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Five Digital Video Platforms That Could Change the Playing Field

December 27, 2016 | Video

No. 1. Facebook Live

The social network’s live video platform went public in January 2016, building on the momentum generated by Meerkat and Twitter’s Periscope in 2015. By September 2016, Facebook Live was being used by 51% of the top 500 brands as ranked by their Facebook followers, according to analytics firm Socialbakers. The service is also widely used by celebrities, government agencies and everyday consumers. It has eclipsed its competitors and spawned imitators even within the Facebook portfolio, as Instagram launched a live video service in December 2016.

No. 2. Pinterest Video Advertising

In Q2 2016 Pinterest unveiled a video ad platform after a long testing phase. In announcing the move, Mike Bidgoli, Pinterest’s product manager for monetization, told Forbes: “There are a lot of places where users can watch video but can’t take the next step to learn more about a product or buy it—on Pinterest, people are here to do that. Video on Pinterest is not just about offering marketers views, but about offering action.” Bidgoli added that 55% of people on Pinterest use the platform to shop for products, compared with 12% on other social networks.

No. 3. Twitter Sports Streaming

We don’t know how much Twitter paid for live streaming rights to 10 National Football League (NFL) Thursday Night Football games, or how much ad revenue the company stands to generate from the deal. We also don’t have detailed viewership metrics beyond a few vague stats that drew mixed reactions from sponsors. What we do know is that Twitter is staking its future on the NFL and, more broadly, on other live video deals. It has signed partnerships to carry full Major League Baseball and National Hockey League games, as well as live highlights from the English Premier League. These agreements amount to Twitter’s transformation from a text-based social network to a video-centric media company.

No. 4. Walmart’s Vudu Movies on Us

Retail giant Walmart unveiled this service in October 2016 as a free, ad-supported streaming version of its Vudu digital storefront. Vudu Movies on Us does not carry new releases and specializes in time-tested Hollywood blockbusters such as "Mad Max" and "School of Rock." Its business model is a tacit acknowledgment of shifting consumer preferences, with increasing numbers of people choosing to stream on demand rather than rent or purchase digital copies. Similarly, the ad-supported nature of the service indicates that monetizing via subscriptions is challenging, especially for a company that doesn’t produce original content or carry first-run movie or TV programming.

No. 5. DirecTV Now

Launched in November 2016, this service from AT&T’s DirecTV is the latest attempt to capture cord-cutters by offering them a programming mix they might get on a traditional platform, only in standalone digital mode. Like the SlingTV service from competitor Dish Network and Sony’s Playstation Vue, DirecTV Now provides access to live TV channels for monthly subscription fees that vary according to the number of channels and options. These services will have even more competition in 2017 when Hulu and YouTube introduce their own live TV offerings.

—Paul Verna

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