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Will Keenan on the power of live streaming

Ahead of his Stream Con appearance, the Streamup president talks about why competition is good and why live is the future.
October 29, 2015
StreamDaily caught up with the recently minted president of live-streaming service Streamup to discuss challenges, opportunities and why watching things live is the way of the future.
Why do you think live streaming is going to take off? 
Live streaming and real-time broadcasting (and re-broadcasting) is already taking off and is currently one of — if not the — fastest growing areas in digital, and now [live streaming] is poised to become the new “destination, must-watch TV.” When what’s been called this “convergence” of traditional and digital merging is complete, my guess is [live streaming] will be considered a foundational pillar of that convergence.
What is it about the act of seeing something live that will appeal to audiences? 
Maybe it’s our instant-gratification culture, or maybe it’s FOMO (fear of missing out). We want what content we want anywhere and now we want it immediately. Reality TV was criticized as having become less real, and when viewership of reality shows began to diminish, it seemed the eyeballs went online to watch what were the “new reality stars,” the online vloggers, whose genuineness and authenticity resonated with online audiences. And now, there’s nothing more authentic and genuine than going live. There’s no editing, anything can happen, live streaming’s as real as it gets, and such elements of truth always seem to resonate with the whole of humanity during any era.
When it comes to audience growth, what’s the biggest challenge the live-streaming industry faces right now? 
Servers! Platforms like Streamup are growing so fast (currently at more than 21 million monthly active users from less than 10,000 a little over a year ago), so we keep having to add more servers. Live streaming is the latest to disrupt the status quo, so all the exciting challenges that go along with being the latest and greatest still apply. Just as YouTube was eventually able to figure out and implement an automated content ID match system for copyright holders to claim and monetize their (shared but stolen) content, live-streaming platforms are hard at work at figuring out our own such system though we’re having to do it in real-time.
When it comes to monetization, what is the biggest opportunity for live streaming? What can companies do live that they can’t in a traditional pre-taped broadcast?
It seems to be that wherever the eyeballs go, advertisers follow. We’ve seen this in pre-recorded/uploaded online video and now eyeballs are moving to live-streaming platforms like Streamup. I’m confident branded integration will be a big growth area for live-streaming platforms. Ad networks are also figuring out offerings more native to this kind of content, and of course a number of live streamers are having great success with crowdfunding features like tip jars and donation buttons. What seemed so counter-intuitive about Snapchat but actually worked (“why in the world would advertisers sponsor content that disappears in 24 hours?”) is now starting to happen with live streaming in it’s own iteration. Advertisers may find that immediate impressions on live-streamed content may lead to more conversions than on any long tail.
What are the biggest challenges when it comes to monetizing live streaming? 
My guess is what had to be figured out in regards to monetizing online video (which took a number of years) will happen much quicker for LS. Monetizing live streaming is now a pioneering effort where a plethora of great minds are already on the case and  it’s exciting to witness all the results currently coming in, which are very promising. The pioneers of live stream, like Kyle Michelson (Streamup’s founder and CEO, whom I call “The Einstein Of Live Streaming”) are shaping this industry and they’re defacto geniuses who are definitely learning the lessons from those who came before when it comes to revenue.
Why is this space so appealing to creators? 
I think for the same reason we expect someone to immediately return our call, text or email, or be on time when someone says they’ll meet us somewhere, or why we want our food made and delivered fast, or expect a new skill-set to quickly improve. Live streaming is immediate – the feedback, engagement and results are immediate. On top of all that, although it takes a special talent to keep an audience’s attention during an hour-long live stream, creators don’t have to spend a large amount of time and resources editing in post-production. It reminds me of when I did live theater many years ago. The development and rehearsal process was longer than with the film or TV work I did, but the excitement of putting on a live show where anything can happen is an incredibly satisfying experience, the energy of which trumps all other mediums (for both creator/talent and audience). As well, live streaming has created yet another star discovery system just as YouTube, Vine and other platforms had done previously, and I’m sure that’s also appealing to creators and talent. There are now “Streamup Stars” and there’ll be more to come.
Is it possible there is too much competition in the live-streaming space right now? 
Competition is good, especially within a burgeoning space like live streaming. Competition forces speed, innovation, monetization, advanced service to users, etc. You know you’re onto something when everyone’s trying to get into it. Right now and for the foreseeable future, there’s room for everybody. In China, I’m told there’s over 90 big live-streaming companies. The biggest, YY, is valued at over $4 billion. Live streaming is massive and dominating digital in Asia and other parts of the world, and it’s poised to do the same here in the West.
What attributes will help companies succeed in this space? 
No matter how new a technology or product, the old adage remains the same: Fill a need and do it well, provide a good service to customers because doing so usually leads to success for a product or company. At Streamup, which grew from 10,000 users to over 21 million monthly users only on desktop in less than year, it’s the superior product and features that users love. What sets Streamup apart, besides our platform having the usual “one-click UGC” streaming feature, we also offer pro-streaming tools for those creators looking to produce premium-quality interactive shows, and in addition, on Streamup, channels and creators are able to stream pre-recorded content in a live broadcast; and Streamup’s also the only LS platform developing, financing and producing original shows. And now that Streamup’s launching mobile, we’re providing pro-streaming features the mobile environment hasn’t had before, so our goal is for Streamup to continue its massive growth and ultimately become “the Netflix of Live Video.”
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