Meerkat Moves from Live Video Streaming to Video Social Network
The live-streaming app that took the South-by-Southwest (SXSW) conference by storm last year, Meerkat, is abandoning its business model, thanks to pressure from the likes of Facebook and Periscope. Instead, the company’s CEO said it has started work on a new social networking app that uses live video broadcasting.
The company hasn’t provided much detail about the new app or why it might be better than its existing product. All that management is saying for the moment is that the new service will be much more focused on live video between participants who know each other outside the platform, rather than broadcasting to unknown audiences.
Facebook and Twitter Jump In
Meerkat made a splash at last year’s South-by-Southwest as a way for users to easily host and set up live video streams from their smartphones. The app was a hit at the festival, with attendees using it to broadcast their experiences to their followers.
However, established social media players like Facebook and Twitter quickly saw the opportunity Meerkat presented, and decided to jump into the sector as well. Twitter soon announced its own video streaming app, Periscope, while Facebook introduced Facebook Live to its mobile app, allowing users to post live video from their mobile devices directly to their news feeds.
“The year started on a high note with the rapid explosion of live video, the excitement of SXSW, and the launch of Twitter’s Periscope,” Ben Rubin, Meerkcat’s CEO, wrote in a recent memo to investors. “But over the year, it became rougher waters.”
Rubin said that the distribution advantages held by Twitter and Facebook Live drew more users to their platforms, and away from Meerkat, blocking the company’s ability to grow as rapidly as it had planned.
Market Is too Small
Nevertheless, Rubin noted that Meerkat developed several proprietary tools over the last year, such as its integration with the GoPro camera platform, which the company could use as the basis for alternative products going forward.
“While live video has become an interesting feature on top of Twitter and Facebook, it hasn’t yet developed into a self-sustaining new network as we hoped we would do with Meerkat,” Rubin said in the letter. “Our assumption was that by reducing broadcaster’s cost to broadcast to zero (no equipment, etc.) we would be able to create a whole new class of live broadcasters like YouTube did with video and YouTubers.”
However, Rubin said the market of would-be broadcasters yearning to host regular video programs was smaller than Meerkat needed to maintain its business.
“As long as we are competing on those with Twitter/Periscope and Facebook Live, we don’t think the current Meerkat product is set up to win,” Rubin added. “All of these platforms are struggling to create repeat broadcasters at a growing rate and the viewership isn’t much higher today than we thought it was last summer.”
Rubin suggested that the new product will be something closer to Skype or other video-conferencing apps that will target individuals looking to communicate with each other over live video.
Image Credit: Screenshot via Meerkat App on iTunes.