Live-streaming is a core pillar of Twitter's rejuvenation strategy, with the platform putting big bets on live TV deals and the appeal of an integrated Twitter/live event presentation to attract more users to the platform and re-build it as the place to go to stay in touch with "what's happening right now". That approach has been built on the back of the popularity of "second screening" - previous Twitter research has shown that TV-related discussion is one of the most popular uses of the app, with 85% of Twitter users who are active on the platform in prime-time indicating that they tweet about the TV content they're watching.
Given this, and the advances in modern connectivity and networking, why not combine the two?
This is the driving principle behind Twitter's push into live TV coverage, along with the additional potential benefits of supplanting traditional TV as a core advertising medium and establishing their own creator eco-system, similar to YouTube, where everyday users can make a name for themselves as live-streamers and bring audience (and revenue) to the platform through their own followings.
But live-streaming still faces many challenges, the biggest of which being broadcast quality. While giving everyone the capacity to be able to stream themselves at any time is great, in theory, as has been demonstrated by the failures of other live-stream networks in Meerkat and Blab, content quality is key to building and retaining a sustainable audience.
This is why Twitter has gradually shifted focus from individuals to established broadcasters and TV quality content - and why today, Twitter-owned Periscope has announced a new option called Periscope Producer which enables broadcasters to stream content direct to Periscope via a wide range of devices beyond the basic mobile device - including professional grade cameras, studio editing rigs, satellite trucks, desktop streaming software, games and VR headsets.
The new system aims to bring a higher level of quality, and legitimacy, to Periscope streams, which should work well within Twitter's wider push to bring their live content direct to your home TV. And that's important - while more and more people are consuming content on their phones and tablets, the TV set is still a central entertainment source, the very homes we live in are built around television being a communal recreational activity.
In order for live-streaming to truly take off, TV integration is needed - Twitter's moved towards this with the introduction of their new Twitter TV app which enables users to watch Twitter live streams through Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Microsoft's Xbox One. But broadcast quality, too, is a key concern on this front. Adding the ability for publishers to use professional grade camera equipment and presentation tools is another important step.
(And worth noting, Facebook, too, has today announced a new Facebook Live/TV integration through Apple TV and Chromecast)
Various broadcasters have been testing Periscope Producer for some time - we were first alerted to the new broadcast tools in videos from well-known live-streamer Alex Pettit early in September.
okay @periscopeco i see you with your fancy graphics / external video sources feature- Sam Sheffer (@samsheffer) September 1, 2016
I WANT THIShttps://t.co/RQDOPTPGKm
In the above video, you can see how Petit has used intro graphics and the video quality is crisp and clear, better than you'd normally experience with Periscope content.
One particularly interesting note in today's announcement is that Periscope has also included VR headsets as a potential source for Periscope streaming. Facebook announced similar at their Oculus VR event last week - the integration of VR capture is more of a nod towards the future than anything else at this stage, but it does raise some interesting prospects for how Periscope and live-streaming might be used in the next evolution of video, and even social, connection.
Here's what a virtual reality live-stream in Periscope looks like:
LIVE on #Periscope: World first Periscope from (fake) Mt Everest. https://t.co/3eNTF5MkFZ- Tyler Hansen (@tyhan1) September 13, 2016
In essence, Periscope Producer expands what's possible with Periscope, and broadens the potential of live-streaming more widely. Facebook offers similar, via their Live API, but Periscope seems more intent on expanding access to the option to more creators - though you do need to apply for access.
While much of the hype around live-streaming thus far has centered on the capability for everyone to share their perspective, the real strength of the medium lies in enabling and enticing professional broadcasters and entertainers to reach their audiences through the new medium. If Periscope can provide greater tools for connection, and deliver broadcast quality streams direct to people's TV sets, that will be a huge step in making live-streams a legitimate entertainment option, which will increase Twitter's audience reach and attract more brands and broadcasters to the tool.
And if all goes well, Periscope content might even be able to compete with TV channels as a legitimate entertainment alternative. That's where the real audience numbers, and ad dollars, lie.
Periscope Producer moves Twitter one step closer to that broader ambition.