The Rise of the Live Stream

2020 has yielded dramatic increases in business for a few different platforms – how, exactly, did Zoom become industry standard when Skype had about a decade’s head start? Among the many platforms that have seen more and more users flock to their services over the past few months, live streaming has similarly become an integral way of connecting over the web.

Beyond live virtual concerts and reunions from our favorite films and tv shows, live streams have created a way for people to connect over games, experiences, and sporting events. According to one study from Streaming Media, live video recently grew by 93%. This growth isn’t all due to the pandemic: video streaming had already been on the rise since 2019, rising by 74% between Q1 and Q2 of 2019. In a world constantly becoming more digital, video and live streaming are impossible to ignore.

Although (according to Go Globe) streaming video now accounts for over two-thirds of all internet traffic and is expected to jump by 82% by the end of 2020, quality is still an important factor. A high-quality live stream is still critical to many users, especially to millennials, who are the predominant demographic of people consuming this kind of content. Facebook and Twitter have user-friendly, built-in live stream options (the latter utilizing Periscope), and Instagram has an in-app option as well. Stars like Miley Cyrus have utilized this feature to reconnect with peers for entertainment and conversation; conversely, many major celebrities have also handed the keys to their accounts over to marginalized voices in hopes of amplifying their perspectives and voices throughout the social discourse of 2020.

Beyond the go-to social platforms, another major hitter comes in the form of Twitch, which has already grown in popularity in recent years among people connecting over online gaming. The service, initially established in 2011, made headlines this month when millennial Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez logged on for an evening spent gaming with peers and opening up a discourse around voting. This choice of platform is no accident: Twitch has 17.5 million daily visitors and 1.5 million live users at any given time. Utilizing this kind of community platform not only brings the handshaking, baby-kissing connections of politics into the 21st century, but also humanizes those in office in a new way. AOC’s stream peaked at 435,000 viewers.

The pandemic strangely leveled the playing field and tore down the walls of celebrity a bit – even our favorite Emmy winners had to take some calls from the floor of their closets. Similarly, and ultimately, the rise in popularity in connecting over live streaming platforms can be attributed to the collective desire for community right now. Until live events are safe and possible again, check that Wi-Fi connection and get streaming.