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What Makes Interactive Streaming Work

What are some of the best practices to help interactive streaming resound with live audiences? Nadine Krefetz, Consultant, Reality Software, Contributing Editor, Streaming Media, asks Alex Lindsay, Head of Operations, 090 Media, “When you think about kind of all the interactivity that you've been involved with, what's the key thing that people have really resonated with?”

Lindsay says that in his 15 years working in live streaming, he is surprised that interactivity, especially on the commerce level, is still not close to where he anticipated it would be at this point when he started. Second screen interactivity remains a norm that prevents seamless user interactivity, even though when he began, developing direct on-screen discoverability and interactivity was the main goal. Back then, he says, “It was building alpha channels [with] mattes for everything in the screen. So basically, you would see the pot the person's hanging onto, and if you picked up your controller, you could hit it. It would just show you what everything is, and you could order it and then go back to what you were watching without having to have the friction of actually going somewhere. But that was 20 years ago, and we built a bunch of tests for some folks, and then that kind of went away. So that's another layer of interactivity that hasn't happened yet in any mass form that we think will be very compelling as that moves forward.”

Lindsay stresses that there are now elements of that kind of direct interaction. However, the format remains more chat and text-based. “For instance,” he says, “in something like cooking, there are more and more times where they say, ‘We're all going to cook together, and we're going to send you a list of what you need to buy. And you can order that on Amazon Fresh, so we can tell you that there's an appointment to go to, there's something to do, and you're going to do it with somebody, but you're going to need these tools to do it.’ And there's a commerce opportunity there.”

Krefetz asks, “So realistically, though, the interactive feature now that you think is more compelling is the chat feature?”

“The chat feature is [just] the most common,” Lindsay says. He gives an example of a more dynamic recent live event 090 Media coordinated, a great use case for high-level mass-scaled enthusiastic user interactivity that unfortunately could not keep up with technical limitations. “We had a flame thrower!” he says. “40-foot flames, not like a little one like Elon Musk, but a 40-foot flame thrower in a pyro stage. And we had it pointed at something, and if the people in the audience hit fire, the flame thrower would send in a command to Arduino, and Arduino would pull a solenoid, pull the trigger, and off this flame would come out. We had many people watching…as soon as they understood what happened, we got to 140,000 interactions a minute of people just going crazy trying to get this flame thrower to go off again. It took the event out – our management system of the database was fine, but the social media's streaming database couldn't manage that many interactions a minute.” Despite this breakdown, Lindsay says, the massive level of live audience engagement only proves the vast potential of interactive streaming.

Krefetz asks Oliver Lietz of nanocosmos, “You've got customers in a bunch of different areas. Is there one form of interactivity more compelling or that you see as used more?”

“I see the largest growing part is the monetized channels,” Lietz says. “Like live auctions and betting because you can directly monetize the content on the stream. So that's a great challenge that needs to be close to real-time compared to other interactions, which can maybe take five seconds for commenting and that might be high latency acceptable. So there are also different dimensions regarding the technology requirements for these applications.”

Krefetz says, “So realistically, though, somebody who’s interacting with a flamethrower or doing chat, is that the same latency?”

Lietz surmises that live flame thrower activations and live chats may not require the same low latency as other applications. “Doing a bet or a live auction or something that needs to be directly in real-time, also compared to the [on-site] audience…there are different levels of latency and interactivity,” he says.

Krefetz asks Brian Miller of LG to discuss the currently popular versions of interactive streaming that LG is already delivering.

Miller emphasizes that for interactivity to work best, there should be a clear correlation between the live feed and the ancillary interactive features to present a coherent and fully engaging UX. “We look at interactive as complemented content or value-added content, ultimately,” he says. “Let's say you're watching a concert, right? It wouldn't make sense for us to say, ‘Hey, here's some dumbbells you can buy. Here's stats on you football players,’ or something like that. We want to make sure that whatever we present in that interactive layer is relevant to that core content.”

“We typically think of interactive as an interactive overlay or L-bar type of presentation layer,” Miller says. “There's going to be different ideations that are inherent to what you are trying to do as your business and your brand. With [LG], we're going to be a little bit more generalized and we're going to focus on the specific content that we're overlaying or that we're squeezing back and putting the L-bar against. So it's all matter of relevance.”

Learn more about interactive streaming at Streaming Media East 2023.

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