The year 2016 has been a heightened year for the live video streaming industry. Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, and even Instagram have pushed forward their live video streaming services armed with in-app chat on top of the video content. For a majority of live content providers, platforms advancement in live video streaming service could have sounded like an anchoring news of prolonged periods of dependency on social platform providers in order to run their business. Fortunately, that has not been the case. In 2016, we have witnessed plenty of independent content providers who have been successful in running their own channels and content distribution platforms in the live video streaming space. Luckily, many of the players have had plenty of similar features with each other that we can learn from, such as efficiency in using chat libraries to seamlessly implement in-app chat with ease and with speed.
Below, I have introduced three customers of SendBird who have successfully integrated in-app chat to embolden their content and live video streaming businesses.
Next to Overwatch and League of Legends, FIFA Online 3 boasts the third largest market share (~10%) of Korean gamers. In 2013, Nexon launched the first eSports league for FIFA Online 3. Three years later, with SendBird as its in-app chat API and messaging SDK provider, FIFA Online 3 successfully closed its sixth season with remarkable results.
Originally, there were two types of attraction on FIFA Online 3’s eSports league, the gameplay itself and the show host. However, as the eSports league grew, the show began to adopt new and creative features to make the show more engaging for the audience. In order to provide the audience with the right incentive to stay engaged throughout the entire show, Nexon adapted a brilliant event driven feature where the audience could engage on the screen to grab gift boxes. The gift box would contain cyber coins and game items that fans could claim through their game accounts. Unfortunately, as exciting of a feature it was, there were side effects of free items: users dropping out after claiming the item and indirect effect on users who did not receive the gift.
A live show has inherent difficulties in two aspects at the least, the fact that it is live and that it is difficult to grab the attention of the audience at all times. In addition, live video streaming requires its’ audience to be live at the same time as the show and therefore limits lifetime engagement and the potential for engagement after the show. To make it harder, the show is not editable before presenting, which makes excitement level, climax and anti-climax difficult to anticipate, resulting in sudden drop offs. Ultimately, Nexon’s eSports team decided to address the two issues simultaneously by adding in-app chat on top of the live video streaming interface.
In-app chat for a mass audience contains multiple technical hurdles. On the server side, affordable and stable scalability is the most difficult issue for businesses as live video streaming has high peak connections and high activity levels in a short period of time. Without the ability to provide high-quality scalability at an affordable server and development resource cost, it will be difficult to even test out the feature. On the chat technology front, mass audience based open chat brings two additional technical problems to attention, ensuring the readability of messages (smart throttling) and managing the size of chat rooms (auto-partitioning). Imagine 60,000 users chatting at the same time in a single room (the case of Nexon’s eSports leagues), how do you guarantee readability and flow of conversation? In addition, the host will require a moderation tool to be in place to guide and control chat room conversations so that chat remains relevant to the show and free of spam and profanity. (view detailed technical features here)
After implementing open chat rooms for the eSports league audience, both session time and bounce rate showed dramatic improvements. Notably, session time increased by 1.5x. It is difficult to attribute the entire success to adding in-app chat, but before and after integrating in-app chat results were vastly different to be ignored. Providing an interactive experience to a passive audience by enabling mass communication brings the game to a very different level. In-app chat along with live video streaming can even empower the audience to play the content generating side by interacting and filling the space during anti-climax of the show, which can only result in higher and prolonged engagement. In short, features that provide interactive experience can help address the inherent weaknesses of live video streaming experience.
Pikicast, one of Korea’s largest millennial-targeting entertainment content provider launched its live video streaming service in early 2016. Pikicast showed massive growth with its phenomenal viral content strategy, and so did its live video streaming service. Tens of thousands of audience flocked to see live shows hosted by Pikicast’s star broadcasting jockeys (show hosts). As the show grew, Pikicast felt the need to address a couple points, engagement of the audience (throughout the two-hour show) and data-driven analysis of the show.
The two-hour length of the show was a blessing to the fans, however, keeping it heightened all the time was a very difficult task for the show hosts. Given that audience came in and out during the two hour lifetime of the show, the show had to stay lively and interesting at all times so that even the audience cutting in during the show would stay engaged. Initially, Pikicast provided commentary system for audiences to engage. However, comments did not provide the full set of features Pikicast needed for audience engagement. Commenting could be helpful in certain aspects but for a time sensitive live stream shows it could be detrimental. Pikicast soon implemented SendBird’s chat API, enabling the audience to not only engage and interact with each other but also with the show host. The three-way communication of audience to audience and audience to show host empowered the show host to understand and react to the audience’s behavior on a real-time basis. By augmenting interactive experience through in-app chat, Pikicast experienced a 30x increase (to a total of 60,000 interactions/hour) in real time audience interactions compared to the traditional commenting system.
There are multiple ways to analyze a live video streaming show. Pikicast devised a brilliant and efficient way to utilize in-app chat as a primary dataset to analyze each live show and applied the analysis to recurring shows. One method Pikicast used was to process ‘ㅋㅋㅋ’ (Korean version of LMFAO, LOL, etc) and created an index out of it. With the new index, Pikicast studied which points of the show the audience found most interesting and at which points during the show the audience felt most compelled to laugh. Through studying audience reactions during the show, the hosts were able to arm themselves with accurate data on how, what and when to deliver during the show.
The sad truth about user engagement is that heavy and loyal users we all desire for are usually a very small group if at all. A good example is Yelp, how many people use yelp for search versus how many write reviews and post pictures? For Pikicast, in-app chat enabled the show hosts to interact with heavy (participating) users and engage them even further. What more could a fan want than to be recognized by the star, on the spot during the show?
Advancement of new online media players such as Netflix, Bloomberg, and Twitch.tv are threats to traditional TV and cable TV broadcasters share of viewership as the new entrants disrupt the industry with viral content and features to quickly amass a global audience. However, there are many traditional broadcasting networks that have made significant strides to acquire and retain new and existing viewership by pursuing bold online efforts.
Newsmax TV, a US cable news channel provider and a subsidiary of Newsmax Media, launched its online service in 2014. Though originally a cable news channel, today Newsmax TV has grown into one of the most significant niche online channels for 24 / 7 live news. You might expect a flood of short clips of viral news content all over the website, but instead, you will be greeted by a live streaming channel with a chat interface.
With a major user interface update and SendBird’s chat API and SDK, Newsmax TV experienced extensive growth in all the key metrics for an online video streaming service. Now, while watching your news at any time of the day you can engage with other viewers on newsmaxtv.com. Due to disclosure limits currently, I will deep dive how Newsmax TV made large strides to grow its online video streaming service as a cable news channel provider in a later post.
The success of live video streaming services run by gaming studios, entertainment content studios, and cable news channels are positive indicators of how content-driven businesses can continue to grow and compete without complete dependence on technology driven platforms (e.g. Facebook). Previously, even widely used features such as in-app chat were only available to those players who had the time and resource to build everything internally. However, third-party tool providers have been disrupting the industry with high quality, easy to implement development tools, enabling many companies to diverge and maintain ownership of one’s own user experience. Today, with technological barriers dismantled by third party providers, it is only a matter of business choice to converge with or diverge from other platforms.
Platform players (e.g. Facebook and Google) do provide chat API and messaging SDK. However, it is critical to note that platform provided tool is a double-edged sword as it can be detrimental to branding and user experience of content providers as much as it could be of help. Platform provided tools require the messaging and chat experience to stay with the platform (e.g. Facebook) and not the operator and may cause disruption to a seamless user experience. Simply put, think of a website with dark and neon color plates to watch live video game streams and on the side of the screen, you see a blue chat box with a list of your Facebook friends. There is no free lunch.
Though complicated and heavy it may seem, with SendBird, implementing in-app chat is an easy and simple technological work. It could even be simplified to a single feature of an application. Depending on the type of content and the way the content is presented, chat could be anywhere from an augmenting feature to a core feature. What is most critical is quickly testing out various integration scenarios to determine the optimal method of application for your service, whether it be one to one messaging, group messaging or open chat rooms.
Implementing in-app chat as a core building block for online content business is a widely known practice today, but deriving additional benefits of it are another. Luckily, with so many precedent success cases with SendBird, it is now a matter of execution. If you are interested in learning more about how in-app messaging and chat can supplement online content providers, contact us at https://help.sendbird.com/hc/en-us/requests/new