Meerkat vs. Periscope: Analyzing Core Players in Live Streaming Market
While live streaming is not an inherently new technology, it is now more accessible to consumers through mobile apps. The combination of mobile network speeds becoming fast enough to support high-quality video streaming and larger mobile screens, which means more people are watching video on their phones, has led to the market’s recent staggering growth. The two primary players in the market that have been capturing headlines these past few weeks are Meerkat and Periscope, Twitter’s own live streaming platform. Both apps allow users to stream footage from their devices to their Twitter followers, who can then send comments to the streamer.
There is a real use case for live streaming technology as social media outlets such as Twitter focus on capturing moments to inform people on events worldwide. Enabling users to visually see such moments play out as they’re happening, rather than merely hear about them via tweets, is quite powerful. From a business perspective, real-time video is an important medium for marketing, promotion, and community building. Josh Elman, a partner at Greylock who led Meerkat’s recent financing round, adds, “This is not a zero-sum game. The number of multi-billion-dollar companies around the distribution, programming, and content of live video is massive. There’s so much opportunity here, it’s crazy.”
According to founder Ben Rubin, Meerkat attracted 60,000 users in the eight days post its February 27th launch. Despite this hyper-growth, Meerkat has been a bit more rushed in its development with only eight weeks under its belt, while Periscope has been under construction for roughly a year. This disparity is evident in the superior design of Periscope as the app is cleaner and sleeker than Meerkat. In addition, as shown in the table displayed below, Periscope is further moving ahead in the live streaming battle due to its premium features that bolster the user experience compared to its competitor.
When users launch Periscope, the first thing they see is a list of videos. Displayed on top are broadcasts that are live with a list of recently recorded ones underneath. Thus, while Periscope allows users to replay broadcast recordings, Meerkat disappears as soon as content is posted and doesn’t enable users to view archives of past livestreams. Because users can watch videos up to a day after a moment has passed on Periscope, there is much more available and relevant content on the platform than on Meerkat.
Periscope also offers both Twitter social graph and following connectivity – due to the fact that Twitter purchased Periscope last month for slightly less than $100 million – while Twitter now blocks these features from Meerkat. This means that when new users download Meerkat, they are no longer automatically connected to the other people they are already following on Twitter. In contrast, Periscope automatically suggests people to follow on Twitter during sign up, alongside a Most Loved list of the users who have been sent the most hearts during their livestreams. Twitter users can watch Periscope videos directly in their Twitter newsfeed – a distinct competitive advantage – compared to Meerkat where people have to link out to watch a particular stream. Such strong synchronization with Twitter allows users to better develop their community through Twitter’s 260MM user base and find / follow people on Periscope.
Further, Periscope enables private streams to be setup by allowing users to actively opt in to sharing, while Meerkat automatically tweets a link to videos once a livestream has started, which is extremely inconvenient if a user presses it by accident. My experiences with Meerkat have also often involved a ten second to a minute delay when streaming, compared to Periscope’s average two second lag. This efficiency promotes greater ease of conversation on Periscope versus Meerkat.
Upon Periscope’s March 26th release, people immediately gravitated to the app. As displayed in the graph below, Periscope’s number of daily tweets with links to livestreams shot right up to not only match but surpass Meerkat’s in its third day post launch. After a big spike, however, Periscope’s growth has evened out with the app’s links receiving a few thousand more tweets per day than Meerkat’s – a lead which is certainly not irreversible.
Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of VaynerMedia and early Meerkat investor, recently stated the following on the battle:
…the only thing I truly want to comment on is that I think it is foolish for any pundits, gurus, or journalists to declare a winner thirteen seconds into it….Maybe at this point you’re saying ‘Yes, but Periscope was just acquired by Twitter.’ Well, to that I’ll respond with one word: Jaiku. It was a Twitter competitor, and Google bought it. VentureBeat even predicted it would shut Twitter down. Quite the opposite happened.
While I do believe Periscope currently has multiple UX advantages and superior positioning as a subsidiary of Twitter, I certainly agree it’s premature to declare a clear winner in the market. It’s still early in the game, and both firms will inevitably make many revisions to their apps going forward.
Both apps consume a massive amount of cellular data with testers reporting up to 400 megabyes per hour. Sandavine’s 2014 Global Internet Phenomena Report states that the average person in North America uses around 465 megabytes of data a month. Thus, heavy Meerkat users exhaust as much data in a single hour as most people use in a month. Whichever company aptly addresses this issue and improves data efficiency in the future will be at a distinct advantage.
Also, since both apps are only available on iOS, competition will only truly kick off once both apps are extended to Android.
Further, Snapchat is a potential entrant in the market, and it is still not yet viable to predict whether live video can continue to be produced sustainably.
Bottom line: Live streaming technology is here to stay. Meerkat and potential entrants such as Snapchat are not asleep at the wheel, and the battle in the live streaming video market is just beginning.