- According to credible rumors, Alphabet is entering the live video streaming sector with YouTube Connect.
- The service, which could be launched before Google’s I/O developer conference in May, will challenge Facebook, Twitter, and IBM.
- Live video streaming could be "the new TV" and have a disruptive impact on online media and advertising.
Next-generation live video streaming platforms are rapidly revolutionizing online communications for consumers and businesses alike. Now, according to credible rumors, Alphabet Inc-A (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is entering the live video streaming sector with YouTube Connect.
In January, IBM (NYSE:IBM) acquired veteran live video streaming provider Ustream, a company headquartered in San Francisco that provides video streaming services to more than 80 million viewers and broadcasters.
"Video is the most powerful and emotional medium," said Brad Hunstable, CEO, Ustream. "Increasingly it is becoming the favored form of communication, not just for entertainment, but also for business." In fact, IBM's plans for Ustream target the business market, but powerful live streaming platforms for consumers are emerging and rapidly gaining popularity.
Twitter's Periscope, launched in March 2015, lets everyone stream live video to the world from an app available for iOS and Android devices. While Periscope wasn't the first live video streaming app for consumers, it's arguably the first to achieve mass usability and appeal, and captured ten million users in just four months from launch.
In December 2015, Apple named Periscope as the iPhone App of the Year. The company was acquired by Twitter in January 2015, before the product had been publicly launched. Periscope is simplicity itself, and anyone can start broadcasting live video immediately after downloading the app and creating a profile, no questions asked. In fact, the bare immediacy of Periscope matches that of Twitter itself and Facebook's photo-sharing service Instagram.
Writing for The Huffington Post, Danielle James described Periscope's potential as "the new TV." In fact, besides broadcasting rants and family moments from one's living room, Periscope can be used to broadcast current events live. Politicians are starting to use Periscope - including Donald Trump, who hosted some Periscope broadcasts.
Facebook offers live video streaming in Facebook Mentions, the company's outreach tool for public figures and brands. Individual users are also able to stream live video after getting their profile verified by Facebook. Getting one's profile verified is an extra step that deters some users, but the process - which requires sending a scanned id to Facebook - is reasonably straightforward, and Facebook live streaming is arguably better integrated with the rest of Facebook than Periscope with Twitter. Many Facebook power users are beginning to use live video streaming to connect with their friends and followers.
In both cases, live streaming is integrated with the embedding social networks, and broadcasters can receive and answer questions and comments from other users via the app or the desktop. The rapid fire discussions on popular streams show the potential of live streaming to connect with social network audiences and indicate that live streaming could not only provide an important boost to the popularity of the embedding social networks - Twitter and Facebook - but also open new channels for product promotion and advertising.
Live video streaming is also noteworthy in the context of the ongoing push of social media companies, first and foremost Facebook, to become major media hubs. While directly challenging traditional media wouldn't make too much sense for Facebook, it seems that live streaming could be an important complement to Facebook's services for publishers, such as Instant Articles.
Alphabet offers live video streaming via Hangouts on Air and YouTube Creator Studio, but Alphabet's streaming services aren't so immediate and advanced as Ustream, Periscope, or Facebook Live. But now Alphabet wants to fill the gap, VentureBeat reports. The company, which hasn't yet made an announcement or issued official comments, is rumored to be working on a new live streaming app called YouTube Connect, which will be available on both iOS and Android devices, to compete directly against Twitter’s Periscope and Facebook Live.
According to unnamed "sources close to the matter," a launch of YouTube Connect before Google’s I/O developer conference in May seems likely. "You can log into the app using your Google or YouTube account and immediately begin streaming from your mobile phone," reveals VentureBeat. "There are chat and tagging features, and a 'news feed' that features the latest clips from your friends or those that you’ve subscribed to on YouTube. Videos will be viewable live within the app, as well as on the YouTube site in their respective channels."
Alphabet couldn't stay out of the emerging live video streaming space, which ties directly in key parts of Alphabet's business lines, such as YouTube, Google+, News, and Adsense. Investors should feel reassured that Alphabet is taking the necessary steps to protect and reinforce its leading position in online media and advertising.