Will People Pay to Watch Mobile Livestreams? This Startup Is About to Find Out

Hang w/ starts charging for views

Livestreaming apps have proven that people will watch just about any type of user-generated content these days, but are they willing to pay to watch it?

Meerkat and Periscope competitor Hang w/ is rolling out what it calls "digital tickets" today, an ad model that essentially lets broadcasters charge folks for watching real-time clips. Brands can then buy video ads that run against the livestreams.

Whether or not people are willing to fork over money to watch user-generated video isn't clear, but it's an intriguing way for creators and marketers to pull in extra cash.

Using the Hang w/ app, creators first schedule a livestream up to four hours before it begins. They then pick a price between $1 and $50, which people pay straight in the app.

Hang w/ didn't name any initial broadcasters using the new tool, but television brands seem like a no-brainer as a workaround to the headaches livestreaming causes with broadcast rights.

For example, CBS is the exclusive network for next weekend's PGA Championship. Using a pay-per-view model, the network could ask golf fans to pay to unlock a livestream of the tournament.

Hang w/'s marketing director Mazen Alawar also said music groups make sense for paid streams. Bands that want to offer fans exclusive content from a concert can cap the number of digital streams sold to hike up the price in real time, similar to how actual tickets are sold.

Marketers can then wrap short sponsored spots around the broadcasted videos. Cable channel Starz and health food brand Herbalife have both tested sponsored videos.

When Starz wanted to promote its drama series Power, it wrapped ads promoting the show around the program's star actor 50 Cent's videos.

In the coming months, brands will also be able to buy video ads that pop up in the middle of streams—akin to Snapchat's Live Stories ad product.

According to Alawar, it takes about six seconds for people to start watching a livestream once they click on it, meaning ads should be the same length.

"We've found that [ad]-load time is six seconds—having a 30-second preroll doesn't always make sense," he said.

On-Demand Mobile Library
Similar to Periscope and Meerkat, once someone schedules a stream, a post with a link is pushed out to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts to get people to tune into the program.

But unlike its competitors, Hang w/ clips are saved indefinitely after a broadcast is over. The idea is that brands and users create an on-demand library of user-generated content.

At launch, 60 percent of revenue from Hang w/'s paid streams goes to creators. Thirty percent of revenue goes to Apple and Google—which power the in-app payments—and Hang w/ plans to collect 10 percent.

"A broadcaster can continue to sell tickets beyond the actual live event," said Alawar. "We have our mind on subscription [services]."