The Rise of StreamingPLUSJuly 31, 2017 Every day at Wowza, we speak with customers who want to build the next big streaming-media platform. But ask them about their vision, and most will describe more than just an app that streams video. A favorite quote: “It’s like Periscope, with a lime.”
Consumers today desire more than just another video app. They want interactive elements, be it emojis, chat or a variety of other features. And app creators want to increase engagement by letting audiences participate with the stream—by providing in-app tips, premium engagements, live sports stats or in-stream polls.
Streaming apps are no longer just about streaming. A growing number are now “StreamingPLUS” applications: offering video streams augmented with interactive elements, which depend on low latency to provide direct-response experiences for users.
StreamingPLUS Apps Capitalize on Engagement
Today’s average consumer has a shorter attention span than a goldfish. And it’s no surprise, given the constant flood of activity from the always-on communication, entertainment, news and productivity apps that now permeate everyday life. Whether at home or at work, consumers need to rapidly switch gears in order to stay on top of their email inbox, chat notifications, social media updates and more.This constant chatter also makes it harder than ever for app developers to attract and sustain user interest. Engagement beyond the average eight-second attention span relies on more than just the value of streaming video itself—apps must allow users to become part of the action in deeper, more authentic ways.
Facebook Live is proof of this phenomenon. What started as posts of live videos viewers could react to and comment on has evolved into truly interactive live-streaming. Now, within the stream and in real time, viewers can send emojis across the screen; ask questions broadcasters canthen immediately answer; vote in live polls and see instant results; and more. Some Facebook Live broadcasters even stream “choose your own adventure”-style performances, in which viewers vote on the on-screen action they’ll see next.
The more of these types of engagement layers a streaming-video app can offer, the longer broadcasters can keep their audiences entertained. And the greater the entertainment value of an app, the more its creators can monetize that engagement—whether through in-app purchases, subscription fees or ads and sponsorship opportunities.
In an Always-on World, User Experience Is King
StreamingPLUS is quickly becoming a standard in the streaming-media market. Apps now compete not on the basis of whether they offer it, but rather, on which platform can provide the best StreamingPLUS user experience (UX).
Our recent report on the UX of streaming-media platforms looked at the most common app genres in which consumers are experiencing these types of engagements, and explored how well top platforms within those genres stack up. We found that apps offering high degrees of interactivity rely on low latency to deliver authentic user experiences.
Without low-latency streaming and data-sync capabilities, real-time engagement is impossible. When latency is high, viewers will be reacting to past on-screen action, and broadcasters will be similarly delayed in their response—losing the real-life, two-way communication element StreamingPLUS apps strive to provide.
For example, in user-generated content (UGC) platforms like Facebook Live and Periscope, latency must be low to enable viewers to engage directly with broadcasters and react to on-screen action. Two-way video chat platforms must have even lower latency than UGC apps to enable natural conversation, without delayed responses or accidental cross-talk.
For game-streaming services, such as Twitch and Beam.pro, audience engagement increases authenticity and improves gameplay for viewers and broadcasters alike. Low-latency streaming allows broadcasters to leverage the tips and tricks offered by viewers in time to defeat bosses and beat levels. Many of these broadcasters even monetize their streams—and viewers will only pay for high-quality experiences. Game developers love these services, too, because the more deeply viewers can engage with gameplay, the more likely they are to buy the game themselves.
Live-streaming sports is another vertical where low latency—or, at least, latency that competes with that of cable and satellite TV—is crucial to the UX. Twitter’s Thursday Night Football experiment ran up to 90 seconds behind televised broadcasts. The platform’s own in-stream tweets caused spoilers when fans watching on TV started commenting on plays the streamers hadn’t seen yet—an example of how devastating high latency can be.
Wowza Powers the StreamingPLUS Revolution
The entire streaming-media industry is moving to a paradigm where low latency is paramount. In many use cases, you need sub-second latency in order to ensure the highest-quality experience possible for users. At Wowza, we are committed to delivering the future of live-streaming through a new API-based platform that will deliver ultra-low latency at a global scale.
Today’s StreamingPLUS developers are busy creating new interactive user experiences and agile applications to attract new audiences. In the words of Marc Andreesen, “software is eating the world,” and if that’s true, APIs are the teeth. Our future platform will allow app creators like you to put the power of real-time, interactive engagement into the streamlined app you’ve been creating.
Stay tuned for more updates on this and other innovations from Wowza.