This year’s VidCon US celebration, held in Anaheim, CA over the summer, was proudly brought to you by Viacom. Actually, VidCon is owned by the multinational, multi-billion-dollar media company Viacom. The fact that a convention celebrating YouTube stars and online video that was started by a couple of vloggers now sits alongside Viacom products such as Paramount Pictures and MTV is quite a development. Whether it’s a positive or negative development depends on your opinion of traditional media companies such as Viacom and your ambitions for live streaming.
Undoubtedly, Viacom’s interest–and the interest of sponsors such as NBC, Amazon, Facebook, Mars, and Snapchat–coupled with more than 74,000 attendees, shows there’s a lot of mainstream interest in all things online video. Our VidCon 2018 takeaways all seemed to bring us back to the idea that the success of live streaming and the crop of celebrities it has produced may mean that the way we define what is mainstream is changing. Perhaps one day soon, live streaming and online video will become the new mainstream.
VidCon 2018 in Review
VidCon now gets covered by Variety. Less than a decade ago, it was a 1,400 attendee event staged by the now internet-famous vlogbrothers Hank and John Green. In addition to massive growth in visitor numbers and corporate interest since its inception, the convention has also added dates in Europe and Australia. It’s now a meeting place for brands, digital stars, and the humble viewers and would-be content creators that drive such growth.
This year’s event attracted hundreds of online talents to stage presentations, workshops, and performances, in addition to “industry leaders,” essentially, those brands and tech companies involved in the online video industry.
Importantly, the event also generated a few headline announcements. Chief among them was YouTube’s declaration that it was willing to give content creators three new pathways to getting a share of the advertising revenue YouTube receives through popular streamers. These are:
- A $4.99-a-month channel subscription that creators can sell to their audiences in return for exclusive content.
- A partnership with Teespring to source and sell customized merchandise.
- The opportunity to schedule content for release at specific times to generate greater live audiences and attract more advertising.
YouTube, Facebook, and, most recently, Instagram, have been cutting creators in on their advertising revenue for a while now, provided that those amateurs can hold the attention of a few thousand people for a period of time. YouNow, meanwhile, has a direct form of payment between audiences and performers that flows without the aid of advertising.
What these financial incentives–including YouTube’s new offerings–suggest is that live streamers are a valuable commodity.
Live Streaming Is Worth Millions
The do-it-yourself brand of entertainment generates millions of dollars a month, and platforms like YouNow and YouTube Live broadcast hundreds of thousands of broadcasts each month, viewed by millions of people.
For every creator who gains a foothold in fame, there are hundreds that fail to attract steady followers.
Its primary financial appeal lies in the fact that it’s the most cost-effective way to produce content for a mass audience. Stars like Lilly Singh have made millions of dollars broadcasting for free across a potentially global market in a way that you can completely copy at home. In fact, VC Daily has detailed the kind of equipment you’d need, and how to perform tasks such as broadcasting your band or broadcasting to several live streaming platforms at once…all for free.
The primary flaw is that all this accessibility means the live streaming marketplace is extremely fractured. For every creator who gains a foothold in fame, there are hundreds that fail to attract steady followers. Then there’s the fact that the content, technical quality, and intent of online broadcasters vary greatly.
So how could this motley lot ever become the new mainstream?
VidCon 2018 Takeaways and the Future of Mainstream
Very possibly, the simple answer to this question is Jeff Bezos. The billionaire’s company Amazon has signed a deal with the NFL to broadcast live games over its Prime on-demand video site. That means you’ll be able to watch the latest Tom Cruise movie and the nation’s most popular pastime for the same monthly subscription fee. What Amazon lacks is live content…and you can see where we’re headed.
What if we fired up our computers one morning to find the NFL game, the hit drama series, and a collection of live vloggers all presented to us side-by-side on our favorite on-demand video site?
YouTube stands as the flag bearer for commercial live streaming at the moment, and it won’t be escaping Google’s clutches anytime soon. However, there’s no law that says YouTube must remain popular forever.
What if someone like Bezos and his Prime team decides to offer substantial funds to a curated list of otherwise low-cost live streamers in return for attracting some of their millions of followers? Perhaps the top-ranking creators from a newly established YouTube-style feeder platform? What if a company like Viacom decided there’s enough reward in live streaming to carve out a place for it among its other media holdings?
What if we fired up our computers one morning to find the NFL game, the hit drama series, and a collection of live vloggers all presented to us side-by-side on our favorite on-demand video site? It sounds completely plausible, right? At that point, live streaming will have won a place in the new mainstream.