The Live-Streaming Showdown

Meerkat Shifts Away from Its Original Purpose

During February 2015, Meerkat launched its live-streaming service to great fanfare. The darling of last year’s South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) introduced a service that enabled people to broadcast live video using smartphones. The SXSW event offered a glimpse of how the service was going to be “the future of video”.

Fast forward to last week, when the company announced it would change course and move away from live streaming.

Facebook, launched live video broadcasting first to celebrities in July of last year and to iPhone users in US in January 2016. By the end of last month, the program was expanded to include 30 more countries. Facebook recently made further enhancements to ensure live videos are near the top of people’s news feeds.

Meerkat competitor Periscope, which was acquired by Twitter in February 2015, became an integral part of Twitter.

Meerkat built up a solid number of users but it was unable to sustain its early momentum and grow as quickly as the competition. Twitter and Facebook were able to draw more early adopters of live video from their established audiences.

Meerkat’s recent decision to get out of the live video-streaming business was a direct result of competition from the two popular social networks. The market became crowded in no time. Though Meerkat found some early success, the medium of live streaming was actually just slightly ahead of its time. It was unable to create a competitive advantage. The termination of the service highlights the difficulty Meerkat had in retaining repeat broadcasters. Though the concept became useful for public figures, the value of the service remains less obvious to normal users.

Meerkat highlights the highs and lows of technology start-ups in Silicon Valley, where companies are looking for ways to disrupt well-established technologies. Live video-streaming was supposed to be the next big thing and Meerkat popped up out of nowhere. But then Facebook and Twitter came along to steal its lunch.