Live-streaming – the new outlet of broadcasting?

It has been a while since that last big social media breakthrough. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (all steadily active platforms) seemed to be sitting pretty, until two new social, live video-streaming apps were launched earlier this year.

While easy-to-create-and-share live-streaming networks seem like the next logical step, with this new evolution also comes new territory. By furthering consumers’ ability to capture and share, also comes the task of figuring out what and how to restrict – and if such a thing is even possible in today’s society.

Even though Meerkat and Periscope are only a couple of months old, many people are jumping onto the new technology. As the platforms grow, so does the need to make a presence. Brands know that in order to stay relevant, they must figure out how to appropriate the latest social trends. A simple hashtag search of “Periscope” or “Meerkat” on Twitter results in thousands of tweets promoting streams. A query this morning yielded results from Oprah, The Weather Channel, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, and the Backstreet Boys.

Many are figuring out innovative ways to resource the function – special performances, interviews, news coverage, looks from behind the scenes, and so on. Reporter Stephanie Wei decided to utilize the Periscope app during her reporting of the Phoenix Open. She live streamed professional golfers Matt Jones and Jordan Speith during practice rounds, fielding them questions from people watching the streams.

While we applaud her use of the app, the PGA Tour did not. Two days after her Monday interviews, Wei was told her credentials were revoked. The tour’s head of communications and chief marketing officer Ty Votaw went as far as to say “she’s stealing.”

“It’s not that the PGA Tour hates Periscope. They just want to make sure you’re watching their Periscope account,” noted an article discussing Wei’s consequences. A claim that seems fairly supported when on Wednesday the tour fed its own streams – a move that many are calling hypocritical.

But it’s not just golf, as a whole the lucrative world of sports broadcasting is pushing hard against live streaming.

The NHL has banned the use of live-streaming apps and warned reporters of punishment. Why? The new live-streaming apps infringe on broadcasting deals. In 2013 the NHL signed a 12-year contract with Rogers Communications, a Canadian cable company, for 4.9 billion dollars. The deal gave Rogers exclusive Canadian broadcast rights for all NHL games including Stanley Cup playoffs and final. Combining this with the 2 billion dollar, 10-year deal they signed with NBC Sports Group (US broadcasting rights), the NHL will walk away with roughly $7 million.

In fact, many sports programming rights annually total billions. Figures that don’t even take into account the revenue those leagues have begun to generate from advertising, sponsorship, and ticket sales.

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The allowance of live-streaming apps at big sporting events would devalue the worth of broadcasting deals and ultimately the relationship between cable, TV networks, and advertising.

The networks (i.e., ESPN, Fox Sports, etc.) that pay the leagues for broadcasting rights make money through advertisers and paying cable customers. Cecilia Kang from the Washington Post reports expensive sports broadcasting deals have and will make the price of cable TV rise steadily over the next decade. It may seem small, $2 – $5 more a month, but in another 10 years that could mean your TV bill will be $240-$600 more than what you pay now.

If consumers are able to view free live-feeds of the events, then they have no need to pay the high-priced cable fee.

Sports radio host, Joe Ovies provides an eloquent analogy of the relationship between the live-streaming apps and sports broadcasting, “Periscope and Meerkat are to the television industry what Napster and LimeWire were to the music industry 15 years ago. They’re disruptive forces to well established content providers.”

Another example – last week’s major sporting event, the fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao. This highly anticipated and talked about fight was only viewable through a $100 Pay-Per-View paywall; a price many paid, but also one that many skirted around. Illegal Periscope and Meerkat streams popped up throughout the night, with thousands tuning in. You could even get a ringside view thanks to an attendee who streamed live from a pricey seat in the arena.

While many felt underwhelmed with the fight, Twitter CEO, Dick Costolo announced a winner, Periscope.

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The issue at hand? Copyright infringement. Who and how are you going to stop users who can simply open that app and point and shoot?

While in compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Twitter (who owns Periscope) responded by killing reported streams, yet reliance is placed on users to report copyright infringement material. Such accountability begs the question, are users actively reporting content if it’s something they want to see? A second issue arises in the nature of the platform itself. Even if content is reported, streams can end or be pulled by the time tech teams even become aware of them.

“In general, we feel developers should have tools which proactively prevent mass copyright infringement from occurring on their apps and not be solely reliant upon notifications,” HBO said in a statement regarding Periscope recordings of its show Game of Thrones.

“The company is going to need to figure out a better way to combat piracy on the fly,” offered Andrew Wallenstein, in his piece on Periscope piracy. “Periscope may require something like Google’s Content ID system, technology capable of identifying forbidden streams in an instant, and maybe even converting them to transactional opportunities for legal alternatives to the content in question.”

This potential threat is not only relevant to sports, but to any live event. Why buy tickets to a concert or play, entrance to a museum, or almost anything else imaginable if you can simply watch it live through your phone? If consumers decide live-streaming is here to stay, it can only be fought for so long before eventually it just has to be embraced. An interview with Katy Perry revealed those in the music industry aren’t scared. Perry commented, “I’m with it. I think that when you see a phone, that is like the new applause.”

There is no doubt some of the feeds on Periscope and Meerkat capture and will continue to share copyrighted content, but enforcing copyright law will prove to be a difficult task. The most important issue for those in IMC related fields – do these new platforms change the traditional cable, TV, advertiser dynamic?

-Savannah Valade & Caroline Robinson

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