The mobile livestreaming app Meerkat generated lots of buzz at last year’s SXSW festival, but hit a stumbling block when its access to the Twitter API was revoked. At the time, it seemed Meerkat was a test case for mobile first livestreaming, then Twitter acquired Periscope which has since dominated the market, making growth difficult for Meerkat.
But Meerkat may be pivoting away from livestreaming altogether. According to an email between Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin and Meerkat investors, published by Re/code:
The year started on a high note. … But over the year, it became rougher waters. Mobile broadcast video hasn’t quite exploded as quickly as we’d hoped. The distribution advantages of Twitter/Periscope and Facebook Live drew more early users to them away from us and we were not able to grow as quickly alongside as we had planned.
Twitter and Facebook had a broad base of users already attached to their core services, ready to try out livestreaming. Twitter’s large base of journalists was ready to experiment with Periscope, rather than investing time in Meerkat which was less connected to existing followers.
Given the head start Facebook and Twitter have when it comes to live video, Meerkat seems to be moving away from the live-only model. Rubin didn’t disclose many details, but according to Re/code senior editor Kurt Wagner:
It sounds more akin to Google Hangouts or Skype, with a priority on smaller, group video chats with people you know versus strangers tuning in.
There may be bigger issues though. Rubin notes that before Instagram, people understood good photographs. Yet, while there are livestreaming services now, users still haven’t figured out what good livestreaming content is. And without a broad base of user content, no social network or livestreaming service is going to take off. Twitch is the perfect example: users want live content, and when there’s enough content they’ll watch it in droves.
Perhaps Meerkat lacked the clear focus of Twitch, or the audience of Twitter and Facebook. With Rubin’s promise of a change towards a more social focus, Meerkat may be able to entice users with a long-term presence, rather than short term experimentation. If the current user base is receptive to the social aspect, maybe they’ll start figuring out how to make good live video content as well.