The Crazy Near-Future of Mobile Live Streaming

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A lot has been written in the last couple weeks about the explosion of Meerkat, the debut of Periscope and the rise of mobile streaming apps, from Stringwire to So instead of rehashing the present, let’s project the near future.

If there are hundreds of live streams today, there will be thousands tomorrow. Instead of searching for something to watch, live streams will just appear, rocketing around your favorite social apps, propelled by the popularity of the moment. No need to tune in; they’ll just be there.

Many streams are live, many more are scheduled. So many in fact, algorithms will assemble them across time, knitting together channels of best-of-the-moment live streams. Niches of all kinds. Even channels that blend together your favorite people, brands and interests.

If you don’t like something, just swipe the screen or say “next” to your TV.  Forget unbundling. This is the rise of the everycast.

At first it will suck, as most new disruptive things do. People streaming themselves eating. Driving. Typing aimlessly on a computer. Old school TV people will scoff. It’s like explaining the allure of Twitch in the early days; only real gamers got it. But social streaming will evolve, communities will form and younger users will gravitate to it like they did YouTube. It will grow into its own mega-format.

As with YouTube, stars will shine. Brands will join. Live channels will emerge. VC money will flow. MCNs will form. TV will cherry-pick talent.

It will be hell on your data plan.

But what’s truly unique, even more than YouTube before it, is the raw authenticity, the unexpected spontaneous nature of live streaming. Sure, you can stage some of it — as many brands will — but this is harder to fake. For the most part, it’s REAL, it’s happening RIGHT NOW and if you don’t watch it, you could MISS SOMETHING.

This is the stuff of Millennials.

It won’t kill TV.  But attention is not unlimited, and with each new social time suck, each new distraction, people will have less time for TV. As these live streams become more ubiquitous, they’ll not only attract a long tail of attention, they’ll also throw off a wake. By nature of so many live streams, people will capture the craziest things on video, creating new genres of video moments. They’ll become the autoplay clips that burn up the social nets, amplifying the attention suck and attracting new live audiences, hungry for more.

Mobile streaming will blow up. In the next few weeks, someone will stream live from a big breaking news story and everyone will write about it. Then it will happen again and again, multiple cameras from multiple angles, history playing out in real time, mapped across the globe.

All the hype will lead to a bubble. But don’t let that distract you. This will be the most disruptive thing to happen to TV since YouTube.

We all knew it was coming, but now it’s here, held tightly in the grasp of the social giants. Just think about what you would have done back in YouTube’s early days. Think about all the businesses built off of it.

Welcome to the new era of video. Hold on tight.

(Full disclosure: I work for Breaking News, which is a partner with Stringwire, a mobile streaming startup owned by NBCU.)

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