Never Say Never: Why Live Streaming Snub Could Cost Netflix

“Never, never, never” will Netflix follow its competitors. That was the response CEO Reed Hastings gave when asked about the company’s plans to stream live sporting events. With Amazon Prime announcing that it is exploring the possibility of streaming Premier League soccer and NFL games, Hastings has given his take on the market. In an April 2018 presentation at the new Netflix HQ, Hastings essentially quashed the idea that live streaming of any kind would be coming to the platform in the near future.

“We have so much we want to do in our area, so we’re not trying to copy others, whether that’s linear cable, there’s lots of things we don’t do. We don’t do [live] news, we don’t do [live] sports. But what we do, we try to do really well,” Hastings told attendees at the Hollywood conference.

The Live Streaming Revolution

While there’s no doubt Netflix is doing okay without live streaming, the technology is clearly something that appeals to its core demographic. Everywhere you look at the moment, it seems that live, real-time action is all the rage. In the social media realm, Facebook Live, YouTube Live and smaller platforms such as Periscope are all capable of turning individuals into stars. The same is true of Twitch. Currently attracting upwards of 100 million active users each month, the site essentially made gaming into a form of entertainment.

Piggybacking off the success of Twitch, casino developers have also embraced live streaming technology. By combining webcams with RFID chips, modern online casino sites can offer live blackjack, roulette and more. In fact, what’s interesting about these games is that it’s an interactive experience. Instead of similar watching a live broadcast, players can participate in the action. This is something that could shape the future of live streaming. In 2017, Twitch announced the release of its “extensions” add-on.

Interactive Streams Open Up New Possibilities

Aimed at developers, Twitch Extensions has become a place where streamers are creating ways to make channels more interactive. From polls and surveys to competitions and smart click maps, streams are now becoming more than a passive form of entertainment. When you consider these trends and the advent of sports streams on platforms such as Amazon Prime, things start to get interesting. Having the ability to change the camera angles on demand, pull up live statistics and more could all be possible if online streaming becomes big business.

Netflix may have its reasons for not wanting to enter the sports streaming arena, but the trends suggest it could be missing out on some huge opportunities. With a user base of 125 million subscribers, the company clearly has the followers and resources to push live streaming technology to its limits. Interactive elements are clearly the next step in the evolutionary chain, but when you start to consider thing such as augmented and virtual reality, a myriad of new possibilities open themselves up. Has Netflix fumbled the ball on this one? Only time will tell, but there’s no doubt live streaming is an innovation that’s not going away anytime soon.

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