Vimeo CTO on How Brands Can Avoid Livestream Fails: ‘You Can’t Just Put a Camera Somewhere’

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5 Questions: “The biggest misconception is probably that the audience will just show up,” Vimeo chief tecnology officer Mark Kornfilt says

Mark Kornfilt / Vimeo

Live video streaming is more than just sports and news, says Vimeo’s Mark Kornfilt who explained to TheWrap that the two categories account for less than 20 percent of Vimeo’s livestream usage. As current chief technology officer/chief product officer at Vimeo and former GM of live at the company, Kornfilt has spent a great deal of time working in the live video industry. In fact, it was Vimeo’s 2017 acquisition of Livestream, a livestreaming company he co-founded, that brought him to Vimeo, the world’s largest ad-free open video platform. We caught up with Kornfilt to discuss the current state of live video and how Vimeo’s customers are utilizing the format. Kornfilt touches on some of the fastest growing live categories on Vimeo and talks about the misconceptions brands have when first pushing into live. 1. A recent study found that live viewership among vMVPD platforms was up 65 percent year over year. In what other areas are you seeing live video take off? In volume, if you look across the internet is consumer streaming. It’s serendipitous, it is sort of this spontaneous, “I’m going to stream myself live to an audience.” Right after that, I would say in use cases where [Vimeo] sees strengths are in education. It’s a big area where people are organizing training session or ongoing courses and obviously what live brings to that specific use case is interactivity. The other functions where live is used, unsurprisingly, is everything around media — everything from music, like a concert, all the way to red carpet and entertainment events. Then, I would say it stretches all the way to sports. And in the world of sports, live has a very, very special place for somewhat obvious reasons. People want spontaneity of consuming sports live and seeing the results as they happen. 2. Looking at the content streamed live using Vimeo, what category is growing the fastest? I would say a driving category for us is evangelism. We work with a lot of churches, synagogues and people that are working every day to spread the word, whatever that is for them. They are on a mission of reaching the widest audience possible with a message. Think about the use case of a church that happens every Sunday and it happens in quite a structured way around an event that is scheduled and already has a physical audience and is trying to gather a digital audience. Then I would say that the next big category is corporate communications, both internal and external corporate communication. This can be anywhere from, I don’t know, Tesla launching a new car to us internally using livestreaming to broadcast our “All Hands” meetings to our offices all around the world. 3. What is the biggest misconception entertainment companies and digital brands have about incorporating live into their video strategy? The biggest misconception is probably that the audience will just show up. I think the reality about live is much like anything that a brand does. It needs to be prepared. It needs to be marketed, it needs to have a message that people are interested in and then it’s a very powerful format — very few things can beat live. But you can’t just put a camera somewhere, turn on the livestream and expect to have an audience. I’ll give you an example. We had a cosmetics brand that organized an event for the launch of a new product. They commissioned a very popular artist to come and sing a song and livestreamed it. They did the livestream and they had a very small audience. The reason why is because they didn’t talk about it anywhere. The artists didn’t talk about it on their feed, the brand didn’t talk about it on their feed. It wasn’t prepared and it didn’t do anything for the brand. 4. How is livestreaming shaping the video industry in terms of content and monetization?   Live is one of the most engaging ways to connect with an audience, and its immediacy enables monetization models that had not been possible before. For example, we are seeing creators offer live content as part of a subscription package, and providing recordings, replays and highlights as free-to-view content. Even for creators making on-demand editorial content like podcasts or web series, having a live component to their platform or app can help them better connect and engage with their audience. In terms of monetization, there are thousands of niche global sports finding — and monetizing — their digital audiences. 5. Can live be a sustainable business for online creators and influencers? I mean, for sure it is. I’ll give you an example of where it is — education. We have entire brands and companies that have been built around regular livestreams in particular areas. We have a very large Brazilian customer of ours that has become one of the largest education outlets in the country and it all started —  and still very much is — based on live. Another example where it has worked is with sports. We are seeing yoga brands and yoga instructors use the format on a regular basis to sell subscriptions that are based around live content. Some of the best brands are using live video to communicate with their audiences on every platform in real time, and the viewership and engagement they’re getting is driving real ROI. Also, as technology and bandwidth speeds improve, browsers mature and communications protocols improve, the quality and latency of live video is increasing at a rapid pace. With 5G gradually coming online in the near future, we’re going to see these trends continue to accelerate.