Over the past several months, HQ Trivia has taken the world by storm. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s an app that hosts a live trivia game show twice a day. It seems ridiculous that an app that requires users to schedule time out of their day to play would go viral, but that’s exactly what happened.
At just three months old, HQ Trivia pulled in 750,000 users at once on a Sunday night. The live trivia game is a sensation—and one of the first major successes of a live mobile app. People are so addicted to the game, which awards cash prizes to trivia winners, that they’re wondering if it’s okay to play it on a date (it’s not).
A return to live experiences?
It’s tempting to attribute HQ Trivia’s success to the comeback of live game shows, TV, and other live experiences, but that’s not an entirely valid stance to take. Live events generate so much hype because consumers don’t want to miss out on opportunities to be part of the action. It’s more than a trend—it’s an appeal to human psychology. Even so, live apps aren’t necessarily what consumers want all the time.
Looking at TV, we can clearly see that live programming creates spikes of engagement, but people still prefer on-demand streaming by far. Even though social networking giant Facebook has over 2 billion monthly active users, it still disappointed UK publishers with stagnant Facebook Live viewership.
Additionally, live events have technological constraints, which has been one downfall for HQ Trivia in particular. The game’s servers have crashed multiple times because of inability to keep up with demand. Live video apps like Facebook Live, Instagram Live, YouTube Live, and Periscope must deal with the limitations of infrastructure, as streaming live video over mobile networks is entirely dependent on a region’s mobile connectivity. Video consumes a lot of bandwidth, and as a result, live video is often pixelated and laggy, though some have used the lag creatively.
That’s not to say that there won’t always be a market for live events. Sports, for example, inherently works best when consumed live and continues to be the only thing keeping traditional TV afloat. As a result, esports has also seen success in continuing to grow its number of streamers with live streaming on Twitch, dominating the game streaming market.
While the concentrated engagement spikes that live video and apps drive can be tempting for publishers who use engagement metrics to lure advertisers, it doesn’t mean going live is the right move long-term. Even livestream darling Musical.ly, which was acquired for $1B last year, is now struggling to get daily active users and is creating an HQ competitor to course correct.
On-demand is where the market is going
Looking at the trajectory of streaming video on-demand apps, we clearly see that consumers overwhelmingly enjoy on-demand experiences with subscription video revenue growing 77% year-over-year to $781 million. Apps like Netflix, YouTube, HBO NOW, and Hulu dominate the streaming video on-demand charts. Today’s youngest mobile consumers are growing up in a world where on-demand services and technology like these, in addition to podcasts and music-streaming apps are the norm. Yet live events will still have their own niche going forward. People still want to participate in live events to be part of a larger community of die-hard fans, like with HQ Trivia, shows with cult followings like Game of Thrones, and national sporting events.
Instead of thinking about live and on-demand services as being contrary to one another, developers and advertisers should think about how consumers play, watch, and engage with different content. While live experiences work for sports and certain TV shows, the majority of consumers want to engage with their favorite content on their own time. There are still opportunities to leverage live events streaming, but it should complement an on-demand strategy. But make no mistake; if you choose a synchronous strategy, you are making things infinitely harder on yourself, so make sure a live streaming strategy makes sense for your business.