“Going Live” Gains Popularity in Commerce, Social, and Event

“Let’s go live.” For decades, that’s what newscasters say as they cut to real-time footage of a colleague reporting in the field. The live-video feed adds visual interest and perspective to a story beyond what can be communicated by someone sitting behind the news desk. In the same way, live-streaming video nowadays adds context to other consumer environments. From gaming and events to shopping and social media, “going live” enhances everyday experiences, and it’s something anyone can do with relative ease.

Before taking a “live” look at the current trends—and some fun examples—let’s delve into the origin of live-streaming video.

Over the past 15 years, live streaming has found its place across many consumer platforms.

Live-streaming video as we know it today has its roots in the gaming world. The 2006 introduction of Justin.tv, now Twitch, gave gamers a virtual stage to show off their skills. Through those live-streamed videos, “gaming” became a live spectator sport, entertaining viewers as they watched other people play video games. Gamers have even risen to celebrity-level fame, amassing sponsorships and revenue through subscriptions and advertisements, with the top superstars on the platform reportedly making hundreds of thousands of dollars each month. At this time of writing, TwitchTracker.com is reporting more than 160,000 broadcasting channels and 4.6 million active viewers.

These key live-streaming milestones are worth mentioning:

  • Introduction of the first iPhone in 2007. It goes without saying the tremendous effect this technology has had, making it instinctual for people to connect online and create content from their own device.
  • Launch of YouTube. Although the social platform was launched in 2005 before Twitch, its live capabilities captured worldwide attention with the streaming of Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking freefall from the edge of space. Eight million people tuned in to watch the daredevil skydiver make history in real time.
  • Periscope’s introduction before its acquisition by Twitter. The now-discontinued app was introduced in 2015, enabling everyone with a smartphone to go live.
  • All social-media users can go live. Facebook Live and Instagram Live were rolled out to all users in 2016.

Growing from its gaming roots, live-streaming video is now ubiquitous.

Pretty much any digital channel you can think of, live-streaming video is already there. In its report The Livestreaming Landscape 2021, eMarketer explains that beyond gaming, “live streaming has been a popular way for consumers to engage with [social-media] influencers, attend virtual events … and more recently, discover products through live shopping.”

Because people can go live through their Instagram or Facebook profile, the topics of their “lives” are diverse. From holding a Q&A session to demonstrating a recipe in the kitchen, giving a hairdo or makeup demo, offering commentary during a TV show, or unboxing an online purchase, the possibilities are endless.

As Hootsuite explains in its Ultimate Guide to Social Media Live Streaming, going live is a great way to connect with the audience because “you’ll get instant feedback, you’ll capture eyeballs, you’ll create an intimate connection … and you’ll skip the algorithm.” You can even monetize your content. And, with LinkedIn getting in on the action, live videos can also be career- and business-focused, showcasing someone’s professional expertise.

Events are another avenue for live-streaming video or, as we’ve seen during the pandemic, sometimes the only way in which to congregate. From virtual conferences (like Cloudinary’s ImageCon 2020, which took place on Bizzabo) to concerts and religious services, high-quality live-streaming video offers the same immersive experience you would otherwise have in person.

The fitness industry is another emerging use case for live streaming. The pandemic-induced quarantines in 2020 saw a sharp uptick in usage. According to Mindbody, live-streamed workouts were accessed by only 7% of consumers in 2019. By April 2021, 85% of consumers reported live-streaming a fitness class every week.

Not least, shoppable live-streaming, an excellent route to many top brands’ target audience, is a growing channel. But that is a topic for another day: I’ll cover it in a separate blog so be sure to check back.

Video consumption during the pandemic gave live streaming’s growth an extra boost.

In the five years since its launch by Facebook and Instagram, live streaming has continued to skyrocket. In fact, as one streaming platform coined it, 2020 was “the year of the online video boom.” Based on data from last year, insights from analysts and technology vendors paint a pretty clear picture of how we spent our time during quarantine. Spoiler: there was a whole lot of live streaming!

eMarketer spoke to the increase in viewership for live videos, calling it “one of the biggest digital media stories of the pandemic.” As proof of that observation, eMarketer says, “Our new estimate of 151.5 million monthly live video viewers is 15.1 million higher than we had predicted in early 2020,” adding:

“During the early days of the pandemic, livestreams on social platforms were able to fill part of the void caused by social distancing and quarantine measures … there was a 45% month-over-month increase in live streaming hours in April on major gaming platforms such as Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming. The uptick came from both celebrities and influencers…as well as from everyday users connecting with their friends and communities by streaming their quarantine life live.”

Here are more statistics that illustrate the popular adoption of live-streaming video and its accelerated growth:

  • In mid-March 2020, Google reported a 300-500% increase in searches for live-streaming platforms. Furthermore, data from YouTube revealed that watch time for live streams had increased by 250%.
  • GlobalWebIndex found in its May 2020 survey that “half of live-stream users agree [that] online interactions are just as real and as valuable as face-to-face interactions.” Furthermore, 34% of all internet users are “gaming or social live streamers.”

All told, between March and April 2020, the live-streaming sector grew by 45%, with the industry being up by 99% year over year.

We’ve just scratched the surface—let’s explore more about “live.”

Live-streaming video will continue to play a key role in keeping us not only connected and entertained, but also fulfilled through online purchases. In the weeks to come, I’ll be diving deeper into the topics of live-streaming video on demand (VOD) and shoppable live video, offering perspectives on how brands and marketers can take advantage of the live-stream craze to attract audiences and grow revenue. Stay tuned.