The Future of Live Streaming in Singapore: Innovations to Watch



1. Introduction

The content of this report is agnostic to the type of platform used for the streaming and is therefore broadly representative of live streaming trends in Singapore. We broadly group host platforms into three categories that represent a significant proportion of the live streaming market: large content platforms like TikTok and Facebook, e-commerce platforms like Shopee and Lazada, and smaller, less mainstream content platform providers. All of our data is sourced from embedded links on our partner extension, which caches data locally and then sends anonymized logs directly back to a dedicated protected server.

The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered significant changes in content consumption habits. Live streaming Singapore, in particular, has witnessed a resurgence in interest across various use-cases, from e-learning, fitness classes, and product launches to conferences and weddings over recent months. Singapore is no exception, with significant growth in the number of live stream service and viewers. In this report, we examine these live streaming consumption trends in greater depth, leveraging a Gojek proprietary dataset that includes millions of live stream data points collected from various content platforms. More significantly, coverage spanned several areas of interest, such as content duration, timing of streams, category of content, and the hosts that users engage with. The insights gleaned from this large dataset provide valuable foresight into future trends and, in turn, suggest useful strategies that hosts and platform providers can employ to maintain this growth.

1.1. Background of Live Streaming in Singapore

Live streaming is a term that refers to the broadcasting of real-time (or near) images or video directly onto the internet, enabling the receiving device to view the movie simultaneously as the event is occurring. Live streaming is typically done on computers, smartphones, and other digital devices. The growing availability of broadband internet means that the potential audience size for live streaming has also concurrently grown. High-capability devices capable of high-definition broadcast mean that the quality of live streaming has been enhanced by significant leaps. Crucially, the media era has transitioned toward the audience-as-broadcaster era. Conventional linear TV corporations are now finding themselves compelled to adopt emerging technologies and social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in order to keep their current audiences satisfied and seek out fresh ones. As internet-based sources continue to broaden in extent, distance media will play an increasingly important part in the life of the 21st-century populace.

What is the future of live streaming in Singapore and what are some innovations we see in the space? These are the questions we aim to explore in this working paper. We begin this paper by providing some background on how live streaming operates and discuss some key trends that underline the practice in section 1. In section 2, we outline the eight innovations we see in the space that have the potential to alter the industry and the entertainment and commercial practices associated with it. We end the paper in section 3 where we explore both the implications of these potential disruptions to the current live streaming industry as well as consider new approaches regulators could take in response to the rise of these online novel broadcasters.

2. Current Trends in Live Streaming

However, principally, we find that Singapore’s live streaming market growth is largely driven by its young and influential consumers who are already very used to engaging with various kinds of live content daily. As we can observe with the latest trends in live streaming entertainment, live e-gaming, and live culinary experiences, content creators are also increasingly leveraging not just on the innate capabilities of live streaming technology but other advanced emerging technologies to “push the envelope” in what can be done. The discussions in Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 explore some of these transformations in depth and these examples are intended to just provide a glimpse of what the future of live streaming may look like. These are also trends that we will monitor closely insofar as to anticipate its potential effect on the social fabric.

What exactly is driving the growth of live streaming then? Essentially, by combining the message values of direct communication and visual demonstration with the technologies of real-time video delivery and instant viewer feedback, live streaming platforms are fulfilling the latent needs of achieving online business and personal goals more effectively. In the case of B2C e-commerce, live streaming has become a new and effective way for brands to connect directly with customers who are craving personal connection in the online shopping experience. At a time when everyone is working from home, there are always new viewers to attract so the excitement and dynamism in live streaming is irresistible.

2.1. Popular Platforms and Services

Despite the popularity and variety of live streaming services, it is not easy to find detailed studies that explain the relevance of these platforms for specific usage scenarios. In addition, valuable user insights related to the preferred usage scenarios, including specific user views on device type and quality expectations for these top streaming brands, are scarce in academic literature. This study brings user insights and preferences to the table by conducting a survey of users in terms of their views of the most popular online platforms, social media, and live streaming services.

Facebook Live has a significant head start in the live streaming marketplace, and several developers and users facing options have been developed. Users are now able to stream directly using Ooyala without the need for custom development. Periscope, acquired by Twitter, is another emerging platform with a growing user base since it was launched in March 2015. Users can broadcast live video using Periscope by sharing the link on Twitter. Meerkat (development has been discontinued since September 30, 2016) was the first popular Twitter app that allows users to direct video streams using the Twitter social graph and tweet videos from their desktop. Other platforms and services include Twitch, Livestream, Digisport, Elemental TV, Panopto, Kaltura, and Brightcove.

3. Technological Advancements

Firstly, we all know that broadcasting live is dependent on either a Wi-Fi or internet connection, though the latest mobile phones can switch to capture and transmit over mobile networks. However, in areas with less reliable data, viewers can suffer from low resolution and long buffering times. For one, scientists are developing ways to split video coding over Wi-Fi and mobile networks. Others are proposing to improve 3GPP video codecs so that the phone uses less battery to capture high-resolution content or video can be shown immediately upon opening. Currently, viewers can stream live content, like a wedding, and save the recording to watch it later. However, watching a stream four hours from the operating room isn’t always as engaging as being there when the event is happening.

Amidst this explosion in live streaming, technological advancements are being made to make the process easier and enhance the viewers’ experiences. At the rate live streaming technology is advancing, you won’t have to wait for long before the expression “The Future of Live Streaming” becomes truer than ever. The fact is, a number of developed nations are already at the forefront with innovations that have surpassed our current user experiences. They are in the near future and are great ideas worth considering for reaping the benefits of live streaming.

3.1. 5G Technology in Live Streaming

With spearheaded technology comes increased cost. Live streaming service providers may end up incurring additional costs if 5G services result in businesses having to pay financial premiums to get ahead of their competitors. Currently, 5G services are not widespread in Singapore, potentially giving entrepreneurs who are trying to pioneer 5G services a head start in the industry. The introduction of 5G is still not widespread in Singapore, as the telcos are in different stages of rolling out the services. Nonetheless, live streaming service providers can expect to view many new features that the 5G technology could bring, benefiting both their viewers and the experience they aim to provide.

5G is the newest generation of wireless cellular network technology. It is expected to make significant advancements in terms of speed, connectivity, and new ways of using wireless networks. The technology promises to deliver faster speeds, better connectivity, and ultra-low network latency. Entrepreneurs employing live streaming as a service, for instance, video production companies, can take advantage of these benefits to introduce enhanced content and services to stay ahead of the curve. For example, events can be live-streamed in 4K resolutions and played on a mobile device within a fraction of a second.

4. Regulatory Environment

Singapore’s live streaming aspiration must thus be set within a techno-regulatory paradigm. In technology regulation literature, policy making is at the interface of society, technology, and the regulatory environment, where it is essential that society and the state harness the potential advantages of technologies in a manner that benefits society, and builds trust and accountability in society. Technology regulation theories accept the limitations of traditional top-down regulatory instruments. They make room for non-regulatory, collaborative, and self-regulatory modes of governance to complement regulators’ efforts. It is true that such techno-regulatory approach is in essence complementary, nimble, and presumably less disruptive compared to the more traditional regulatory horizons of command-and-control, legal, or market-based regulatory moves. However, Singapore also harbors a readiness to harness regulatory innovation in its pursuit of staying ahead in adapting to the very technologies it wishes to adopt and develop.

The future of live streaming in Singapore is generally predicted to be a rosy one. However, this is not without caveats. The promising potential of live streaming technologies is juxtaposed with a technological reality where existing caching and streaming infrastructures are optimized for web and cloud-based services. The substantial load of live streaming in terms of high-quality real-time video and low latency requirements implies the need for a rethink in its transportation and distribution, particularly since these technologies are for the most part foreign and proprietary. In addition, one cannot deny that live streaming technology is still fraught with certain issues such as quality of services concerns, digital divide obstacles, and security challenges.

4.1. Licensing and Content Regulations

It is important that licensing and content regulations continue to evolve to keep pace with industry developments. The Regulatory Announcement on Over the Top Services (OTTs) by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) on 21 October 2016 is a key policy update designed to ensure traditional broadcasters and pay service TV operators are not overly burdened with a regulatory environment that is less stringent on OTT Services. Case in point: “OTT services are not accountable to any film classification systems, not mandated to implement parental controls or meet local programming obligations. And they are allowed to stream uncensored content – rules do not obligate them to remove material that criticizes religion “hate speech”. In short, according to the IMDA, local OTT service providers of video on demand content are required to comply with the programming code set out by the Infocomm Media Development Authority Act. Part of such compliance includes taking into consideration commercial, cultural, educational interests and the general perspective of viewers.

5. Future Innovations

That live streaming mostly takes place on smaller social media apps is such a trend. Live streaming is largely about being authentic. Consumers know this and prefer to interact with reality TV-specific digital influencers. Professionalism can be a double-edged sword as it may suggest less authenticity and hence reduce engagement. However, other groups like organizations and companies should increasingly warm up to live streaming, given its viral potential. As such, the ability to live stream professionally and to integrate tools like Open API to make the entire process much easier for reporting and social commercial campaigns is timely.

While live streaming will continue to take place mainly on video-based social media apps, future innovations should make the activity more seamless, more professional, and easier. From the ability to insert pre-recorded videos, to be able to listen to music, to integrate Open API (Application Programming Interface) to streamline reporting, and to using drones for footage, live streaming can offer even more exciting possibilities.

5.1. Virtual Reality Integration in Live Streaming

Considering that live streaming is an industry still in its infancy, it faces multiple trends and challenges as it transforms progressively from a niche thing to a mass-market habit. This paper has overviewed its current conditions, evaluated Singapore as a market, and recommended six future innovations that can add great value to audience segments in this country. However, encouraging its uptake is not only reliant on the provision of novel and more immersive experiences. Other factors such as home broadband speeds, affordability of devices, and ease of setting up live streaming are equally essential. Investing in research and development of these issues can ensure that Singapore is ready for the future of broadcasting.

The integration of virtual reality applications in live streaming services represents a highly innovative development in live streaming technology. As 5G networks experience expanded coverage and higher standards of connectivity in the next few years, we can expect a stronger integration of virtual reality and live streaming. For local events, this can represent a novel way for event organizers to capitalize on the limitations of a smaller land mass. The prospect of offering virtual presence for live events in Singapore can radically change the current landscape of live events, slowly moving the events industry towards providing experiences that can be accessed right from the comfort of one’s home.

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