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Streaming Becoming Live & Bidirectional: Welcome Streamloots

Sebastián Fernández-Medrano
March 28, 2019

Two months ago we took a stand on live streaming welcoming Streamloots as Samaipata’s 15th investment.

In the last 7 days, 2 of the largest tech companies in the world have placed new bets on gaming. Last Monday, Apple announced the launch of Apple Arcade, an App Store vertical for exclusive games. On Tuesday last week, Google unveiled Stadia, its streaming gaming platform. Both tech giants have taken a stand in an effort to upend the $140 billion video game industry.

I was particularly surprised by the fact that Google spent most of the time of Stadia’s GDC 2019 Gaming Announcement talking about streamers (no surprise, they own YouTube, and seems obvious that YouTube Live is missing the boat of live streaming vs. Twitch, acquired by Amazon for c.1 billion in September 2014). Without dismissing an incredible new tech development and the birth of a game studio, several people believe this new unveiling has a lot to do with building moats in their broadcasting/streaming channel. In a straightforward tribute to the Youtubers’ community, Google’s Head of Gaming & Head of Gaming at YouTube, Ryan Wyatt, stated that Stadia “is focused on empowering both creators and viewers to achieve new heights by breaking barriers of content capture and creating unique ways to engage with and grow a creator’s audience”.

Two months ago we took a stand on live streaming welcoming Streamloots asSamaipata’s 15th investment. Streamloots aims at becoming the platform where all content creators engage and monetize their audience. Today, they allow streamers to monetise their content selling interactions currently represented in cards to their viewers, interactions that can be triggered on-demand by the viewer and performed by the streamer during the live stream.

After making our investment public on 4YFN, we wanted to share with you some elements of our investment thesis behind the model.

Live streaming booming as an online content category

We’re entering the era of live video. All leading social platforms (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) now allow their users to create and share live content vs. simply uploading pre-recorded videos. According to Research & Markets, the video streaming market is expected to grow from $30,29Bn in 2016 to $70Bn by 2021 (18.3% CAGR) and $125 billion by 2025. This explains why online video will be responsible for four-fifths of global internet traffic this year.

When it comes to streaming we tend to think of gaming. However, while it’s true that esports is the most streamed content type in Europe, other categories are paving their way in Asia like performance, outdoor activity or IRL (in-real-time). For those who don’t know it, Twitch started as a generalist platform (Justin.tv) where people shared random daily routines, and moved to gaming once they understood gamers were amazing early adopters of live streaming. A perfect example to differentiate vision from go-to-market, as we can see Twitch today incorporating more and more content categories as they consolidate their go-to-market in gaming.

Streamloots is building a platform for interactions with all kinds of live content, from esports to trading, from music to science or fashion. Gaming is just the ideal content category to start with.

Birth of streamers: physical person franchises vs. media groups

If I have to point out the greatest paradigm change in the industry, it would definitely have to do with the fact that content is no longer produced exclusively by big media corporations with costly infrastructures, but also through a setup as simple as a person broadcasting from is bedroom with any device that allows to either live stream or pre-record video (from a gamer-style computer to a simple smartphone).

It is important to understand the difference between a streamer, a streamer-gamer, a gamer, and a viewer. While we think of a game as “an activity that one engages in for amusement or fun”, games have also become a content to watch when others play it and narrate it online:

  • Streamer: an individual creating live or pre-recorded content consisting of them doing something and narrating it simultaneously.
  • Streamer-gamer: a streamer whose content consists of playing a game and narrating it.
  • Gamer: an individual playing a game.
  • Viewer: streamers’ fans watching their content for entertainment.

Streamers are video influencers and they are gathering a growing share of wallet of the content consumed online (e.g. ElRubius has more than 34M users subscribed to its YouTube channel). Assuming the audiovisual industry is on the fight to own your eyes and ears, and that streaming is growing year on year, we can only think of these individuals as physical person franchises challenging the status quo of content creation and audience acquisition.

The streamers’ market is growing fast in size. According to Streamlabs Quarterly Report for Q3 2018, there was a 197% increase in the number of streamers in Twitch in 2017 (regardless of China blocking the service) and a 343% increase in the number of streamers in Youtube in 2017. In Q3 2018 there were more than 2 million active streamers in the four main channels.

Rubén Doblas Gundersen (AKA, “El Rubius”) is the world’s #3 streamer and #1 in Spain

Streaming channels becoming platforms around streamers

A brief summary of the streaming value chain. Source: Samaipata

It’s not easy to understand how the streaming value chain is structured. We’ve simplified it by defining the following links:

  • Streamer + broadcasting software: streamers are the one producing the content and they use software to broadcast live. They are mere protocols implemented by many different software. It’s similar to the TCP/IP layer over which all web applications are created.
  • Streaming channels: online TV channels where streamers broadcast live. For gaming, the two main channels are Twitch and YouTube. Twitter has integrated Periscope.
  • Engagement and monetization layers: all kinds of plugins and third-party platforms, directly or indirectly connected to broadcasting software and streaming platforms (sometimes developed in-house by them) to improve the stream’s quality and UX, manage user interaction and affiliation programs, and/or monetize content. Streamloots is this kind of layer and integrates with streamers through their software.
  • Viewers: defined above! Are you one?

What we find particularly interesting in this value chain, is taking a closer look at the role we believe streaming channels will play in the nearest future. In a CNBC interview last year, Twitch’s CEO, Emmett Shear, stated when asked about where he saw Twitch in 2020, that the company was really focussed on two things: 1) “figuring new and better ways to help them (streamers) get an audience” and 2) “helping them earn more money”. He then affirmed that: “the biggest thing we’re doing over the next two years to do both of these things may actually be extensions […]. Extensions are basically like an App Store for Twitch and it lets developers around the world bring new functionality to Twitch […]. Just like the App Store was incredibly important for mobile, I think that the extensions store on Twitch is going to be incredibly important for live streaming”.

This takes us to believe that streaming channels are becoming platforms determined to lock-in streamers (and thus their content) by gathering all sorts of third-party tools to help them build their audiences, have quality streams and monetize their content. Streamloots is currently leveraging on existing broadcasting channels for content and relying on streamers to bring their audiences (a clear supply-driven model).

Audience-driven monetization as key revenue channel

Streamers monetize their content through advertising-driven channels (mostly display-ads and working for brands with or without agencies as intermediators) and audience-driven channels. Within audience-driven channels, the main revenue streams are:

  • Subscription: allows the viewer to pay a monthly subscription to the content creator. Subscriptions sometimes unblock additional features in streaming channels.
  • Tipping/virtual gifting: allows the viewers to send a tip to their favourite content creators.
  • Cheering: Similar to tipping but with an alert that appears in the screen.

Subscriptions already represent the first source of income for streamers, and numbers for the other channels look promising. According to Streamlabs Quarterly Report for Q3 2018, tipping volume grew a 38,6% from $25M in Q3 2017 to $34,65M in Q3 2018. Additionally, there were more than $100M in donations in 2017 (twice the volume of 2016) and $150M in 2018.

Number of donations by size in the last 3 quarters. Source: Streamlabs Quarterly Report for Q3 2018

Audience-driven channels make a lot of sense for the streamers’ long-tail. While they find it hard to reach agreements with brands due to not reaching a required threshold in terms of number of viewers, they have very loyal and engaged communities willing to support them from day/viewer one.

Long tail monetization seems to be a trend in Twitch. As the number of active users increases, the hours spent watching Twitch increase and the number of viewers per streamer decreases. The platform is not trending towards the accumulation of viewers in big channels, but conversely to channel specialisation and viewer distribution among many streamers.

Source: Twitch

Untapping a new type of content: bidirectional interactions

The uniqueness of Streamloots’ value proposition is pretty much related to the fact that they’ve given a twist to audience-driven monetization by making it bidirectional. By allowing viewers to purchase cards containing interactions of all kinds that streamers are willing to perform live (beyond merely saying hi or saying thanks for a donation), they’re creating an exchange between the content creator and his/her fan base.

This generates an extraordinary intangible asset between streamer and viewer, as the viewer is not only supporting his/her icon but is also getting an exclusive action in exchange, a moment to feel like the star of the stream whenever they use the card. The product is now the streamer itself and this new type of content benefits from a lot of engaging characteristics:

  • Infinite: think about the countless actions a streamer can perform live. Some of the most famous ones are having the streamer wear a costume, or scare them by playing a creepy scream into their stream. A lot of interactions have to do with simply not doing anything like not playing for five minutes.
  • Exclusivity/uniqueness: while there can be many cards for the same interaction, the streamers’ performance is never the same. The card belongs to the viewer and he/she can use it whenever they want. However, streamers also manage the quantity of cards per interaction and the probability to appear.
  • Surprise factor: cards are contained in chests (3 per chest), and the viewer never knows what’s inside until they purchase and open it.
  • Cards combination: cards interact between them. Some cards unlock other cards, block them or give access to other features through a combination of them.
  • Marketing tool: cards unlock an amazing potential for streamers to become marketing experts in their channels doing promotions of all kinds.
Starring Streamloots amazing founding team at Golden Gate Bridge :)

We are very excited to welcome Streamloots to the Samaipata family and we can’t wait to accompany them in the journey of disrupting live streaming worldwide :)

**

At Samaipata, we are always looking for ways to improve. Do not hesitate to send us your thoughts. We strive to partner with early-stage founders and to support them in taking their business to the next level. Check out more ways in which we can help here or for all our other content here.

And as always, if you’re a European digital business founder looking for Seed funding, please send us your deck here or subscribe to our Quarterly updates here.

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