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2013 was a big year for the video streaming service Ustream. In addition to releasing a whole slate of new features, including live ads, live playlists, a producer app and a revamped mobile app, the company has also been more focused on making Ustream a platform useful for business communication.

Ustream may be working to attract a more business friendly audience, but the 2013 numbers tell the story of a site caught between user-generated content and professional broadcasters. According to VP of Marketing David Gibbons, this is by design. While Ustream isn’t really focused on user-generated content anymore, it’s important for business customers to have the chance to try the service before opting for a paid subscription.

There are millions of amateur broadcasters but Gibbons says there are also about 5000 professional broadcasters on Ustream as well. Out of nearly 400 million hours of live video streams, the most popular broadcast of 2013 was produced by The Climate Reality Project, with more than 20 million views in a single day, according to the data.

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Gibbons also noted the trend toward more professionals using Ustream for live webinars and other info-marketing type broadcasts. He says that it’s pretty typical for more mature forms of marketing to become less effective over time. Display advertising and conference calls are increasingly ineffective at capturing people’s attention and creating real engagement.

“More and more companies are turning to live video,” he says. “As anyone who has sat in a bar with a TV screen on knows, it’s very difficult not to watch an engaging live video.”

This is increasingly true, even with content that traditionally would have gone ignored. According to the report, Ustream videos were embedded on nearly a half-million sites and reached more than 702 million Facebook users. Gibbons attributes the virality of broadcasts to the ease of sharing content. He cited the example of how a broadcast of the hunt for the Boston Bomber from a free user, suddenly “caught that viral wave” and was shared, re-shared and retweeted more than 250,000 times.

Social causes were also very popular in 2013. According to the report, some of the most popular broadcasts on Ustream were the election of Pope Francis, as well as the protests in Ukraine and Egypt. Gibbons says that this is a happy byproduct of building a platform that makes it easy for individuals to promote their cause.

“We’re working on creating something that has real value for enterprises,” he says. “But it also has real power to transform society.”

Featured image: Bekathwia