Why Everyone From Jose Cuervo to BuzzFeed Is Jumping Into Livestreaming

Real-time video is exploding on social media

Jose Cuervo is celebrating Cinco de Mayo on Thursday by livestreaming via Cuervo.com a "secret concert" that starts at 10 p.m. at an undisclosed location in Brooklyn. Few other details are available, of course, but a tweet by the tequila brand suggests that the concert is a pop-up event by the folks at AfroPunk.

Livestreaming isn't exactly new—just ask eight-year-old specialty tech player Livestream, which is facilitating Jose Cuervo's online event. But, the medium seems to be finally taking hold in the marketing community thanks to Periscope's ascendance in 2015 and the promise of Facebook Live this year. Tastemade, another Livestream client, proclaims it will do 100 Facebook Live episodes per month after garnering 220,000 viewers for one recent stream. 

"That's the same kind of ratings you'd get with cable TV without the same cost of distribution," said Jesse Hertzberg, CEO of New York-based Livestream. 

Indeed, at the Digital Content NewFronts on Monday, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti pitched his digital publisher's emerging livestreaming prowess, pointing to its recent broadcast of a watermelon being strapped with rubber bands. The elastic bands were applied to the melon, one by one, until it exploded, and 800,000 real-time viewers on Facebook tuned in.

"It's the first time we've had a number comparable to live TV," Peretti said

In an appeal to advertisers Tuesday night at the NewFronts, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong revealed that his platform livestreams about 1 million hours of programming per day across all of its global partnerships. And later today, PopSugar is expected to center part of its NewFronts presentation on livestreaming, while there are murmurs of other major digital publishers doing the same in the coming days.

"Publishers should offer livestreaming to advertisers—especially to engage mobile audiences," said David Deal, digital marketing consultant. "But advertisers need to be savvy about how they brand themselves. No one watches a livestream to see an ad."

After working with client Kohl's to livestream behind-the-scenes events and other content for the brand's Oscars sponsorship, Kurt Jaskowiak, creative director at Huge, thinks interest in the medium is growing among marketers. 

"There's a recognized value now that we've made a couple of bets and learned a few things," Jaskowiak said. "There's a taste for it and more of a desire to play in the space."

What exactly is creating this desire? Well, diminishing live TV viewing is certainly one thing. Though, Hertzberg suggested that social media's algorithms—which increasingly dictate what content viewers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram see—are another big reason. 

"As video has eaten up the newsfeed, brands are looking for ways to stand out," the Livestream CEO said. "Live video has become a very critical way of doing that. Nothing beats the shared experience of watching something in real time with other people. And brands more and more are bringing live video into their marketing mix."