YouTube has started to experiment with its own-brand live video-streaming technology. Over two days the site is planning a trial in which four partners will get the chance to air live programmes.
The trial, in association with a number of content partners, including Howcast, Rocketboom, Next New Networks, and Young Hollywood, is aimed at testing YouTube’s ability to deliver consistent live streams, and to experiment with live comments, to which content providers can respond in real time.
The alpha testing, which starts today, is Google’s first step towards providing a full live-streaming service through its YouTube website.
Live streaming has been mooted for years, and YouTube has broadcast one-off events live, including U2’s concert at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, cricket from the Indian Premier League, and a State of the Union address from Barack Obama.
CitizenTube, a channel on the YouTube website dedicated to political discussion, has also regularly hosted live streams.
“This is just an initial trial, a first step,” said Josh Siegel, a product manager at YouTube. “We’re going to look at a whole bunch of data about the performance of our new platform and then, based on that, make decisions about how we’ll open it up, with the goal of opening it up to all of our partners over time.”
However, industry experts believe any live-streaming service will be limited to professionally produced content provided by YouTube’s partners, rather than live videos uploaded by users.
“This isn’t surprising – there’s obviously a big infrastructure hurdle involved with streaming content from so many people,” said Jason Kincaid, a reporter from tech blog TechCrunch.
“But, more importantly, there’s also a greater risk that someone will stream a suicide, or something similarly awful,” he added.
Chris Hamilton, a product marketing manager at YouTube, said live streaming is “a natural evolution to online video” that “adds an extra level of engagement” for the site’s audience.
YouTube, though, is far from the first company to step into the streaming video space. Startups such as Ustream.tv, Justin.tv and Livestream have already established themselves.
However, YouTube is the biggest video-sharing site on the internet, with 24 hours of video uploaded to the site every minute, and an average of two billion views per day.
ComScore recently announced the amount of time American audiences spent watching the major live video publishers grew by 648% in the last year.
The advertising possibilities are also good, since the average live streamed video view is 7 percent longer than the average online video view, according to the ComScore’s report.
Ustream is the current leader in live video, with 3.2 million unique viewers in July. But Google video sites, which are primarily driven by YouTube, drew 143.2 million unique visitors in July, according to the ComScore.
Hamilton said YouTube will be monitoring the live trial to see how well the video looks and how well servers handle any bandwidth increases.
Among the broadcasts scheduled for Monday beginning 11 a.m. EDT is Rocketboom, which is planning an hour-long variety show, pulling from Rocketboom and its numerous spin-offs. Producer Leah D’Emilio said the site is planning a TV-like broadcast, with multiple cameras and correspondents.
“Any time you can bring your viewers into a broadcast – like making a shout-out to someone who left a comment – the audience really gets excited about that, on YouTube in particular,” said D’Emilio.