While we live in the age of streaming, old-fashioned broadcast television still has one advantage over services like Netflix and Hulu. It can broadcast live, which is key for sporting events, award shows and other cultural events that all but demand that you watch as they happen.
But now Netflix (NFLX) - Get Netflix Inc. Report is in the early stages of incorporating live streaming into its service, according to Deadline, which would expand the types of shows and events it can offer. It might even be the move the company needs to recover from its recent subscriber churn.
What Would Live Streaming Mean For Netflix?
Deadline’s report cautions that Netflix is just “exploring” adding live streaming features at the moment, and there’s no timetable for when the feature could be introduced.
But if Netflix follows through with plans to stream events right when they happen, it would allow the company to experiment with the type of television shows and events it offers, and how it offers them.
For example, the streaming service recently held the Netflix Is A Joke festival, featuring live sets from the likes of John Mulaney, Kevin Hart and Wanda Sykes.
Around 12 sets from the festival will appear on Netflix this month and next, but if Netflix brings the festival back next year, it will have the option to stream sets live, directly from the Netflix app.
Similarly, Netflix has begun moving into the reality tv competition world with the series “The Circle,” and the dance competition “Dance 100” is set to arrive soon. With live streaming, Netflix could introduce a live voting aspect for the competition shows, so fans can see who gets the crown and who gets eliminated in real time. This could potentially make the shows more of a social media must-see event.
Netflix has also begun making its own reality television series, and has been pushing the real estate series “Selling Sunset” as its answer to Bravo’s Kardashian-empire. With a live streaming feature, Netflix could air reunion specials as they happen, so fans can see how off-the-rail things get. (Which is the main selling point for reality TV.)
Could Live Streaming Help Netflix Finally Get Talk Shows Right?
One area that streaming services can’t seem to get right is the late night talk show. While shows like “Late Night With Seth Meyers” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” are often viewed in pieces on YouTube, they’re still key parts of their networks’ brand identity and reliable ratings generators.
Netflix has experimented with talk shows in the past, including “The Break with Michelle Wolf” and “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj,” neither of them lasted very long, despite critical acclaim.
Perhaps television audiences just weren’t looking to Netflix for that sort of thing, yet. It does take time to change consumer behavior.
But airing the shows live as they happen might give them more spontaneity and energy, eventually getting Netflix users accustomed to the idea that its talk shows are just as legit as what can be found on traditional linear Networks.
While live sports events are absolutely crucial for networks like ABC and NBC (big ticket NFL games are the most watched things on television every year), Netflix doesn’t have much of a footprint in the sporting world, beyond its F1 series “Drive to Survive” and various documentaries.
Apple TV+ already has an exclusive livestreaming deal with Major League Baseball for "Friday Night Baseball," and it is working on a livestreaming deal with the National Football League.
While it would be quite a swing for Netflix to try to livestream high profile sporting events (those would be very expensive to license, and would require drastically outbidding the traditional networks) that's now a notion that’s more feasible than it would have been a year ago.
Why Is Netflix Looking Into Live Streaming?
Part of the reason that Netflix is exploring livestreams is that it doesn’t want to get left behind by its rivals.
Hulu recently announced plans to livestream sets from the music festivals Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits through 2023, and Disney+ live streamed the Academy Awards in February.
But beyond that, the company lost “200,000 global subscribers in the first quarter of the year,” and cracking down on password sharing can only do so much to make up for lost revenue.
It needs to start being more focused with the material that it produces, but it also needs to start experimenting more, which live streaming should help with.
Nabbing the rights to a few more high-profile events or producing them in-house could help Netflix stave off subscriber churn. But live streaming can also help the company by making its ludicrous and juicy reality shows even more dramatic and juicy.
Netflix changed the world by making streaming the way to watch TV. But time moves fast, and now it needs to catch up.