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Real-Time Streaming’s Next Frontier: Interactivity and Gamification

Jed Corenthal, Phenix (Image credit: Phenix)

One of the biggest challenges facing everyone involved in the streaming wars right now is how to differentiate their platform and open up new revenue streams. To stand out, broadcasters, sports franchises and media companies will need to completely rethink what it means to “watch,” especially as we continue to adhere to social-distancing guidelines around live events, from baseball games to concerts. 

By adding gamification elements to a live stream such as polls, contests or prediction games, fans become more engaged with the content and can interact with their friends and social media in real time. However, today’s streaming providers are fighting significant latency issues, up to 30 or 60 seconds behind the action on the field.  These delays render the inclusion of interactive components extremely difficult. In order to stand out and drive fan engagement, brands must reconsider the capabilities of their current streaming technology solutions so they too can integrate these added features. 

Creating A Social Living Room   

Already, 90% of consumers have access to a connected TV and, by 2024, it’s expected that 91 million consumers will use live video streaming. The entertainment industry is clearly moving in the direction of live content, and this migration is only amplified within our new reality. The growth of new audiences provides an opportunity but also poses a test for organizations, brands and streaming technology providers. 

Already, we’ve seen brands adjusting to live-streamed content as fans are unable to fill stadiums for either sports events or concerts. The experience of attending an event is temporarily gone, which means typical revenue opportunities — ticket and merchandise sales or fan-engagement events — are no longer possible. Platforms must rethink how to integrate these features into online and mobile environments where fans may be watching alone.

To enhance the viewing experience and keep fans engaged longer, providers must integrate interactive features and tools to reshape the concept of “watching” and bring viewers into a “social living room.” For example, Phenix recently helped power a concert series for Erykah Badu. Viewers were able to interact with one other as well as Erykah in real-time through features such as live chats, donation opportunities, trivia and social feeds — all of which kept them engaged. For the NFL Draft, Phenix also powered the streaming for the Dallas Cowboys Draft Party; Cowboys players and Jerry Jones were able to interact with fans all in real-time. 

This is all only possible if streaming technology is delivered in sync and in real time, so everyone can watch at the same time. All of these features are rendered irrelevant if a viewer in New York is 15 seconds ahead of a friend in Denver — that could be all the time needed to spoil what happens next.   

The Power of Gamification in Sports

While the entire entertainment industry has an opportunity to capitalize on interactivity and gamification, sports are slightly ahead as they’ve already started to experiment. Consider the PGA’s shot-for-shot streams for the Players Championship as a good example of looking beyond just watching for viewers. This is just the start of one sports property exploring the potential for live streams beyond simply delivering the content to as many people as possible on various devices. Of course, not everyone wants the ability to choose exactly what shot they see, but those who do will be delivered features that will highly engage them taking streams to the next level. 

What if, for those at the 16th hole who want to view what’s happening around the course at other holes, the PGA could employ unique multicamera angle technology, so fans can see multiple holes simultaneously? Further, what if we could bring in-game betting to those viewers? Let them place bets not just on the entire tournament itself, but on each shot in real-time for instance, betting on if Tiger Woods will make this putt. This is just a snapshot of how far the PGA could take their real-time streaming strategies with the right technologies.

Streaming services must find the tech sweet spot to ensure they’re able to minimize delays, support an influx of online viewers simultaneously and bring them new features to stay engaged. Lackluster streams will no longer cut it for viewers who are depending on live streams to stay entertained.

Opening Revenue Doors 

As cord-cutting continues alongside the rapid expansion of live-streamed entertainment events, the opportunities will grow tenfold for providers. But the biggest consideration they must contemplate is not the set list or matchup, it’s the quality of their streaming technology. 

Consistently providing a top-notch, interactive real-time streaming experience is the key to success. Brands must prioritize their streaming solutions to ensure they are not only latency-free, but also engaging and interactive viewing experiences for their fans. Those who are able to do this will be able to increase their bottom line and move into the next threshold of live entertainment. 

Jed Corenthal is chief marketing officer at Phenix, a Chicago-based streaming technology company.