In my household, there is a constant quest to find broadcasts of certain football, baseball and basketball games. The challenges of being a Cincinnati Bengals fan from afar are many, but at least the solution to one of those challenges is about to be revolutionized.

As we move into an era where everything is live streamed – from professional sports to your niece’s piano recital – the difficulty of accessing content that isn’t locally broadcast will be mitigated.

That process began last month, when the September 16 matchup between the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills became the first NFL game to be live streamed on Twitter. Football fans everywhere could easily view all four quarters with only an internet connection and a device of their choosing. Tweets on the side of the screen added an exciting layer of social context. The event was the first of 10 Thursday night NFL games to be streamed on Twitter this fall, all free of charge to viewers.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the $10 million paid by the social network to access the games attracted 2.1 million unique viewers for its inaugural event. That figure is significantly less than the 48.1 million viewers who tuned in on television, but is certainly enough to demonstrate that a new age of watching sports – along with other events, news, entertainment and everything else – is upon us. As the Mintel Trend Going Live explores, rising levels of comfort with videos streamed through the internet are opening doors for brands to use real-time content to appeal to today’s consumers, who want to do, see and experience more.

As other major events move outside the constraints of television broadcasting, the removal of the barrier that cable providers create could cause internet streaming viewership to explode.

Live streaming more than just TV

In addition to some content migrating from televisions to smartphones and the like, live streaming provides an alluring opportunity for brands to appeal to consumers who lack the time, money or mobility required to experience something in person. Armed with an internet connection and a device, FOMO-stricken (fear of missing out) consumers can overcome those hurdles to gain access to sought-after experiences.

  • Music festivals are reaching new audiences. In April, performances at California-based Coachella were live streamed on YouTube.
  • The British Museum in London is using the live streaming platform Periscope to stream its exhibitions, giving sofa-bound people tours from a real historian.
  • In November, the Golden State Warriors became the first NBA team to live stream a game in virtual reality (VR), allowing fans at home to virtually sit at center court.

Outside of entertainment and leisure, brands have a substantial opportunity to leverage live streaming to get real with consumers, from engaging them in their processes to being more transparent. As exemplified by the tweets that are shown alongside NFL football games, one of the biggest benefits of live streaming is allowing consumers to join in the conversation.

  • An Amsterdam restaurant, La Place, created a billboard that shows the chef hard at work, asking passers-by what they would like on their pizza and then directing them to come in and pick up their creation.
  • UK supermarket Waitrose created a transparency-focused campaign that directly connects consumers to action happening on its farms in order to help show people where their food comes from.

Live streaming has practical uses, too; brands can leverage it to help people get their grocery shopping done or accomplish an optimal workout.

  • Peleton launched virtual cycling classes that connect at-home bikers to sessions happening in real time.
  • Retailers and delivery services can take inspiration from the Chinese app Bolome, which live streams shopping assistants in stores and allows viewers to make purchase requests to them instantly.

The NFL’s introduction of live streaming to make games widely accessible is only the beginning of the possibilities that this technology will unleash. Consider how your brand can use it to get ahead and connect with consumers.

Stacy Bingle is a Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel. Stacy joined Mintel in 2013 bringing with her an exciting blend of CPG, agency and marketing experience. Her time is spent traveling the US engaging clients across global CPG, Beauty and Financial Services in meaningful discussions around the consumer trends that will propel their businesses forward.

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