Today’s consumers want to be anything but passive. When it comes to live event streaming platforms, it’s no longer enough to simply offer users footage of a concert or other experience. The massive popularity of apps such as HQ Trivia and Facebook Live proves that users also want to interact with video through real-time chat, commenting, data integrations, video augmentations and other capabilities.
As a result, apps and services of all varieties are beginning to build in user-generated content (UGC) capabilities. This includes functionality for users to create and share their own live-streaming video (known as LiveUGC).
However, live event broadcasting, particularly for sports, concerts and festivals, has a more complicated relationship with UGC than other industry verticals. In this post, we’ll cover how LiveUGC is being incorporated in live event broadcasting platforms, as well as things to consider if you’re building these capabilities into your app or service offering.
Battle of the Live Broadcasters: Traditional vs. Mobile Event Streaming
First, let’s take a look at the contentious history of live event streaming apps. When mobile platforms Meerkat and Periscope rose to prominence in 2015, many people started using them to stream high-profile sports games, concerts and awards shows. Producers and broadcasters responded with a strict no-tolerance policy toward fans and spectators, and began aggressively shutting down streams.
Why such strong resistance to live streaming? There’s big money at stake:
Broadcasters pay high premiums to TV companies for the rights to offer exclusive coverage of live events on network, cable and online channels.
In turn, the TV companies pay upwards of millions of dollars to secure and distribute those rights.
Broadcasters pass this cost down to end viewers, who pay fees and subscriptions for premium access to live content. If online viewers can see the same broadcast for free on Twitter, there’s no incentive to pay—and all these millions of dollars go down the drain.
In an effort to curb fan-based live streaming, broadcasters and event producers have tried posting warnings at event venues prohibiting it, and many even flag or remove posted streams for copyright infringement. But most streamers simply ignore the warnings, or refuse to take down their posts—at least, not before thousands of viewers have already seen them. Even official broadcasters may have their streams shut off by the host platforms, if their rights-management algorithms detect potentially protected content being streamed.
At many concerts and music festivals, fans are required to leave their mobile phones in a central repository, or to keep them in a sealed pouch that can only be opened in designated zones, until after the show. While such measures can cut down the prevalence of unauthorized recordings, they’re not a complete fix, and event producers admit there is little they can do to prevent determined fans from using them.
Sports Broadcasters Resist User-Generated Coverage
Sports leagues have been particularly resistant to content streamed from the sidelines, the stands—and even from the field, court or locker room. Some leagues have gone so far as to ban members of the media from using UGC live-streaming apps at events.
For many fans, the next best thing to being there in person is watching a live stream of the game, with the ability to cheer, groan and talk strategy with the rest of their community. The future of sports coverage is social—and major sports leagues would be wise to embrace UGC for game streaming and fan commentary, rather than fighting the tide.
The Future of User-Generated Live Event Streaming
So, what does the future hold for LiveUGC event streaming? To find out, we asked Casey Charvet, managing director at Gigcasters: a streaming service provider that offers live-streaming, video-on-demand and engineering consulting services for content producers.
Charvet says that while most live event broadcasting happens on behalf of professional content creators, such as production companies or big brands, the future lies in apps used by digital creative agencies “looking to merge experiential brand offerings with user experience, and potentially produce user-generated content.”
Given the unique issues surrounding broadcasting and recorded-music rights, the widespread development of apps in the live-event space will likely be led by the brand, promoter or professional broadcasters, he notes. The rights-holders will then build in a way for fans to contribute their own live video to the official app or stream.
Chavet describes how many large brands hire digital agencies to do special activations or product launches on their behalf; these agencies are staffed largely by millennials who have grown up with social media, and seek ways to engage audiences more deeply. Combining experiential marketing (when consumers experience a brand through a live event) with digital and social marketing approaches can help create more loyal fans, users and customers.
Future live event streaming implementations will likely “go beyond the idea of taking a quick 10-second video and posting it to Snapchat, making it more of a coherent production. … The idea [is] that you’re at a concert, the [producer is] streaming [through the app], you check in and your feed becomes something you can share,” Chavet says.
This type of hybrid fan/official app experience could circumvent a common problem with UGC live streams: the microphones on most smartphones don’t capture the sound at concerts, games and other events very well. An app, however, could sync live-streaming video uploaded by fans to the audio feed from the venue’s sound board, so all fan footage would play with professional-quality sound. However, the aforementioned issues with recorded-music rights prevent many app developers from venturing into this dangerous territory.
The electronic music space has been one notable exception, says Chavet, since many artists in this niche own the rights to their own music. He gives the example of one artist who recorded a music video by handing out GoPro cameras to 10 to 15 fans in the crowd, then collecting the devices and editing together the UGC footage.
“I don’t think it was streaming, but with the low barrier to entry of equipment they used, they easily could have done it live,” Chavet says. “Most action cameras are streaming-capable, and everyone’s phones are streaming-capable, so we’re most of the way there.”
Among the clients Gigcasters works with, which are primarily in motorsports, music and talent agencies, “brand activations, product launches and concerts are all really ripe for participation with UGC,” Chavet says. “UGC is the next step in interactive experiential marketing—and producers are salivating, saying, ‘who has the technology, and where we can do this and actually have it work?’”
That means the time is now for live-streaming developers to start building interactive platforms that allow attendees to create and share their own unique experiences of live events. Savvy brands, bands and teams alike can be on the forefront of this growing technology and create apps that make users part of the official experience—rather than keeping them on the margins with pirate broadcasts and rogue social-media streams.
Build Your Own Event Broadcasting Platform With LiveUGC
A growing number of organizations are building their own live event broadcasting platforms that are specialized for specific audiences. These allow users to share their experiences of non-rights-restricted events, such as:
Non-professional or youth sports.
Musical, comedy or dramatic performances by up-and-coming artists.
Small or independent festivals, theaters, conferences and other local events.
Academic and professional events, lectures, courses and meetings.
Political and government use cases, such as town hall meetings, rallies and campaign events.
YouTube, Facebook and other social media apps require users to create channels or filters or to follow specific pages and personalities to find the type of content they’re looking for. But specialized apps—such as SportsLogic, a youth sports broadcasting app, or G9MD, a healthcare-focused live-streaming platform—offer live broadcasts focused for their specific, and sometimes encrypted, audiences.
When building a live event broadcasting platform, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind:
When a popular event starts live streaming and audiences share it with interested friends and family, the number of viewers can spike rapidly (known as the “Thundering Herd” phenomenon). Your app or service must be able to scale instantly and non-disruptively, to accommodate peak demand for audiences of varying size.
It’s also important that your platform have a global footprint to reach viewers in disparate geographic locations. For a positive user experience, audiences need to be able to see the same content at approximately the same time, without buffers, drops or lags, so they can interact with both the live stream and each other.
Finally, users must be able to both share and consume the same high-quality content—even when they have low-bandwidth connections or poor-quality networks, and who are accessing the stream on a wide range of devices.
The fastest way to create and deliver a global live stream is to use a managed global streaming service: either a Software as a Service (SaaS), or a Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering, such as Wowza Streaming Cloud™. These managed services relieve you of the burden of managing, updating and staffing for your own infrastructure, while also offering access to software APIs for customizable streaming delivery.
Wowza Streaming Cloud can help you deliver a high-quality live event stream to audiences anywhere. Leveraging the Wowza CDN (Content Delivery Network), you can reach viewers anywhere in the world. What’s more, adaptive-bitrate streaming automatically delivers a properly transcoded stream to users watching on any device.
For some use cases, video needs to be delivered in near-real-time, such as second-screen streaming for concerts or live sports, or sports events and races that involve betting. When speed matters, the Wowza Streaming Cloud service with Ultra Low Latency offers sub-three-second streaming delivery, from the glass of the camera to the glass of your end viewers’ screens.
Protocols such as Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) can also be utilized to help ensure reliable delivery across poor-quality or congested networks. SRT offers a flexible, cost-effective way to deliver high-quality and low-latency streams, accounting for packet loss, jitter and fluctuating bandwidth.
Want to learn more about building live video streaming apps that include user-generated content?
Written by Wowza Media Systems