. After an event it’s customary to go play Halo:CE side matches in someone’s hotel room. Halo:CE differs from every other Halo in that it didn’t offer out of the box online competition, only LAN. This style of competition forced team mates to share screens when they played at events. Top level players discovered that it was more efficient to simply watch both screens than to utilize their energy on verbally communicating their current status. Verbal communication was used sparingly and allowed for an additional level of prioritization.

The match I witnessed featured a random group of high level Halo:CE players taking on a team that had won a National Championship in Halo 3. This team was a group of veterans who had spent several hundred hours playing and communicating with each other. Many of them were still active competitors in Halo 5. Their side of the room was loud, they were calling out spawns, flanks, and in game goals.

The group of high level Halo:CE players behaved very differently. Most of them had never teamed together and hardly anyone was talking. However they had all independently trained in an environment where screen watching was the default way of communication. While the two groups did specialize in different versions of the game, the gametype was heavily skewed in favor of the Halo 3 squad and their mechanics were much more superior. (Hang ’Em CTF, playing from Blue, on Host for the curious) Despite this advantage, they lost largely due to the superior coordination of their competitors.

What Halo:CE Communication Sounds Like:

Screen watching team mates largely disappeared once gaming went from an activity that required physical proximity to one that could be done online. The value of playing from home with a larger pool of potential competitors provided a different tier of value than the advantage of being able to see your teammate’s screen. However streaming technology has advanced far enough to provide this service in the comfort of your own home.

About the author: www.AntonFerraro.com

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