As the Government reopens our high streets and continues to relax social distancing measures, we’re reflecting on the ways we kept entertained, connected, and sane during lockdown, and ask if live streams really were our saviour? Since the lockdown was announced, live-streaming views have increased by 45% across multiple platforms such as Twitch, Facebook, and of course Youtube. The average screen time per person has increased by 76% and even audio streaming has grown by 7.1%. Sites like Netflix have seen over 16 million new sign-ups and there has even been a 31% rise of Spotify subscribers.
The early adopters and big winners
One of the obvious live streaming big winners of the last 12 weeks has to be Joe Wicks, his morning 9am #PEwithJoe sessions on YouTube have seen him achieve over 700 million views and raise an amazing £500K to donate to NHS Charities. With all gyms and leisure centres remaining closed, fitness influencers, in general, continue to be big winners in the live streaming space, as individuals stay committed to working out at home. The popularity of at-home workouts has been such that the future of the traditional gym workout will likely have changed forever for many. Another group quick to maximise live streaming to stay in touch with their communities were food influencers. Sales in the restaurant industry dropped by 20% between January and March after all were forced to close their doors. A handful were able to operate a delivery service with a limited menu and a small team but with the industry’s sales dropping substantially, many culinary talents are turning to Instagram live to teach the nation how to cook restaurant-quality food. Massimo Bottura is a chef and patron for popular Italian restaurant, Osteria Francescana. Since the lockdown was announced, Massimo has taken to Instagram live nearly every day at 3pm to teach his followers how to make delicious, homemade Italian meals through his series ‘KitchenQuarantine’. Each episode gains anywhere between 100-500K views, and his follower count has seen the benefit too. At the beginning of 2020 Massimo had around 1 million people following his Instagram account since he launched his KitchenQuarantine series, he has seen half a million more accounts join his community in a matter of weeks. Brands were quick to catch on to the success that influencers were having with their live streams too. Bobbi Brown started to list a daily schedule of self-care live streams featuring their talented make-up artists. Their ‘Relaxing Skincare’ live stream secured its place as the “highest performing IG Live to date” with over 17,000 views. But why was it so popular? Before launching this initiative, the brand had its followers complete a survey to find out what it was that their fanbase wanted to see whilst stuck at home. By communicating with their followers and delivering as promised, their community has only gotten bigger and more dedicated.
Platforms that facilitated the trend
Streaming platform giant Youtube amassed 300 billion views in the first quarter of 2020, a 13% increase compared to the end of 2019. Additionally, the audience usage of the platform has surged by 15.3%. With 39 billion more people to entertain, the pressure was on for streamers to continue to deliver high-quality, positive content. On the 30 April through the ‘Youtube Originals’ channel, the site launched a four-hour live stream titled, ‘Stream #With Me’, a live-stream cast with some of the platform’s most popular stars. Viewers were encouraged to donate to the NHS ‘Charities Together’ campaign throughout the livestream. Donations have obviously been essential throughout the pandemic, in response Instagram has made it’s donation stickers available for inclusion in live streams hosted by content creators. The Instagram donation stickers were first made available for UK charities in July of last year, but this recent change allows followers to donate in real-time while watching live streams from their favourite influencer. During Stream #WithMe, the creators shared their own lockdown stories, as well as tips on how to keep entertained, active and positive throughout the pandemic, whilst still creating a positive atmosphere for the audience to escape to for four hours of the day. While these creators had the guidance of a billion-dollar company behind them, this is something that should definitely be commended.
Are live-streamed events the future?
June is here. It is the month of Pride and a month that is usually celebrated globally with parades, street parties and speaking events. And most importantly, used to raise awareness for current political issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. Since March, organisers around the world have been cancelling their Pride events in the wake of COVID-19. Sadly over 500 events worldwide have been cancelled so far. However, Pride month is not a force to be reckoned with. The LGBTQ+ community needs a platform, and many media brands and LGBTQ+ brand allies are stepping up to the plate and giving these people the voice they need. Condé Nast’s LGBTQ+ platform, Them, has moved their Pride events online, by launching their ‘Out Now Live’ programme. A live stream celebration that is not only raising money for the Ali Forney Center but will feature Elton John, Cara Delevingne, Whoopi Goldberg and an array of stars from the LGBTQ+ community. The month is filled with performances, speeches, and stories from their lives, all live-streamed via Condé Nast’s Instagram platform. The class of 2020 are also feeling a whole lot of disappointment this year. What was supposed to be the best year of their lives turned into the very harsh reality of exhibitions, showcases, and graduate events all cancelled, and students studying the arts have to bear most of the brunt. TikTok has partnered with the Graduate Fashion Foundation who are moving their Graduate Fashion Week onto the app. The platform is giving final year fashion students a chance to showcase their work via live streams on the app and is even giving them the chance to design fashionable, ethical merchandise for TikTok. The transition of the bi-annual London Fashion Week from the catwalk to online could have been a devastating announcement for the fashion and beauty industries. But the British Fashion Council has taken the event onto the LFW website and has a full schedule of live stream discussions, digital showrooms and runways that are all open to the public. The chief executive of the British Fashion Council said: “by creating a cultural fashion week platform, we are adapting digital innovation to best fit our needs today and enacting something to build on as a global showcase for the future. The other side of this crisis, we hope, will be about sustainability, creativity and product that you value, respect and cherish”. Even Premier League football is going virtual. CEO Richard Masters is looking for ways to improve the live experience for football fans whilst games have to be played behind closed doors, such as sound effects of supporters in the stadium or the use of large screens streaming the reactions of fans.
Creating innovative opportunities
The Coronavirus outbreak halted almost all traditional forms of production, events and human interaction, forcing everyone to explore new ways to stay connected and entertained. In what was being called, “the new normal”, the public desperately looked for ways to connect with the outside world whilst wanting to stay safe. Of course, social media was their saving grace and streaming in particular provided a sense of shared experience and community. It also opened up a range of innovative opportunities for brands, platforms and event hosts and, in doing so, will likely have changed the future for many as they realise the possibilities and power of streaming.