Periscope is looking to provide a new path to monetization for live-streamers, with the addition of "Super Hearts", a new option which will enable viewers to purchase hearts which can then be applied to their favorite streams.
You can see the Super Hearts floating up at the right of this broadcast - the new hearts stand out and take precedence over the common Periscope heart icons.
It works like this:
Users will be able to purchase packages of hearts for different amounts - starting from $0.99 and ranging up to $100.
As noted, Super Hearts appear different to regular hearts, with three variations which you can send by tapping on the Super Hearts icon during a broadcast.
At the end of the session, you'll see a new leaderboard of those who've sent hearts during the broadcast, enabling creators to see their who their biggest supporters were (and maybe reach out to them).
But broadcasters can also make money of Super Hearts - as explained by TechCrunch:
"Once broadcasters have $175 worth of stars (around 185,000 stars) accrued, they can apply to join Periscope's Super Broadcaster program. If admitted, they can cash out their star balance for real money via ACH transfer at the end of each month."
Alternatively, broadcasters can opt out of Super Hearts completely, if they don't want to use their streams as a money-making device (note: full requirements on how to qualify as a Super Broadcaster here).
The option is similar to YouTube's 'Super Chat', which they announced back in January.
Super Chat - which is only available to verified YouTube users with more than 10k subscribers - follows the same model of live-stream monetization which has proven hugely popular in China, where viewers send 'digital gifts' to broadcasters to show their appreciation.
As explained by Connie Chan on the Andreessen Horowitz blog:
"For example, let's say you send a broadcaster a digital sticker of a sports car (a luxury sticker, usually costing over $30 apiece) and then immediately afterwards ask him or her to sing your favorite song. If the broadcaster feels up for it, he or she will thank you for the gift and honor your request - all in the public chatroom that other viewers are also watching from."
The leaderboard element also harks back to Chinese live-streaming - Chinese live-stream platforms (of which there are now more than 150) reward viewers with status titles based on how much they spend on virtual gifts, adding a level of prestige to the practice.
As noted by The Wall Street Journal:
"On [live-streaming platform] Qiqi, fans are labeled based on how much they give, with $7.50 conferring the title "Rich Man." The labels progress all the way up to "Divine Emperor," at $750,000."
This provides additional incentive for viewers to donate money - which, in-turn, keeps the broadcasters coming back, fueling a live-stream eco-system, with revenue split between the app store, the broadcaster and the platform.
In Periscope's case, 70% of the revenue will go back to the broadcasters (after the 30% tax on in-app purchases from iOS or Android and transaction processing fees) - though some creators have already noted that this is not likely to net them any significant money, at least based on current numbers.
But still, it may give Periscope another way to improve the quality of their content, and to keep good broadcasters coming back.
Ever since the resurgence of live-streaming for the mobile era, starting with the popularity of Meerkat at SXSW back in 2015, one of the key problems live-stream platforms have found is in maintaining a level of content quality in order to keep viewers coming back.
"Most live-streams suck"
This is the biggest challenge in the wider implementation of live-streaming - yes, the capacity for anyone to be able to live-stream at any time is great, and has lead to the creation of some excellent content. But most people are simply not good at live broadcasting, at creating content that people want to see.
While the ideal of live-streaming is that it creates a new means for anyone to become a TV star, on what's essentially their own network, the reality is that only a few will ever succeed. There's a reason why there have thus far been no major cross-over live-stream stars (as there has been with YouTube, and later Vine).
But maybe options like Super Hearts and Super Chat can change that - and worth noting, Facebook Live also has a similar payment option built into their back-end code, though there's no word on any related roll-out just yet.
Other live video platforms like YouNow and Twitch already have donation options which have shown varying levels of success. It hasn't proven as popular in western nations as it has among Chinese users, but still, it does add extra incentive - while no one's necessarily making a full-time wage of streaming donations alone, it can act as a good compliment to other promotional activity, helping prominent creators to spend more time doing what they do.
Basically, it's not going to make you the next PewDiePie, but it'll help, and eventually it may grow into a more lucrative source of revenue, if the option evolves.
For viewers, it gives you another way to show your appreciation for your favorite streamers. If there are those creators who you love, who you want to see more of, Super Hearts could help provide those broadcasters with the encouragement to keep broadcasting - even if it doesn't necessarily make them millionaires. If you get value from Periscope streams and you think it's worth paying them that extra attention, no doubt those users will appreciate it, and will use that impetus to create more content.
In terms of marketing potential, the value of tips is probably less a concern, as you're more likely using live-streaming as a promotional tool in itself, not an avenue for money.
In another application, it could serve as a good basis for detecting relevant influencers - if viewers are willing to pay streamers for content, that's a fairly good sign that they're engaged and interested in what they're doing.
Either way, it adds another consideration to the evolving live-stream marketplace.