Can Twitter Finally Make Periscope Soar as the Livestreaming Space Heats Up?

App can't go the way of Vine

Just three years ago, Vine appeared to be a central player in the future of "snackable content." Its short-form style of messaging even aired in a Monday Night Football TV spot. But last week, Twitter shut down its six-second video app in an apparent effort to streamline the company toward better profitability.

On Monday, Vine founders launched a live video app called Hype, which will challenge Facebook Live and Twitter-owned Periscope for territory in a fledgling space that just keeps getting more competitive. (YouTube wants a chunk of it, too.) That Vine's creators are going directly at what might be a vulnerable area for Twitter—namely, Periscope—is intriguing. What's more, recent events beg the question: Can Periscope soar for Twitter, or is it doomed to the same fate as Vine?

As of March, Periscope had enabled more than 200 million live broadcasts, and it reportedly had 10 million users more than a year ago. Twitter hasn't released new numbers that show whether Periscope is growing or not. Facebook Live launched in February and seemingly stole much of Periscope's thunder in short order.

"Between Facebook's massive push for their live product and Instagram testing livestreaming capabilities—not to mention whatever Snapchat may have in store in the coming months—Periscope is in danger of becoming a deep afterthought in the minds of livestreamers," said Matt Statman, CEO and creative director at Motive, which is a part of the Project network.

We asked marketers like Statman about the current buzz in the branding community around Periscope. Their takes varied, but Statman offered an intriguing piece of advice.

"For Twitter to salvage any hope of playing in the livestreaming world, they should envelop Periscope immediately and come back to the table with a fresh, Twitter-branded livestreaming product that fills all the holes Instagram and Facebook will surely leave," he said. "This would allow them to address the lingering livestreaming issues before Facebook and Instagram could integrate the updates into their platform and reopen a window for the millennial livestreamer to reactivate their Twitter account."

Trygve Jensen, Zefr's vp and gm of influencers, doesn't believe such drastic measures are necessary.

"In my opinion, Twitter's done a much better job with Periscope [than Vine]," Jensen said. "From a product standpoint, Periscope is already a big part of the Twitter ecosystem. It streams well in the feed and is easy to access. I don't think it's going away anytime soon, but cross-app savviness alone won't save the app. You have to consider the role that Facebook Live and YouTube Live streaming play in the space as they both gain traction."

Twitter's recent success in gaining valuable live sports content, including the NFL's Thursday Night Football, would seem to bolster the brand's livestreaming credentials in a general sense, suggested Tom Hyde, content director at Big Spaceship.

"That said," he added, "as the core functions of Periscope are increasingly incorporated into Twitter, Periscope as a stand-alone platform is challenging to justify."

Indeed, as Hyde and Statman speculated, while livestreaming will almost have to be a part of Twitter's ecosystem, perhaps that doesn't involve Periscope in the long run. Either way, there is money to be made.

"Live video is increasingly part of many brands' social ambitions," Hyde said, "and we're likely to see this increase as 2017 planning is implemented."

There appears to be time left for pure innovation to win out, but Twitter had probably better not wait long to figure it all out. With Facebook Live and YouTube bearing down on Periscope—and who knows, maybe Hype will take off—Twitter needs to grow Periscope so it doesn't go the way of Vine. 

"It also may be a question of who will bring the first API [application programming interface] to the livestreaming table, which would surely put either ahead of the game," Statman said. "Either way, it will be quite a show to see the social giants battle it out for livestreaming supremacy."