Industry Voices—Ring: About 81M in U.S. view livestreams on social networks daily or weekly

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Ring Digital's latest consumer survey is titled "Live Streaming on Social Networks." (Getty/bigtunaonline)

Livestreaming on social networks is still a thing, and it’s not only about esports. But it’s not enough to know that people enjoy it; you need to know why people enjoy it and how it might impact your business or content strategy.

My latest future of TV consumer survey, "Live Streaming on Social Networks" (sponsored by Singular.Live), features a panel screened to be narrower by referencing social platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Twitch and Periscope. Let’s call them Social Streamers.

Their incidence is 28% of the U.S. internet population, or an estimated 81 million people viewing livestreaming on social networks on a daily or weekly basis last month.

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Think about that in the context of a “tailgate party.” Or, picture yourself at a cocktail event. Start asking guest after guest whether they have watched a live stream on a social network. Every third person is likely to say yes. Even if that’s not going to hit a "mass media" threshold, that’s “a thing” in my book.

Good news: Diverse, cross-genre appeal!

Is this a niche eSports thing, then? Turns out, eSports came in second, under movies and TV series. While I didn’t expect that, the results make sense in the context of the bucket load of entertainment marketing and digital ad dollars that movies and TV series creators have. That may have helped lift the category to the top spot. Later in the survey I asked respondents to name their favorite livestreaming events and -- no surprise – the culture-sized hits like “Riverdale” showed up on that list. (Specifically, my favorite response was “Riverdale. Duh.”)

On the other end, despite the flash mob of HQ Trivia, interactive quiz shows ranked low.

One final note: Sports and news can do better. There are different sub-behaviors at work here, no doubt, and I hope to dive deeper into the subject in a future report.

Enjoyment factor? Strong-ish, but Live is hard, with more work to do

On further review, while the report highlights that 37% of livestream viewers rated livestreams as highly enjoyable, I have reevaluated my interpretation of this data point.

In fact, the louder point is that 50% of respondents rated it a 4 or 5 on a 7-point enjoyment scale, which means we need to do much better as an industry at lifting this top two box number. To succeed, digital, live and linear producers will need to be well-coordinated – like clockwork. Having said that, very few people dislike live streams, which means the opportunity is ours to win.

Why? Humans love talented humans, in-person. Even when they can’t be there

Two points are notable in Figure 1 below, which is a slide from my report.

First, authentic host(s) matters most. Notwithstanding AI's power, algorithms have a limit. AI can't create stories. Humans can. Hosts, on-air broadcasters, commentators and the behind-the-scenes digital producers make live magic happen. That's where it all starts.

Second, for all the digital hoopla, there's something about #IRL. (That's streamer slang for "in real life.") The second and third-ranked choices remind us that the power of in-person events (cut to live studio audience) far exceeds that of the online only variety.

Figure 1 (Ring Digital)

YouTube is #1 -- and #2, Facebook, is not even close. Twitter? A blip

In Figure 2 below, I’ve visualized the comparative popularity of the various social networks. This question – and variations on it – is one that I have asked many times over the past five years in a variety of survey contexts. Bottom line? I’ve never seen Facebook register so poorly.

It prompted me to dig up an older survey executed in July 2016 with a very similar panel and question. The news for Facebook went from bad to worse.

In 2016, 35% of social streamers selected Facebook as “the best social media platform for watching live video streams.” In 2019, the number was 22%, suggesting a steep decline.

Finally, some one-word comments. Twitch: This audience goes deep. Instagram: Zuckerberg’s big success? M&A. Twitter: Influence-media is different than mass-media; Twitter is still not mass. Periscope: Twitter should spin it out and retain a 49% interest – perhaps take a page from the PayPal/eBay playbook.

Figure 2 (Ring Digital)

Whether passive, interactive or personalized, live streams benefit from digital overlays

As every good broadcast nerd knows, real-time video graphics are hard to do. And they are a major source of value-creation for news and sports programming. The data shows that same goes for livestreaming on social networks. In fact, while there is always debate among the live production community about how much to fill the screen with tickers, stats and graphics, only 5% of respondents claimed that graphics negatively impact the viewing experience.

A complete copy of this report is available here.

Brian Ring has more than 18 years of experience in designing, marketing and selling video and TV technology to global operators, publishers, broadcasters, networks, and studios. Brian has provided product strategy, content marketing and sales development leadership across every major segment of the video & TV tech market , both as a full-time employee at Cisco (now Synamedia) and Ericsson (now MediaKind) and also as a senior consultant to clients like Brightcove, Pac-12 Networks, Thuuz Sports, Grass Valley, Wowza Media Systems and many others. As a researcher and analyst, Brian has written and contributed extensively to the ongoing discussion about television’s evolution from free to pay, from OTA to OTT, and from the big screen to all screens. This includes original online survey research on topics such as sports DVR usage, social TV, livestreaming, streaming QoE, and sports fan engagement and monetization in the OTT era. He can be reached on Twitter at @BrianLRing

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by FierceVideo staff. They do not represent the opinions of FierceVideo.

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