How will live events survive the future?

Photo by gruenenrw,  CC BY-SA 2.0

Caption: How will technology affect access to live content?

How brands deliver content and how we consume it is ever-changing. The quality of technology that millions of us carry around in our pockets — in the form of smartphones and tablets — enables us to stream live or near-live content during everyday life anywhere we have Wi-Fi or 4G connectivity. The ability to access live content any time and any place encourage increased audience participation and engagement. That’s why, when it comes to live events, live video has progressed from being a nice-to-have functionality to an imperative aspect of any coverage, delivering a credible return on investment.

Wind the clock back 50 years, and marketers and businesses preferred to invest in traditional print and billboard advertising to generate awareness and promote events. The explosion of online capabilities has flipped that entirely on its head, with almost a third (31 percent) of marketers believing that live-streamed events are the most effective channel for marketing in 2018. Last year, bandwidth dedicated to live streaming comprised almost three-quarters (74 percent) of internet use, according to DaCast, with that figure almost certain to rise thanks to the trend for over the top (OTT) content broadcasting.

OTT video is when broadcasters distribute their content online, on-demand and via their television channels. HBO is a perfect example of a leading television broadcaster that had historically only offered its services via cable subscription but now provides its material online via HBO GO, from sitcoms and documentaries to hit movie franchises. Sky GO is a similar story, with Sky Sports subscribers able to stream live sports action from their smartphones, laptops and tablets wherever they can obtain an internet connection. Even Twitter got in on the act of providing OTT broadcasts of live NFL games in 2017, with over 20 million people taking to the social platform to watch their favorite football teams. OTT, just like live-streamed content, will become even more mainstream in the years to come.

Regarding the technical reasons behind the increased accessibility of live events via mobile devices, HTML5 has played a significant part in the delivery of consistent user experiences online. A more lightweight, secure and compatible piece of technology than its Flash predecessor, HTML5 video can be integrated into multiple platforms while utilizing fewer resources of your computer, smartphone or tablet. Widespread adoption of virtual reality (VR) will see the engagement of live-streamed events taken to new heights. The ability to transport into real-time environments from the comfort of your home will change the face of consuming live sports, music gigs and festivals and much more. Let’s look at some industries that are already making the most of live streaming to improve consumer engagement.

Photo by mroach, CC BY-SA 2.0

Caption: Live-streaming has birthed 24/7 news.

Perhaps the one industry that’s evolved the most due to the advent of live streaming is journalism. The idea of 24/7 news was considered revolutionary way back in 1980 when it first reached the screens of the Cable News Network (CNN). The 24-hour news concept soon took hold and today, there are dozens of non-stop news channels available, even news channels dedicated to sports and politics. Sites such as the BBC and Fox News now offer on-demand streams of specific news stories to keep up to date with events unfolding. News outlets also increasingly rely upon streamed videos supplied by members of the public on smartphones to provide video coverage of events unfolding. Such has hugely enhanced the consumer experience of news channels.

Another industry, live dealer casinos, is now competing with brick-and-mortar casinos as they offer thrills that are quasi-identical to land-based action. Players can log in to live casinos and play their favorite table games such as blackjack or roulette without having to leave the confines of their home. The games are managed by real-life dealers, with the action streamed live to the players’ screens with high-definition audio and visuals. Most live casinos offer interaction between players and dealers via chat boxes, and players can also talk about the game with other human players at their table. This has created a social casino experience that adds fun to your life, challenging even the most glamorous land-based casino visit.

It’s also worth taking into consideration the improved coverage of live music festivals around the world. The U.K.’s Glastonbury Festival is one of the most popular and longest-serving festivals on the planet, and the BBC’s coverage gets better and better with every year. They first branched out into offering live coverage on multiple channels, then the BBC’s red button opened a new world of channels to be explored for each of the main stages. Last year, not only was their extensive coverage via the red button but the BBC also provided OTT broadcasts of all the leading acts appearing, with on-demand streams for consumption at the users’ convenience.

It’s the scalability of live streaming that means the future of live event coverage is an exciting one. The world of content is ever-changing. Broadcasters need to continually adapt to new technologies if they wish to keep up. As for consumers, they can sit back and enjoy the ride.