Is Live Content More Valuable than On-Demand Content?

I have started blogging about a new concept that I call The Scheduled Web. The Scheduled Web is the next evolution of the Real-Time Web, in which it will become possible to actually navigate the time dimension of the Web more productively.

There is a popular misconception that on-demand content, such as archived video, is more valuable than live content. But in fact, this may not be the case.

Live content has built-in perishability that makes it potentially more valuable than on-demand content – if relevant audiences can find it while it is live. If a piece of high-demand content is only live for a short period of time it can attract more traffic in less time, provided that people who would want to participate interactively (or even transactively) in it are notified beforehand.

More demand in less time translates to higher advertising revenues, or higher prices in time-based sales like auctions. A series of high-demand live events could actually earn more revenues than a series of on-demand content releases in any given unit of time.

A live event is only live for some limited period of time, after which even though it may later be available in archived form, the event is finished, it is no longer a live event. If you want to get the live experience and be able to actually participate in a live event, you have to be there. It isn’t the same to watch it after the fact. And in some cases, for example auctions, sales, games, contests and chats, if you miss the event you can’t participate and may not even be able to access an archived version (if you even wanted to).

Live events are the best of both worlds for several reasons:

1. They have extra perishability because they are live, giving people a stronger incentive to participate synchronously when they are actually happening. Furthermore, if a live event is also interactive in some way, it is even more valuable to those who are present. A good example of this is American Idol, where for instance, the audience can participate in the voting process that selects finalists. Interactivity makes the show more engaging and gives viewers a sense of ownership and personal investment in the content.

2. Live events can also be archived and made available on-demand, as well. The key to getting this double-layer of value out of live events is to schedule them so that they can be found before or while they are actually live. This amplifies the initial demand and attendance to the event, and also provides any archived version that follows an added social virality.

At Live Matrix we believe it is incorrect to assume that the television model carries over directly to the Web. The Web is an entirely different medium because it is two-way, interactive, both synchronous and asynchronous, and distribution is open to anyone and portable across any device. Television over the Web is going to be different than TV on cable and satellite networks. The fact that consumers can consume Web video content asynchronously is a plus, but it doesn’t obviate the need or opportunity for live synchronous content on the Web. In fact, for any event that requires or even wants to leverage interactivity, live synchronous attendance by audience members is a key part of the experience.

There are many use-cases where live synchronous content consumption cannot be replaced by asynchronous content consumption — for example a live chat, or a time-limited sale or auction, or a multiplayer live game. Even in the case of video and audio there are many cases where live synchronous content is more valuable than asynchronous on-demand content. For example who wants to watch the Superbowl months after the game is over? Who really wants to watch a major presidential address or a press conference weeks later? Who wants to watch video of election coverage months after it’s decided? These kinds of “timely” events are live by their nature, and part of the value of consuming the content is the act of doing it in a timely manner.

The value of live interactive content begins to become even more clear as on-demand content that is originally streamed live has the ability to generate more revenues over its lifetime than simply recorded, on-demand content alone. The Scheduled Web will thus even improve traffic and revenues for on-demand content, if that content can be initiated as live events, or at least paired with them in some way.

The value of the Scheduled Web will be realized as not simply a schedule of video content, but of all scheduled events of any type that take place on the Internet. While much of this content is valuable both when it initially goes live and on an ongoing basis as on-demand content after the fact, there is also a lot of content in Live Matrix that will be inherently and necessarily more valuable when it is live, such as sales and auctions or games.

In addition there is a new category of “exclusively live” online events that we may see emerge in 2011. These events will be one-time events, with no archived copies after they finish. They may be high-profile events where attendance requires paid admission for example. They will be marketed as special experiences – where not only do you have to be there to experience them, but where being there has special advantages, like being able to interact with others who are there and perhaps with the performers or celebrities involved as well. Some events may also offer backstage passes, or special break-out sessions as well.

For events like these — where the only value created is during the event’s live run — discovery must happen prior to or during the event for participation to take place. For these, the Scheduled Web is absolutely essential.