The Problem with Live on the Internet — Lack of Programming

By August 31, 2016 No Comments

Digital platforms like Facebook, YouTube,, and others have created amazing opportunities around live video. The problem is that up until now, the video we have been getting, and that has been succeeding, has largely centered around Personalities, Places and Performances.

  • Personality — Hey check me out, I’m your favorite celeb eating a waffle.
  • Places — Hey look at me, I’m coming to you live from the streets of London or the Olympics in Rio.
  • Performance — Hey let’s watch Arcade Fire.

Last Friday we produced Smosh Live, a 50-minute live show with an additional 30 minutes of pre and post show entertainment. The show was shot and broadcast in front of a live audience at 5pm PST and featured a large cast performing across multiple sets. In every way it was produced, written, and directed very much like an episode of Saturday Night Live.

Please check it out:

By any account, it could not have gone better and was truly beloved. Of course I am biased, but the masses aren’t:

  • They tuned in. In 3.5 days, Smosh Live has already been seen by over 1 million people, with over 1.4 million views & 22 million total viewed minutes.
  • They also liked it; they really liked it, to the tune of a 98% like ratio on YT, over 225,000 comments, and 140 million social impressions
  • They tuned in live with over 50,000 concurrent viewers for practically all 80 minutes, peaking at close to 58,000 viewers in the middle of the show. This drove over 4.3 million total live viewing minutes.

Smosh Live matters for a bunch of reasons, but arguably one of the biggest is that it felt like live television, just produced for digital. It wasn’t a personality talking into their mobile camera, someone streaming their vacation, or a famous musical performer – it was a produced program…and an ad sponsored program no less. (Thanks Wrigley’s 5 Gum!).

The advantage of doing actual programming is that it enabled us to build in more traditional sponsorship opportunities and ad pods. As we all try to build businesses around live, we need to remember that investment on the advertising side, at scale, is a function of predictable audiences and standardized formats. Thanks to the power of the Smosh brand and the fact that it was a produced program, we were able to deliver that. Smosh Live offered a large audience with built in commercial pods.

More than that, however, we think Smosh Live showcases the threat and opportunity that digital offers for live on television. Smosh Live looked like a traditional SNL episode, and for those long time SNL fans (me included) it brought a fresher take on what we’ve been seeing from SNL since perhaps the early days of digital shorts. It was current — and not meaning current for me — but current for the audiences who are not watching SNL anymore. With Smosh Live we believe we have created a format that we could repeat, that truly is an SNL type program for a younger generation. And we could do it without being on traditional television.

One of the great things about live programming is that it creates a level of engagement that is hard to find elsewhere. You have the opportunity for an audience to engage with each other and experience something together, in real time. Sure, the programming is available on VOD later, but the social experience of something of live programming is something not easily replicated. That is why we also produce another 5 weekly live shows that air on our ScreenJunkies network. Movie Fights is among the most popular:

These shows are highly produced news/talk programs, each running anywhere from 40–90 minutes, and are produced well enough to be on television. Let’s not forget that just 10 years ago, this was considered reasonable TV quality:

And that this aired a ESPN2 this morning:

The experience with those programs, and the fact that we now have a business model we can build around it, only increases our excitement around live as opportunity. We not only can see that the audience loves it, they actively tell us they want more.

-Keith Richman, President of Defy Media