If you’ve been trying to make sense of Meerkat or Periscope, and their significance to the sports media landscape, then read on. Both apps, currently available for the iPhone, enable users to generate live video streams from their mobile which are consumed via Twitter and facilitate real-time audience interaction*. Since both apps work through Twitter, there is no need for the audience to sign-up for yet another platform.
Meerkat, which launched on Feb 27, beat Periscope to the market by 4 weeks. However, as suggested by this analysis tweeted by Quartz’s technology editor Dan Frommer, the early signs are Periscope will out-perform its rival.
This result somewhat reflects the fact that Twitter, which bought Periscope, blocked Meerkats access to its social graph and that Periscope also uniquely allows streams to be watched on-demand.
The Dolphins on Meerkat
Sports teams are already experimenting with the new applications. Over one thousand fans followed the Miami Dolphins Meerkat live stream of the announcement of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh´s signing on March 11. They are believed to be the first professional sports team to have used the service. Despite this modest viewership (particularly considering their total Twitter following is 400k+), it is likely that this type of “snackable” live video content will appeal to sports fans.
James Rodriguez viewed through a Periscope
adidas again showed its appetite for social media innovation. They were the first major brand to use Periscope as they streamed James Rodriguez putting pen to paper on a new contract extension. The Periscope piece lives on in adidas Footballs Twitter feed.
What could this mean for the business of sport?
Social media has already got sports rights holders scrambling to protect the value of live broadcast rights. The introduction of these two apps will no doubt be cause for an additional layer of concern. Thousands of spectators live streaming the 100 metres final from their seats would not go down well with the IOC, their media rights partners or the sports business at large.
News last week that the rights to show the Jaguars-Buffalo Bills game live in the upcoming NFL season will be sold to an “internet company” (http://on.wsj.com/1CmqHls) adds to the intrigue surrounding the role of direct-to-consumer digital (also referred to as over-the-top) distribution channels.
However with recent big media rights deals such as that struck between the English Premier League and Sky / BT Sport in the UK (reportedly worth GBP5.14 billion over 3 years) and the NBA and ESPN / Turner in the USA (worth USD24 billion over 9 years) being driven to a large extent by a traditional broadcast component, it is likely that the next few years will see an evolutionary rather than revolutionary shift towards new digital distribution channels.
Properties like UFC and WWE and broadcasters such as ESPN, often held up as case studies for their innovative content distribution strategies, give us the best glimpse into the future. In their world traditional broadcast channels work harmoniously and complimentary to direct-to-consumer digital channels (and other platforms such as social media) to heighten audience engagement (e.g. see ESPN’s use of Snapchat http://bit.ly/1BQniIZ as an example of this) and ultimately increase revenue opportunities.
Meerkat, Periscope, or perhaps the next wave of live streaming apps that will follow, are likely to play a role in this evolution although it is impossible to say how significant their role will be. They are currently only one of many direct-to-consumer digital channels that could play a role in the new model pioneered by ESPN and WWE. A friend of mine summarised the situation nicely, “the value of sports media rights in the future will be greater than the sum of its distribution platforms”.
(*Meerkat is currently run on a 30 second delay which is also considered a disadvantage versus Periscope. This is a good article on the differences between the two apps: http://bit.ly/1IQrU6P ).