The following opinion piece is a guest post and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of this publication. Read more about MediaShift guest posts here.
Sharing is the new normal. Everywhere we look, our social networks are providing us with links, lists and video that our friends and acquaintances think will impress and delight us. Key among these are the new, in-the-moment notifications to catch a video as it happens on Periscope (or fledgling competitor, Meerkat). Most of you are familiar with that whistle emanating from your phone, beckoning you to come watch. The immediacy is, for many, irresistible.
Periscope has clearly established itself as the ‘go to’ channel, if you will, for catching never seen before moments on the screen of your choice. Want to go backstage with U2 at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on their Innocence + Experience Tour? In this era of Periscope you can, as Bono enables a live stream on his iPhone 6 Plus using the app. Or maybe you’re a politics junkie and want to see what the guests and Chuck Todd are discussing on Meet The Press during a commercial break. Wait no more, because Chuck is firing up his phone and providing you with a live stream every Sunday.
Down Periscope – not on my submarine, not on my watch
Despite all this unprecedented access, not all Periscope streams are equal – or allowed. Let’s sideline discussion of legality and copyright for a second and explore this unprecedented access and those who don’t want you to go where you haven’t been before. Fancy a trip behind the ropes to see Jordan Spieth hitting a few warmup shots before the PGA Championship? How about following Tony Romo out onto the practice field this week in Oxnard, California as the Cowboys begin training camp? Lastly, let’s stop in the Dallas Stars locker room and check out Jamie Benn as he straps on the pads before practice at the American Airlines Center. Sorry, would-be viewers. None of these experiences are allowed on Periscope. Each league or team has forbid its staff and players from using Periscope to provide this behind the scenes access their fans so desperately seek. But what if these leagues, teams, even individuals could recognize new, incremental revenue streams (pun intended) from this new pathway to content?
Periscope – turning previously private moments into profit
It seems that the watershed moment for Periscope and access to copyrighted/protected content was the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight this past spring. Never before could thousands of people watch a pay per view event without paying a dime for it. I and others were very surprised at the unfettered access to the Fight of the Century. Why pay $99, when I had hundreds of Periscope users providing me easy access, round by round. It so happened that I had a twenty-something-year-old niece in town shortly thereafter, and we were talking about the event and Periscope in general. She told me that she loved the app and would watch many random streams, but wondered why she couldn’t pay for à la carte access to the shows and events she cared about. This is the voice of the modern video viewer. Just as we see other models changing, whether it be Verizon offering ‘skinny’ channel bundles or SlingTV attempting to capture the OTT only subscriber, it seems sensible to think that another model is primed to emerge – the single event Periscope viewer.
Take my patient zero, my niece, and turn her query into a business. She, and many like her, have some small discretionary spend. Maybe they aren’t a $200 per month cable subscriber or even a $99 per month SlingTV target. But what they are, or potentially could be, are an event by event Periscope viewer of premium content. Say you’re a fan of ‘Alaskan Bush People’ on Discovery or ‘Ballers’ on HBO. In the latter case, you do have the option to subscribe to HBO Now and watch it and all the other HBO programming, but at a higher price point. But what if you could watch either show without a subscription, but at an attractive price point (call it $1.99) where the purchase and viewing experience are frictionless and enjoyable? In this scenario, Discovery or HBO would originate the stream within their broadcast physical plant and deliver the stream to Periscope. If my niece, and a few hundred thousand like her, find this simple, effective and valuable solution through which they can connect with shows they can’t generally otherwise see without Mom and Dad’s cable subscription, Discovery and HBO just unlocked new revenue and tapped into new viewers who may eventually move toward more content on their channels and larger subscriptions beyond à la carte as they go.
As we learned during the music industry’s migration to digital, technology doesn’t equal piracy. When content – whether it be music, movies or episodic television – is easy to find and consumed and priced properly, piracy is thwarted. In my earlier examples, stream sharing and users Periscoping their television screens can be overcome with technology. Will it circumvent one hundred percent of those who seek to pirate content? Of course not. But with viable technology and the right business logic and tools, this content offered within Periscope could open up new streams of revenue and enable programmers to connect with audiences in new and disruptive ways. The audience, platform and technology are there. The outstanding question is whether those who control the content will see the opportunities present when looking through the Periscope.
Matt Smith is presently Chief Evangelist for Anvato – the leading, turnkey platform solution that enables media companies, content providers and broadcasters with a robust, powerful and complete toolset to enable their content to reach any screen, anytime.