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What Is Interactive Streaming?

What makes a stream interactive? What are the elements of interactive streams that audiences respond to most, and create the most engaging lean-forward experiences? Nadine Krefetz, Consultant, Reality Software, Contributing Editor, Streaming Media, kicks off the discussion by asking Alex Lindsay, Head of Operations, 090 Media, for his breakdown of interactive streaming.

Lindsay says that broadly, interactive streaming comprises of audience engagement. “It can be them playing a game that's part of the content,” he says. “It can be them asking questions, voting on questions, chatting along with it, and incorporating those things…where they're even moving or activating things inside of our set during the event. So there's lots of different ways, but it's really how do we tie that viewing audience viscerally into the event that’s occurring.”

Krefetz asks Oliver Lietz, CEO, nanocosmos, “You've got a specific kind of delivery mechanism, so how do you define interaction for your customers?”

Lietz agrees with Lindsay that audience engagement is the core of interactive streaming, and he outlines two major use cases. “One is more like an enterprise corporate space, where you have kind of tonal meetings to engage the audience, to ask questions, give any kind of feedback like voting, polling, etc. The other one is more like a monetized revenue channel, which is based on things like betting auctions, gaming elements, which directly require outflow latency to keep up in the realtime space. So that's specific business verticals, which are not so much connected to OTT kind of applications, but have specific business requirements and which is not only focused on the video itself, but the complete use case and the complete workflow of a business application.”

Krefetz says Brian Miller, Director, Innovation Development, LG Electronics, “You've got a different environment. What’s your definition of interactive?”

“So obviously, I live in the TV world, right?” Miller says. “So everything I do is [the] glass manufactured side of the business. So for me, I do need to work within the confines of presentation interactivity on the television itself. I know some of the folks here on the panel, they can probably play with different mediums, but for me it's all about the TV. So when I think about interactivity personally, I think about what are we doing to enhance that viewing experience for folks. And it doesn't necessarily have to be limited to the types of use cases for interactivity, but certainly what we don't want to do is cannibalize the core viewing experience that we all know and love – we want to add to it.”

Krefetz says, “So we’ve got three different kinds of takes on interactivity.” To Jennifer Kent, VP, Research, Parks Associates, she says, “You've done a bunch of different research in terms of that field. So what does it look like to the consumer side? What do they kind of think of as interactivity?”

Kent highlights that Parks Associates views interactivity as less of a “lean back” experience to one that is more “lean in.” This may comprise of elements such as first screen in-stream interactivity or second screen interactivity. “There's all sorts of different use cases,” she says. “It might be an information experience where you're getting new live stats within a sports stream for your favorite players or your favorite team. It may be commerce related. When we think about shoppable ads and being able to interact with advertising for the first time, [or] a gaming experience, where there's sort of a gaming element, whether we're talking about wager gaming or entertainment gaming. Navigation even can be interactive in certain ways. From our perspective, we think about how consumers are using video and communication, especially maybe communicating with others during a stream, whether they be strangers or your family members or friends who aren't with you.”

Krefetz asks Kent, “I think you've mentioned earlier that younger people have a different method of either viewing or interactivity. What goes on there?”

Kent emphasizes that younger users are more mobile-first in their viewing habits than older users, along with a higher focus on short-form content. “Parks Associates is a market research firm,” she says. “We survey 10,000 consumers every quarter, asking about different use cases that they're doing with their media, with their technology…what are they using, what are they interested in using? And of course we can look down into the demographics there.”

Kent mentions a recent survey that Parks Associates conducted, which found that fewer than half of 18 to 24-year-old viewers had watched video on a TV screen. “What that just tells us is that there are natively interactive video viewers because much of the video they're viewing already has comment capabilities, like capabilities, [and] interactive ads,” she says. Because of this, Kent notes that interactivity will inevitably advance on bigger screens because today’s younger viewers will expect that same level of interactivity to continue on the OTT level as they age.

Learn more about interactive streaming at Streaming Media East 2023

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