Live-streaming is the broadcasting of live video in real-time via the internet to bring worldwide audiences together. This makes live-streaming completely uncensored, unlike pre-recorded videos which are usually edited. Today, video games, professional sports, TV broadcasts, and social media can all be live-streamed. The idea that social media channels have enabled individuals to share raw footage of their day-to-day lives with an audience and earn income from it has also proven that video does not have to be professionally produced to succeed online.
Worldwide demand for live video streaming is growing exponentially and, as a result, so are the number of platforms designed to meet that demand. According to Research and Markets, the video streaming market was worth an estimated $30.29 billion in 2016, is expected to reach $70.05 billion by 2021, and $184.3 billion by 2027. Due to the current pandemic, these projections are sure to grow given the recent trends.
A Brief History
Where did it all begin? Back in 2013, the online video-sharing platform, YouTube, launched its first live-streaming functionality, allowing its partners to broadcast live to the site’s vast global audience. However, that wasn’t the first attempt by YouTube. The platform had already experimented with live-streaming, hosting a live interview with former U.S President, Barack Obama. UStream, another company in the live-streaming space, had also already offered live-streaming capabilities, yet didn’t have the extensive audience of YouTube, the world’s largest online video provider.
Then came Periscope, a one-touch mobile live-streaming app that entered the landscape in March 2015 and was quickly acquired by Twitter (before the app officially launched). Completely changing the way people connect via social media, Periscope allowed users to broadcast messages and conduct video conversations via their smartphone. Messages could be made public or private and any user who joined the broadcast could see the live video and comment on it. Ever since, video distribution companies such as YouTube, which now offers 360-degree 4K live-streaming capabilities, have continued to expand their brands.
Some Leading Streaming Platforms in the Industry
As we’ll see in this report, live-streaming has truly changed the way we connect with our family, friends, and followers. Arguably, no other medium comes as close to matching the excitement and accessibility of forging a deep connection with your audience as live-streaming.
With a plethora of platforms out there to discover, below are just some which are worth knowing about.
Twitch – The world’s leading live-streaming platform for gamers, Twitch holds a market share of 73% of all watched hours of live-streaming videos and currently dominates the marketplace, even out-beating YouTube. With Twitch, broadcasters can advertise, earn, chat with viewers and streamers, and much more.
Facebook Live – Facebook Live is another great platform for businesses, eCommerce sellers, and marketers to reach their audiences. The platform is a dominant player in the social media streaming game and allows users to livestream up to 90 minutes, set up high quality Q&As, live events, and more.
Mixer – Mixer is actually the second most popular platform for gaming content. Known for it’s lightning-fast streaming, Mixer’s “less than a second” instant stream capability and Xbox integration has this platform aiming to beat its competitors.
BiliBili – Based in Shanghai, this live video sharing platform is themed around animation, comics and games, where viewers can interact with streamers in real-time.
Mobiuspace – An advanced content discovery and entertainment platform with AI technology, Mobiuspace developed several social video streaming apps in the music and video sharing space.
Hyperconnect – Founded in 2014, Hyperconnect offers users real-time video communication and a quick way to meet new people around the world.
TikTok – Launched in 2016, Tiktok allows users to create, share, and discover short music videos, a kind of ‘Karaoke for the Digital Age’. As well as allowing users to share videos of themselves lip-syncing, the platform also allows users to go live.
Mango Live – With an active community of talented broadcasters, this social live-streaming app allows users to share wonderful moments with their friends and fans from around the world, showcase their talents to a global audience, and meet new people, all while making a living.
Live.me – Twitch is for young people who love to share and meet new people. The platform is famous for connecting creators like DJs, singers, actors, comedians, and more, with an authentic global fanbase.
FaceCast – Currently used in over 150 countries, FaceCast is a global live video streaming community where people share their favorite short videos and live chats with the mission of creating a new “video social” era.
Bigo Live – Bigo is a live-streaming platform where users are able to show off their talents and make friends from around the world. With over 200 million users worldwide, the platform enables streamers to share their favorite moments, sing, dance, gain fans, receive gifts, and become an idol to many.
Periscope – Acquired by Twitter back in 2015, Periscope lets users broadcast and explore the world via live video. In this way they can meet new people, visit a new place or share the latest news, all in real time. In addition, the platform allows users to instantly share their live videos to Twitter and other social networks.
Mico – Of the most popular social apps that includes live-streaming, Mico lets users video chat with friends worldwide, share moments, and watch live-streams.
Live Music Stream
Streaming gamers weren’t the only ones to see a significant spike in traffic. With live concerts shut down due to the pandemic, musicians and artists worldwide quickly flocked to platforms to bring music to the ears of their fans and earn money in lieu of being able to tour.
According to the World Economic Forum, the way people listen to music has changed in light of coronavirus, as the industry saw online music subscriptions increase by 70% year-over-year and on-demand music video streams soar. Platforms like YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and Instagram Live all saw a significant increase of viewership as artists utilized live-streaming as a method to connect directly with fans and release new music.
Furthermore, collaboration between artists and media organizations exploded as a result of the pandemic. Minecraft, a well-known video game series, hosted numerous virtual concerts and the popular multiplayer video game Fortnite featured an in-game Travis Scott concert with an avatar of the American recording artist, ultimately resulting in 12.3 million players.
In China, the live-streaming industry has quickly become an important platform for economic recovery, completely changing the way eCommerce in the region is conducted. Due to COVID-19, livestreaming shopping has boomed and local eCommerce giants like JD.com have boosted sales by partnering with live-streaming platform Kuaishou, allowing users to purchase products via live broadcasts.
This boom can be seen in results from early May, when China celebrated its five-day national Labor Day Holiday, where sales via livestreaming platforms reach almost $140 million and sales volumes 4.7 times higher than those in 2019.
An even earlier indication of how live-streaming was entering eCommerce can be seen in early March, during the peak of China’s lockdown, when local messaging and social app, WeChat, quickly amped up its live-streaming capabilities with the launch of its Mini Program app. This sub-application allows both influencers and merchants to livestream and link to purchase products via HTML5 pages or connected Mini Programs. As a result, on International Women’s Day, close to 1,000 fashion, beauty, and lifestyle brands livestreamed on WeChat, and created an 83% spike in traffic.
Additionally, in March, Louis Vuitton became the first major high-end fashion brand to live-stream their upcoming 2020 summer collection during a one-hour event via China’s luxury retail app, Little Red Book.
As more global fashion brands jump on the live-streaming bandwagon promoting products, discounts, and giveaways, live-streaming may just be the media channel that could save the retail space.
How to Kickstart Your Journey
Live-streaming is clearly more than just a hobby. It’s a lucrative revenue stream open to anyone. Though while it’s pretty easy to broadcast live content, knowing how to get started and what elements are involved in the setup can really help maximize earnings.
In this section, we’ll cover the basics on how to get started with a livestreaming business.
STEP 1: PLAN YOUR BUSINESS
Before getting started, creating a clear and thorough outline of your live-streaming business will help you map out the specifics. Define what goals you’d like to achieve; think about your niche and what type of content you’d like to broadcast as well as which audience you’d like to target.
Once you’ve decided on the type of content, it’s time to look into what hardware and software you’ll need to start streaming.
STEP 2: SET UP YOUR STREAMING ENVIRONMENT
Live-streaming begins with good audio and video sources. At a basic level, live-streaming can be achieved with a smartphone, however it probably won’t be enough to broadcast high-quality content.
Webcams are a great and inexpensive way to produce professional content and most of these devices typically come with built-in microphones. If you’re live-streaming a tutorial, webcams are great for increasing engagement.
Digital SLR Camera
DSLR cameras are recommended for high-quality content but are usually much more expensive. Top Tip: make sure your DSLR can shoot at full HD 1080 video and has an HDMI output.
DSLR cameras also require a capture card. Capture cards take the video input from your camera and make it available on your computer or sends it directly to your live-stream. There’s a wide range of encoding and external devices out there that can do this, from desktop installations to plugins in between your camera and computer.
STEP 3: CHOOSE AN ENCODER
An encoder is a device that takes in the data from your camera or capture card and turns it into a format that’s easily understood by the streaming platform. There are two types of encoders: hardware and software. If you’re just starting out, you’ll probably want to choose a software encoder.
Software encoders are specific programs that run on your computer or laptop, are usually very easy to set up, and can always be upgraded by downloading new and improved versions.
Hardware encoders are dedicated processors that encode video and data into streamable content. They usually come in small portable boxes with fixed levels of video quality. As hardware encoders are often more expensive, they are recommended for more advanced streamers.
STEP 4: GET A GOOD INTERNET CONNECTION
As live-streaming can take up a lot of bandwidth, your connection’s upload rate is crucially important.
STEP 5: SELECT A LIVE-STREAMING PLATFORM TO BROADCAST YOUR CONTENT
It’s best to choose a platform based on the type of content you plan to produce. Some are free to use, such as YouTube, while platforms like Twitch have a tiered structure. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn also have their own live-streaming services. Whichever platform you decide to join, though, make sure it matches your intent and niche so you can truly maximize your reach.
STEP 6: START THE LIVE-STREAM
You’re now almost ready to go live. Plan out the content you’re going to broadcast and prepare any materials you need. Promote your livestream to your followers a few days before and be sure to mention:
• The topic you’ll be discussing
• The date and time
• The hosted platform (provide a URL)
Test, test, test! Always test the technical aspects of your stream.
From internet speed to the sound quality of your microphone, you’ll want to get ahead of anything that can go wrong.
Now, all that’s left is to start streaming. Remember, be as engaging and authentic as possible, relax, and enjoy. You’ll soon be on your way to earning from your live-streams!
4 Ways to Monetize Your Live-Stream
Below are four ways to expand your business to wider audiences and monetize your live-streams.
1. Run Ads
Yes, ads have made their way to live-streams as well. If you build a strong base of followers (e.g. platforms like Facebook Live will only allow you to display ads if you have a follower base of 50K+ and at least 300 viewers), you’ll be able to display ads in between or during your live-streaming sessions. The revenue is then calculated by the total number of ad views.
2. Fan Donations
Today, fans and viewers of live-streaming can support their favorite creators via online donations. This is among the most innovative ways to make a profit from live-streaming.
For example, Bigo Live allows fans to buy virtual diamonds, enabling them to buy gifts for broadcasters. If a gift worth 100 diamonds is given to a broadcaster, they would receive 100 beans which can then be withdrawn into USD. Likewise, broadcasting platform, Twitch also allows viewers to convert money into coins through which they can buy gifts for their favorite streamers. Once a streamer gains 40,000 diamonds (worth around 200 USD), they’re eligible for a payout.
Similarly, YouTube Live’s Super Chat feature lets viewers pay a small fee to get their chat message pinned to the top of the comment section for a select amount of time; the revenue made from their purchase goes to the streamer.
3. Subscriptions & Pay Per View
When starting as a streamer these one-time donations can really help boost your business. As you become a streaming regular with a larger audience, though, you’ll be able to open yourself to monthly subscriptions, allowing you to capitalize on a specific audience for income.
Subscriptions and the Pay Per View model are the most straightforward way to earn income from live-streaming. A subscription gives access to the streamer’s exclusive content for a certain period, along with perks like ad-free streams and special badges, whereas the Pay Per View model asks fans to pay a certain
4. Affiliate Programs
Participating in affiliate programs is another excellent option when looking to profit from live-streaming. Affiliate programs allow even the smallest creators to earn from their content. All you need to do is sign up to an affiliate marketing program and get an affiliate link or promo code. Then, when someone clicks the link and purchases the product, you’ll receive a percentage of the sale.