In the four months since lockdowns and shelter-in-place restrictions upended the daily routines of billions of people around the world, companies, groups, organizations and institutions have sought different ways of staying connected and engaged with their customers and communities – and for many, live-streaming has proven to be one invaluable solution.
As coronavirus case numbers began rising, live-streaming surged 45% between March and April, with 99% year-over-year growth. But is livestreaming destined to be remembered as nothing more than a fad during the global health crisis?
Far from it: As more businesses and organizations use and get used to the technology, they’re discovering that its promise extends far beyond this moment.
Here are five unique sectors that have learned to utilize livestreaming technology during challenging times, and which are poised to continue leveraging the technology for the long haul.
Travel and Tourism
Few sectors of the economy have been harder-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic than travel, with ongoing border restrictions and fear of contagion, huge hits to the airline, cruise and other transportation-related industries and tighter household finances continuing to weigh on the sector even after the easing of strict lockdown measures. As a recent World Economic Forum analysis noted, tourist arrivals could plummet by one billion in 2020, with nearly 200 million jobs linked to the sector now at risk.
While there’s no magic-bullet solution for travel and tourism companies to recoup lost revenue, live-streaming has offered many brands an effective way of reaching and maintaining relationships with consumers and drumming up interest in tourism for when the pandemic subsides. Take Airbnb’s Online Experiences, which have enabled viewers to spend an evening with a Spanish flamenco composer, participate in a pasta-making class with top-rated Italian chefs, meditate with a Japanese Buddhist monk, and more.
Smaller industry players are getting in on the action too: Lovin Malta, for instance, has turned to Facebook Live for a daily broadcast on life on the Mediterranean island – offering a virtual visit as a way to entice potential future travelers to try the real thing. A diverse array of livestreams have offered virtual tourists the opportunity to “visit” attractions and locations from the Statue of Liberty to Venice to Copacabana.
With the virus resurging in some regions, the outlook for travel remains cloudy at best. And, even when the world returns to some semblance of normalcy, tourism companies should continue using livestreams not only to provide access to those unable to travel, but also to generate consumer interest and help power the post-pandemic recovery.
As gyms and fitness studios closed this spring, trainers and fitness professionals began livestreaming workout classes – in some cases attracting worldwide audiences.
Although fitness fanatics have a range of prerecorded workout sessions from which to choose, livestreamed exercise fosters a live feeling of community and shared energy that following a prerecorded YouTube video simply can’t provide. For trainers, these sessions have offered an excellent way of getting their names out there and keeping clients on track and in shape.
As with so many other changes ushered in by the pandemic – the shift to more remote work, the acceleration of e-commerce, etc. – there will be no putting the fitness livestreaming genie back in the bottle. Many people have discovered for the first time that they don’t need to fork over exorbitant sums every month to pay for a gym membership, and that for a fraction of the cost, they can work out from the comfort of their own homes while still feeling part of a supportive, motivating community. Others, of course, will be eager to return to in-studio fitness classes, so the future of the industry will likely involve a hybrid model, with livestreaming remaining a key revenue stream.
When the pandemic forced the cancellation of geek culture events like the 2020 San Diego Comic Convention – better known as Comic-Con – the community sought to keep its fans engaged with livestreaming.
Comic book fans turned to WonderCon@Home, a livestream which included real-time panels and interviews that would have otherwise been featured at WonderCon Anaheim 2020’s physical event. The owner of the comic bookstore Artgerm Collectibles attracted more than 10,000 organic views on one live broadcast – five times the store’s Facebook following.
While nothing can replace the pulse of a comic-con event, event organizers learned that there’s also a unique place for livestreaming, which has allowed comic book fans to stay connected with their community from all around the world – even with fans who typically can’t attend these types of events in person for one reason or another. Other culturally-minded fandoms will likely do the same.
Mental Health and Self-Care
Given the extensive toll COVID-19 and prolonged isolation have exacted not just to our physical wellbeing but to our mental health as well, online communities offering emotional support and self-care have proven vital over the last several months.
Therapists are holding Zoom sessions with clients, mental health professionals are offering live workshops, and influencers are finding creative ways of promoting self-care. Popular influencer Katie Sands, for instance, has even livestreamed sessions with her therapist, offering followers the chance to submit their own questions. NBC News journalist Maria Shriver and son Patrick Schwarzenegger have attracted viewers from across the globe on Instagram Live and YouTube to #HomeTogether, an engaging series of conversations with mental health advocates, activists, and thought leaders from diverse sectors, touching on topics like optimism, relationships under lockdown, staying motivated, cultivating resilience, and much more.
Houses of Worship
Restrictions on communal gatherings forced religious institutions to rethink how they could reach the faithful and others searching for meaning, and many – from the Pope all the way to local houses of worship — have found the answer in livestreaming services. With 26% of Americans reporting that their sense of faith or spirituality has deepened as a result of the crisis, demand for these services has been strong: Online ministry Churchome, for example, recorded a 139% spike in virtual attendance this spring.
Even as restrictions lift and people begin refilling pews, livestreaming will continue to offer those who are at-risk, elderly, disabled, and geographically remote the chance to safely participate in religious services and forge connections based on common religiosity or spirituality.
Therein lies live-streaming’s great promise: It can function as an equalizer – expanding access and expanding audiences for organizations who utilize it. The COVID-era’s surge in livestreaming may have been sparked by the pandemic itself, but as its benefits have become more widely felt, the technology has taken on a life of its own.