Media Companies Now Need a Live Streaming Strategy

Martha Stewart grills burgers live on Facebook. Facebook will continue to dominate live streaming selfies.

This year is shaking up to be the year of live streaming, as online video platforms left and right launch support for live streaming features. Now that most of the social video networks now offer users the ability to live stream broadcasts, publishers, brands and content owners are trying to determine the best way to tap into the social phenomenon.

Media companies now need to have a live streaming strategy, according to Chad Abbott, CEO of the live streaming production company Abbson Live. “Everyone can do it now,” Abbott said at the recent OTT Executive Summit. “So the key this year is how do you do it better. Last year, the key was just are you doing it? That’s not the case anymore. Now you have to do it well.”

Abbson Live specializes in using live streaming video for content marketing. “We work with brands and some broadcasters and figure out how to do live streaming in a way that’s valuable to them,” Abbott said. “How that impacts their other product offerings, especially if they have digital products like their own OTT platform. We’re looking at social live streaming as well as custom-platform type stuff.”

Not surprisingly, Abbott said Facebook Live has become a game changer for media companies. “What we’re most interested in this year is Facebook Live. Once they got into that space, the game was really over,” he said. “Just based on their user base and user adoption, there’s no way to compete with it. Twitter doesn’t even come close. There are far superior products out there, YouTube’s product is much better. But that doesn’t matter.”

Media companies can leverage both professional production and user-generated live content online to gain viewers and drive traffic, Abbott said. “We’re looking at ways these social live stream platforms can impact what you’re doing off social,” he said. “How are these driving engagement on your OTT platform, how are these driving new viewership?”

User-generated live streams can function as “organic marketing,” Abbott said, “when you’re seeing people use live streaming to benefit the context you’re creating, especially when your event has a live component, so a sporting event or an awards show or something of that sort.”

Then there’s the higher-quality video that can be streamed directly to fans on their smartphones. Some media companies are now creating professional-grade live programming that lives exclusively on social video platforms such as Facebook or Snapchat. Abbott said viewers expect Web video production quality to be on par with broadcast or TV. “We’re able to get away with lower-quality content than we could do with broadcast, but you may still need to make a significant investment in production,” he said. “It’s not ok as a big brand to use an iPhone to do Facebook Live. People are unwilling to forgive streaming failures in most cases when they’re dealing with big brands. Even free content has to be good if you’re a big brand.”

As for monetization, Abbott pointed to branded content and sponsorship models as the best way for media companies to achieve valuable return on live social video investments. “There’s no monetization for Live on Facebook – but sometimes there is,” he said. “You can easily do sponsorships, you can easily do paid content in that.”

 The Next Goal: Make Social Live Streams Better

Abbott expects the live social video platforms themselves will continue to improve, and media companies will need to adapt and improve their Web video strategies accordingly.

“Live stream platform will over time add OTT features,” he said. “They’re already working on this. Facebook is working now on making monetization easier. Maybe then it becomes like a sole destination, but right now it’s a way to add to the experience.”

And Abbott predicts monetization and advertising on live streaming social platforms will improve, too. “This is what’s going to be exciting about social live streaming video…

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