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Exploring the Global Reach of Live Streaming Services

However, despite the growth in live streaming, it can still be surprisingly difficult to access. Whereas technologies like web search engines have made finding textual information on the internet fairly straightforward, there is no equivalent of a search engine for finding live streams. Generally, the only way to find live streams is to visit the websites of specific content providers to see if they are broadcasting something of interest. This, in turn, means that content providers must rely on their existing fan base and word of mouth to publicize the existence of a live broadcast. Finally, to further complicate matters, methods for accessing live streaming are very diverse and what works well for one stream might not work at all for another.

Live streaming is a global phenomenon and one whose importance is growing. Its uses include coverage of breaking news, corporate and entertainment events, and as a means for organizations and individuals to communicate with the public. At the same time, the technologies used to create and access live streaming services have been undergoing rapid change. On the production side, Networked Digital Devices (NDDs) such as digital camcorders, and IEEE 802.11 based Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs) now make it possible to stream live video and audio from almost anywhere a network connection is available. On the consumption side, widespread deployment of broadband internet connections and progress in video and audio compression have made high-quality video available to a large number of viewers.

Benefits of Live Streaming Services

Another big benefit of using a live stream service is the ability to create real-time interactions between the viewer and the content provider. By nature, live streaming content is intended to give the viewer a “being there” experience and allows the content provider to showcase his/her content with tools such as chat, allowing the viewer to ask questions, receive answers, or perhaps even contribute to the content itself. An active community is something that is very valuable for content providers and something that is rare to achieve. With the global reach of eSports fans, viewers sometimes miss key events and must resort to VODs (video on demand) in order to catch up on content. VODs do not create a viewing experience that is nearly as valuable as watching live, and often times the viewer becomes disconnected from the content provider. In recent years, a primary goal of pro players, coaches, and content providers is to build a bigger and more active fan base. Live streaming content has the potential to bridge the gap between content provider and viewer and create a more personalized and rewarding experience for both parties.

Live streaming services allow for greater audience engagement. The companies live streaming content, like ESL, are seeing greater success and have begun to consider the implications and potential future involvement with the technology in the eSports scene. A study conducted by market researchers found that live streaming content has the potential to attract new viewers while retaining the current audience. Newzoo, a market research firm, conducted a survey of 1000 US consumers and found that 10.3% of US consumers are frequent eSports viewers, which is quite a significant number. The primary age group that frequently watches eSports content is from the ages of 21-35 and is largely male-dominated. Live streaming content allows eSports fans to come together and watch events at an affordable price over the streaming platform. The ability to create a single global viewing experience is something that not even traditional sports have been able to achieve, given the different time zones across the world. With the creation of a more social and interactive viewing experience, live streaming services have great potential to rapidly increase the total number of eSports viewers, as well as those who are considered frequent viewers. Live streaming and eSports certainly share a unique relationship, and given the industry’s rapid growth, the significance of it is definitely something to look out for in the upcoming years.

Increased Audience Engagement

Industries that seek to specifically reach young adult males have an even greater potential to engage their audience through live streaming, as this demographic makes up the majority of game-to-viewer spectators. With the rise of competitive gaming as a professional activity known as eSports, more and more companies are interested in marketing their products to the global gaming community. With gaming communities being able to easily come together to watch live gaming tournaments, there is great potential for sponsors to host their own live streaming events. An example of this being done effectively is by hardware company Intel. They were able to successfully engage their target market of PC gamers by live streaming an Elite, Pro, and Masters StarCraft II championship, achieving an overall increase in their product sales.

Engaging with your core audience is a critical step in establishing your customer base, increasing sales, and even simply establishing your brand. A competitive advantage in terms of customer engagement can be achieved if the brand is able to effectively communicate with their target market. Live streaming facilitates this endeavor. It is a known fact that live streaming events (including live blogging) have proven to be a feasible marketing strategy, as 44% of marketers believe it to be successful. This percentage is expected to increase, indicating that marketers are finding it more difficult to engage their audience and are thus in need of more effective communication tools.

Real-Time Interactions

In an educational aspect, many universities are now live streaming their lectures to students who are unable to attend the class in person. This could be due to the student studying from a remote location, the class was full, or the student preferred to study the class at a later date. Live streaming the lecture allows students to ask questions and have them answered in the appropriate timing. This creates an interactive experience for the student and the lecturer, and avoids the feeling of simply watching a recorded video. Recording live streamed lectures can also be beneficial for the student who wishes to watch it at a later time, as some services offer unlimited retention for recorded streams.

Live streaming offers viewers real-time interactions during the broadcast or event. The audience can comment and provide feedback, creating a virtual conversation with the broadcaster. This can be insightful for both parties. Viewers can gain answers to complex questions or add-ons to the broadcast, while the broadcaster can read the opinion of the viewers about what they’re doing. Live streaming also can be a way for the broadcaster to engage his audience in a Q&A session, where any questions the audience has can be answered on the spot. This is a great opportunity to create a stronger bond between the broadcaster and his audience. Viewers are more likely to return to a live stream if they know they can have their questions answered in the right context.

Cost-Effective Marketing

Live streaming podcasts can involve real-time interaction such as web interactions or chat. Recording streaming data is a set and forget exercise. The data, once recorded, can be left unchanged and unattended. This adds a marketing tool that is available for people to play again and again. Podcasts can be subscribed to, meaning that the consumer is notified whenever a new podcast is available for download. At RMIT University’s School of Physics, a series of physics lectures were recorded and broadcast over the internet. The lectures were 30-40 minutes long and were downloaded 800-900 times each. The cost of lecture podcasting can certainly be justifiable; for a cost of as little as $50, a 30min lecture can be distributed to thousands of people. Podcasts can also be made on a range of topics from music to news or a series of advertisements to inform the consumer. Podcasting can be a very effective marketing tool on its own.

It is relatively cheap to conduct marketing surveys over the internet. The major costs are expenses in research design and implementation. In-depth research is more costly in terms of time and money. Online surveys reduce these costs, allowing the organization to reallocate these funds elsewhere. Compared with telephone surveys, the costs are about the same but come at a better quality. Telephone costs quickly add up with the price of the survey increasing with the length of the questionnaire. Servers can be used to store vast amounts of completed questionnaires, allowing the research to be spread over a long time period. An internet survey can also reach a wide range of people very quickly, reducing the survey length and costs. Sampling costs are greatly reduced with the need to only purchase a list of email addresses of the target population. Data collection and entry costs can be almost non-existent.

Challenges in Global Live Streaming

Jurisdictions and restrictions present a hurdle in the global reach of streaming services. All countries have some restrictions as to what can be shown in the media, and these can range from limitations on violence in Denmark to an outright ban on specific streaming services in China. A comparison of the content of Netflix in different regions of the world showed that access to newer movies in countries such as Mexico and Brazil was limited due to reluctance to take a risk in areas of the market where piracy and intellectual property (IP) enforcement are lax. This reluctance creates a catch-22 situation where consumers will not want to pay for a service that does not offer a wide array of high-quality content, and the providers do not want to invest in the content without a consumer base. The risk for IP theft during the streaming process is also a concern and has been a barrier for entry for IPTV services in regions like Hong Kong and the Middle East. Although many nations are adopting IP laws more in line with the WIPO Copyright Treaty, insufficient enforcement still allows rampant IP theft in the conductivity market.

Bandwidth and Connectivity Issues

Overall, VOD services are not a viable option for global content distribution unless there are considerable increases in global internet infrastructure and service.

Roughly the same issues apply for Video on Demand (VOD) services that use streaming or downloading, as they still rely on a stable internet connection and have the added issue of server distribution. Downloading is slightly less problematic as once the data is transferred, the user can watch the content without any interruptions. However, streaming has too many of the same issues and it is not cost-effective to implement the same “quality change” systems that are used for live streaming. Servers are also an issue for VOD services as the data is often stored in one location. Hosting and distributing to other regions is costly and does not guarantee that the data will be close enough to the user to provide a satisfactory standard of service.

For the viewers, the system is still not perfect. Korean company Pandora TV recently launched a system that will detect a user’s connection speed and then optimize the quality of the stream for their needs. However, this kind of system is not commonplace and until there are significant increases in global internet infrastructure, live streaming cannot be fully accessible to every country.

Section 3.1 explores the technological and systemic limitations to global media distribution. Live-streaming services are reliant on strong bandwidth in order to maintain a constant connection with the host’s stream. This makes it more difficult for consumers with slower internet connections and, in turn, lowers the number of possible viewers for a stream. A study done by Leung and Wei in 2000 showed that for every 10% increase in connection speed, there is nearly a 1.3% increase in the GDP of that country. This implies that streaming could potentially help boost the economies of LEDCs. However, they are currently incapable of supporting such services with their current infrastructure.

Cultural and Language Barriers

Private conversations can form in an intimate media such as live streaming and it can be disheartening for a language group to attempt to join a public discussion or view a separate media only to find that its quality and value in fostering discussion has been compromised by machine translation, the presence of non-speakers and widespread misunderstandings about the content of the media. High quality machine translation is still a goal in development for the long-term future, but the only solution appears to be in creating content that is unified across language and culture groups.

Live streaming services that target international viewers face many of the same challenges and benefits as producers and distributors of traditional audio-visual materials. In some ways, live streaming exacerbates these challenges and benefits; in others, it helps to alleviate them. One of the main problems concerning international communication through AV media is the issue of cultural and language barriers. In the case of live streamed materials where part of the appeal is the interactivity or immediacy of the media, often these materials will be of a participatory nature and will include a chat or forum where viewers/listeners can discuss the material with each other and the producer. Depending on the language and culture involved, this can often lead to a fragmented audience, as separate language/culture groups coalesce around their own media and are later excluded from other discussions or productions by a language barrier.

Strategies for Expanding Global Reach

Should entry to foreign markets be successful, these steps should be followed up in providing the most relevant content to these locations, better allowing the service to compete with specific local live streaming platforms. This could be achieved using specific data from the various game classifications in different countries to manipulate the games list in providing more of the game types located on that list in a specific country. An alternative to localization of the games list is to create an alternate service with a different address providing access to the same servers but a different set of channels and game lists. Either way, it is likely that the global reach of said service will far surpass that of simply providing the same English service to foreign markets.

For any western live streaming service wishing to eventually expand to take a share of the Asian market, 4.1 should be completed long before any entry to Asia begins. It is also important to note that the Asian market is largely untapped in terms of live streaming services, with the exception of one or two game streaming platforms. Thus, any commercially focused live streaming service may want to skip 4.1 and start directly upon plans for entry to Asia using Asian gaming communities located in their western servers as a method of assessing the potential success in these foreign markets.

Targeting Specific International Markets

Eren believes that the most effective way to reach specific international demographics is by using paid advertising to promote the stream across various countries. He also points out that a stream’s ability to develop a sufficient international viewership may be hindered by its quality options, as some viewers in regions with poor internet connections are unable to watch streams that do not offer low-quality settings. Eren suggests keeping this in mind and making a habit to speak with viewers to figure out where adjustments can be made.

Moving forward, Howson notes that there are plans to capitalize on the particularly strong XSplit user base in Southeast Asia. According to him, this will involve recruiting a dedicated Southeast Asian team to promote XSplit, engage with local users, and report back with feedback on what that demographic is looking for in a live streaming service. This feedback can then be used to make proper adjustments.

Eren, a Germany-based Twitch.TV partner, recommends promoting streams through various forums and websites that cater to the stream’s target audience, provided that the site’s administrators grant permission. This has been done with success by Spanish broadcaster and Twitch partner Reven. Eren also suggests using social media platforms to interact with viewers, learn their preferences, and inform them of when the stream will be live.

Kaceytron, a full-time Twitch.TV broadcaster from the United States, recognizes that targeting international markets requires a commitment to more difficult streaming schedules, often at the expense of peak viewing times in the broadcaster’s home country. She points out that simply starting to stream at a time when the desired international audience is awake can be effective for testing the waters. An American expatriate currently residing in South Korea, Kaceytron has seen increases in viewership from the Middle East and Southeast Asia as well as South Korea itself by doing this. At other times, she has captured regional audiences by playing games that are particularly popular in their respective countries.

In order to facilitate the growth of live streaming services in specific international markets, interviewees employed various strategies. Howson’s company takes a direct approach by attending gaming conventions to seek out potential customers and inform them on what XSplit has to offer. Residing in Japan, Howson notes that the country’s gamer-centric society is an ideal environment for his product. He also maintains a presence at gaming events in the Tokyo area.

Localization of Content

This anecdote gives evidence that in order to develop the most effective standard for global marketing, companies must directly interact and empathize with the targeted culture. Would-be globalized marketers should ask themselves similar questions posed in the previous section on understanding a target audience: how do we speak to these people? What are they interested in? What kinds of messaging does this culture respond to?

Global Marketing Senior Vice President at Heineken, Gianluca Di Tondo, stated, “Heineken lost its touch with the consumer; the product was great but it was being sold by a great empathic and emotional marketing connection, and this was lost.” The results of this campaign compelled the company to focus and place more resources back into local marketing, understanding that global marketing techniques did not work in the company’s and its consumers’ best interest.

In a Business of Apps article, it was written that when Heineken launched a global marketing campaign to create a single image for its brand, the campaign ended up being predominantly Eurocentric. The article goes on to explain that Heineken’s previous campaigns and attributes were developed through locally focused advertising promotions and event sponsoring. When the company shifted to a generalized approach, they saw a 7% decrease in sales in 2017.

The best approach to understanding a target audience is to personally interact with them and learn their specific wants and needs. The way to understand how to appear relatable to a specific culture is to immerse oneself within the culture.

Collaborating with Local Influencers

One of the primary benefits of influencer marketing is that it’s a less invasive form of advertising. Many people are put off by traditional ads and may have installed ad blocking software to avoid them. Influencer marketing usually involves product placement or testimonial which feels less forced on the viewer and is more likely to result in positive brand engagement. With the recent issue of Twitch.tv having an ever growing number of streamers and a disproportionately small growth in viewer count, influencer marketing can be used as a method to tap into a streamer’s existing viewer base and help bring more viewers to the advertiser’s content.

When a company is first expanding into a new market, they often face challenges and have limited knowledge of local consumers. In this situation, working with a local influencer can be a beneficial way to reach the desired audience. It is common for influencers to have a large and loyal fan base, so if the influencer truly believes in the content they are promoting, it will likely result in higher brand engagement. With the massive level of content saturation in today’s market, even having a great product at a fair price may not be enough to generate the levels of engagement and buzz necessary to be successful. Influencers often provide unique and entertaining content which can help differentiate a brand or product from its competitors. Their content can be a highly effective mode of advertising if integrated properly with the influencer and product brand. If the influencer is the right match for the brand, their content may naturally appeal to the influencer’s existing fan base and result in increased engagement of the brand being advertised.

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