August 8, 2015 Nick Cicero

The Future of Periscope is Always-On, Always-Live Programming

It’s 4:00 PM on a rainy Thursday afternoon, and there are flash flood warnings all over Manhattan. As I step into the dentist’s office, I fire off a few tweets that later that evening, I’ll be interviewing Jon Erlichman—a livestreaming personality who has worked with ABC News, The Wrap and Maker Studios.

When I step out an hour later, my mouth is numb and my phone is lit up with comments and questions to ask Erlichman. Not even halfway home, but more than halfway soaked, I wipe off my phone and glasses to read a tweet from TVREV founder Jesse Redniss: “Are you livecasting the convo?”

He means livecasting on Periscope, the new Twitter-owned app that in the last few months has fought off Meerkat, Stre.am and others to take the live-streaming throne and become the go-to service for the web’s uber-sharing set.

He’s right, I should livecast. I’m going to be speaking with the founder of Lifestream, a hybrid talent company built around both branded and original livestreams.

But I hadn’t quite planned for this. I’m not a live streamer—and I’m soaked, not to mention just a bit woozy from the novocaine.

Maybe it’s the drugs coursing through me—maybe it’s the excitement of the live-stream—I quickly send a note to Jon asking if he’s open to stream. Like me, he’s also unprepared, but we hop on the phone to hash out details, ready to go live in 10 minutes. Erlichman is ready to seize the opportunity, and he’s far from camera shy—the guy did found a livestreaming company along with his wife!

In the last year, the aforementioned Meerkat launched first, built in just 10 days. Then came Periscope, Erlichman’s platform of choice. The app was built and tested for over a year before the company announced its acquisition and launch with Twitter in March 2015 (FYI: Eliminated a lot of details that we need to eliminate for the reader to stay with you and get to the meat of the story)

Neither platform has yet to announce a true monetization structure—yet—but that hasn’t stopped a community of streamers from building up around this cottage industry. I wanted to know what Erlichman thought the next step was.

TVREV: What’s the future of monetization of Periscope and Meerkat? Is it solely built off the backs of independent creators with branded content? Or YouTube-like opportunities for pre-roll/mid-roll ads?

Erlichman: I think that we all got frustrated with ads that got stuck in front of us a long time ago, and yet it’s baked into our own psychology. We do still have that certain amount of patience with them, so I think there’s always a door that’s going to be open for that.

Some forward-thinking brands do have an opportunity to create their own content—if they want. Over the last couple years, we’ve seen companies who define themselves better as media companies even though they sell gadgets, stuff that you drink, and they built these amazing media businesses because they invest in livestreaming.

The road of possibility involves brands. Most brands are hands off, which is smart because they have goals as a company and maybe making the content isn’t what they want to do. I think there are a few doors of possibility, all will be explored, and whichever one makes the most sense will be dominant.

TVREV: Will brands start hosting and programming livestream shows like your “Tech Trivia?”

Erlichman: I do. It’s always been such a weird grey line between actually being the content creator and not. When I think about the traditional world of television, think of all those destination shows, especially a lot of sports shows that for years the first thing everyone gets together before the big game.

Those brands have a large involvement and investment in how that show is executed, they don’t walk over the line and become the executive producer of the show.

Where there is the ability to create the content on the branding side, the line blurs less. We’ve already seen, certainly on Periscope, where a brand does a trivia show or there’s some call to action they’re able to execute.

I think they can do that because it’s a different world than the budget that goes into a television show, the process of actually getting it up and running. We’re doing this livestream right now and we did it very quickly. Don’t overthink it. There’s an opportunity to execute a lot faster.

The question becomes: what are they comfortable with, do they want to do it themselves or do they want someone else to be part of it? And we’re only going to know what’s right when we experiment.

TVREV: What about Periscope is most impressive? What feature do you want next?

I’m blown away at how these products can look, feel, and have so much usability with—quite frankly— some really small engineering teams. As we all know, when you start a broadcast, you’re crossing your fingers that there are no issues with your stream. But, it’s been a pretty smooth ride, and I don’t think that I’d be here talking today if it hadn’t. [As far as features], maybe if you had the ability to change the direction of your starting shot?

TVREV: What’s the future of livestreaming? Both on Periscope and your own company?

There’s wonderful opportunities with livestreaming on all fronts, especially given some of the things I’ve learned in both the live TV world and the YouTube ecosystem. I always feel the engagement factor is so important, so I realize the content being created here would have to respect the audience. I knew there was going to be a sea change in what was the psychology around what a broadcast is.

Outside of how many people are following you, success is based on your support and being supported by that community. So we’re working on new projects to bring the community into through Lifestream.

We did a really cool cross-country scavenger hunt on Periscope with some great giveaways. The one thing you shouldn’t do is make any assumptions about what works and what doesn’t work—then you keep your eyes closed to all the possibilities that are available in this world. It’s different than posting pictures or text based communication, it requires a lot of physical energy.

We’re very early in this game, it’s going to be a mind-blowing few years the way this unfolds and the way people are using this stuff. So get your Gatorade bottle, take a quick timeout, then get ready for an exciting continued ride, I think it’s going to be epic.

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