There’s no better time for bold predictions than at year-end. In that spirit, as 2018 tapers to a close, we offer our five predictions for live video in 2019.
The last half-decade has seen dramatic growth in and broad adoption of online live video, owing to platforms like YouTube Live (with an initial roll-out in 2011), Periscope (acquired by Twitter and launching in 2015), and Facebook Live (which released in early 2016).
By 2022, online live-video traffic will grow by 15x — accounting for 17% of all online video traffic, which itself will comprise 82% of all Internet traffic.
In other words, live video is the fastest growing segment of the fastest growing type of web content.
Here’s what that means for 2019:
Prediction 1: Growth in live video adoption and use by businesses
Live video is the sequel to social media.
When platforms like Facebook and Twitter launched in the mid-aughts, individual users were the early adopters, while enterprises were comparatively slow on the draw.
(Only in 2010, for instance, did the Harvard Business Review see broad enough business use of “social networking” to trumpet it as the year’s most significant business development.)
It’s the same story with online live video. People lead, businesses follow.
In 2018, live broadcasts from Facebook verified Pages — which include public figures, media companies, and brands — grew by 50%. Businesses are transitioning from dabbling in and experimenting with live video to incorporating it into their overall content strategies.
There are clear reasons for this:
> Appetite for Live Video. Live video is a proven juggernaut. Since 2016, there have been 3.5 billion live broadcasts on Facebook, watched by nearly 2 billion people. In Q3 2018 alone, viewers watched 2.5 billion hours of live video on Twitch, the video game live streaming platform.
> High Levels of Engagement. Live-video content is uniquely effective, notching 6x greater engagement than traditional video, the next most compelling content type.
> Reputation and Trust-Building. In a climate of scrutiny and skepticism of companies, live video — and its unvarnished, authentic quality — provides instances of transparency, to build and maintain brand reputation.
Given trends and powerful motivators, then, live-video adoption and use will increase in 2019.
Prediction 2: Expansion beyond event-centric live video to storytelling and messaging
Events are the intuitive use case for live video.
The obvious parallel to and progenitor of digital live video is live TV broadcasts — almost all of which are tied to real-time events (think: the Super Bowl, the Oscars, Presidential debates).
In the early stages of adoption, brands often leverage online live video around events. Socialive customers, for example, have live-streamed healthcare conferences, tech keynotes, food festivals, and more.
But live video for digital and social channels (like Facebook Live) is different from live TV — just as digital video on platforms like YouTube is different from regular TV content.
Online live video is a medium unto itself, and it allows for a greater variety of content than only event livestreams. It is a storytelling medium — well-suited for brand messaging, product marketing, and more.
Socialive customers are using live video for:
> Product reveals, like The Honest Company showcasing its winter diaper collection
> Employee roundtables, like Audible editors discussing a memoir from Steve Jobs’ daughter
> Masterclasses and tutorials, like M.A.C demonstrating how to create a drag persona
> Tips and training, like Adobe sharing expert advice for new salespeople
> Tours and behind-the-scenes featurettes, like Celebrity Cruises touring its Solstice cruise ship
As enterprise use of live video matures, expect brands to explore different types of content in 2019.
Prediction 3: Addition of new live video distribution platforms
Platforms are where live-video content finds consumers.
The boom in online live video began in February 2015, with the release of Meerkat, an iOS app that enabled users to broadcast live video to their Twitter followers.
The app was an immediate sensation, heralded as a breakthrough at SXSW, with more than one-third of its users consuming 2 or more hours of live content in the app’s first month.
To be sure, Meerkat didn’t invent online live video. Companies such as Ustream, a live video streaming and hosting service, were already in existence for a half-decade when Meerkat launched. Instead, what Meerkat pioneered was linking live video creation to the distribution potential of a vast, connected social platform — a model that Periscope and Facebook Live piggybacked on.
Simply, then, the wildfire success of live video since 2015 has been driven by platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, which boast audiences in the billions.
That success also foreshadows growth on the distribution side. When more and more individuals and enterprises are creating live video — and when more and more people are consuming live video — there exists a powerful incentive for more platforms to distribute live video.
This could mean the emergence of brand-new video or live video platforms. Or, more likely, it could mean the addition of live video functionality to existing platforms, communities, and networks — such as Amazon or LinkedIn — or to enterprise assets like websites and apps.
Prediction 4: Emergence of social-style live video for internal communications
While consumer-facing live broadcasts are new, online live video isn’t.
Live video for closed communications — Skype calls, Google Hangouts, team-based virtual conferencing — has been around since at least the early aughts. Today, WhatsApp users make more than 55 million video calls daily, and 54% of U.S. workers say they regularly participate in video conferences in the course of their work.
The explosion of consumer video broadcasting in the last several years — starting with YouTube vlogs, but especially with Snapchat, Vine, and Instagram — has brought along with it a new video lexicon as well as a new set of creation and consumption behaviors (including, above all, a mobile-first approach).
Those new ideas about consumer-facing video content will impact on how live video is used in closed communications — in both consumer and enterprise contexts.
Consider Slack. By integrating consumer features — like GIFs, stickers, and emojis — into its enterprise messaging app, Slack took advantage of how people already communicate in chat apps like iMessage to build a wildly popular business software.
Analogously, consumer video broadcasts will reshape how live video is used in closed-channel communications, especially in an enterprise environment. This means:
> Mobile-first creation and consumption
> On-screen text, graphics, and augmented reality elements
> Dynamic layouts, including vertical and square aspect ratios
> Mixed live and pre-recorded video
> Live moderation of questions and comments
Prediction 5: Rise of live commerce
Live commerce is the marriage of live video and e-commerce.
China is the crystal ball in which we can foresee the trajectory of online retail in North America. The country’s digital ecosystem is highly integrated, all feeding the largest e-commerce market in the world.
Video — and livestreaming — is a ubiquitous element of that ecosystem, driving online sales across marketplaces like Alibaba’s Taobao, entertainment hubs like iQiyi, and social platforms like WeChat.
Initially, in the United States, live commerce will likely take the form of a social media-style QVC — with influencers and links to buy — on social platforms and/or online marketplaces. But, eventually, video and live video content will drive e-commerce more organically, through click-to-buy product placements.
In 2019, watch for marketplaces like Amazon or eBay — as well as niche retailers — to introduce video and live video to drive sales, or for platforms with a video or live video component to create opportunities for purchase through in-the-moment links-to-buy.
As a rule, prophesying is a risky business. That’s especially the case when trying to foretell the future of a highly dynamic techno-cultural phenomenon like the growth of live video.
But while there may be a give-and-take around the specific, short-term developments in live video, the broader trend is clear: Live video will continue its dramatic growth and evolution in 2019 and, at least, the several years ahead.
Let us conclude with a sensational — and only slightly labored — metaphor: If video is the language of the Internet, live video is fast becoming its dominant dialect. So let’s get to speaking it.