YouTube experiment hints at live streaming for the masses

Google’s YouTube division is testing the waters of offering a live video streaming channel that gives third parties the capability to broadcast live programming on the Web.

Starting this Monday and Tuesday at 8 a.m. (PT), the online video giant introduces Live on YouTube — a destination that will offer two days of live entertainment programming. YouTube says that its efforts are part of a “live streaming platform trial.” Live on YouTube video content can be accessed via YouTube.com or via an embedded Web app that can be placed into a Website or blog.

Video programming is provided from four content partners and ranges from news and entertainment from Rocketboom, instructional video from Howcast, celebrity and lifestyle programming from Young Hollywood, and the video destination Next New Networks will offer a variety of programs including satire from its Barely Political channel.

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The Live on YouTube video channel is being promoted on YouTube’s homepage, which states: “Today and tomorrow we’re conducting a limited test of our new live streaming platform in conjunction with the partners featured here. Watch the videos below for more information about their must-see events.”

Content and Comments Wanted

Part of the trial of the service includes a Live Comments module where you can chat with other viewers and live broadcasters as you watch the show. YouTube also says part of its experimental live streaming platform will also include support for content from a wide range of sources. “All broadcasters need is a webcam or external USB/FireWire camera,” according to the YouTube announcement.

“This new platform integrates live streaming directly into YouTube channels,” said Joshua Siegel and Christopher Hamilton, in a blog.

“Included in the test is a ‘Live Comments’ module which lets you engage with the broadcaster and the broader YouTube community. Based on the results of this initial test, we’ll evaluate rolling out the platform more broadly to our partners worldwide.”

The move comes as Google is facing increased competition from Facebook that, according to ComScore, surpassed Google as the online destination where users spend the most time. YouTube is still king of video, by a long shot.
In July, ComScore reported that Facebook had jumped to become the third largest video destination on the Web. Google’s YouTube doesn’t have much to worry about yet, however. According to ComScore, YouTube ranked as the top online video content site on the Web with 143.2 million unique viewers, followed by Yahoo Sites with 55.1 million viewers, and then by Facebook with 46.6 million viewers (compared to 43 million viewers in June).

The move also comes as Google getting set to take the wraps off its Google TV initiative that it says is a platform that joins the Internet with traditional television.

Live streaming for the Rest of Us?

For the moment, YouTube is only experimenting with live streaming with select partners. It’s not clear what YouTube’s future live streaming plans are, and whether they include making the feature available to all users. That would be an interesting addition, however, and would put YouTube in direct competition with other user-generated live streaming sites such as UStream and Justin.tv.

Monday and Tuesday’s live streams are not the first time YouTube has offered live events. Google typically broadcasts many of its product launch events on YouTube, rock band U2 broadcast a live concert worldwide on YouTube last October and President Obama answered questions live on YouTube in February.

With notes from Carrie-Ann Skinner.
Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).

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