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Tumblr launches a live-video competitor for Periscope and Facebook Live

Roman Pyshchyk/Shutterstock
These days, it seems that just about every social network under the sun sports a platform for live-streamed videos. Facebook has Facebook Live, Google has YouTube Live, Twitter has Periscope, and Amazon has Twitch. But all that competition is not stopping Tumblr. Confirming rumors that emerged Monday afternoon, the Yahoo-owned platform has announced the launch of a live video component that’ll join the sea of well-established others. Unlike the others, though, Tumblr’s new service is more aggregator than host: it ties existing live-streaming solutions together into a unified hub.

The new service, self-descriptively dubbed live video, launched Tuesday, and it works like this: services with which Tumblr has struck a deal — YouTube, YouKnow, Kanvas, and Upclose, to start — will appear under a new “live video” option in Tumblr’s Anroid and iOS app. Sharing a stream with your Tumblr followers is as simple as opening one of the supported apps, beginning a broadcast, and blogging that broadcast within the Tumblr app. Your followers receive a notification, your stream begins, and new sessions — accompanied by icons that indicate the live-streaming service in use — appear at the top of followers’ Dashboard feeds. They’ll be saved for posterity.

If the initial list of streaming partners sounds small, that’s because it is. But Tumblr said it’s working with “a host of committed media partners and organizations” — Mashable, Refinery29, MTV, The Huffington Post, and more — to broaden support. Notable absences are Facebook Live, Twitch, and Persicope, but Tumblr said nothing technical precludes that sort of integration in the future — the business terms, presumably, are the holdup.

As for the caliber of events Tumblr is set to host, Tumblr’s scheduled kickoff event on Tuesday might hint at the content to come. Some of the inaugural series’ sessions are star-studded, like a basketball lesson from a Harlem Globetrotter and a Q&A session with Adam J. Kurtz. Others are a bit more off-kilter: a live stream from the surface of the planet Mars, for instance, and another in which the Tumblr team promises to “inflate a very big thing in a very small room.”

That Tumblr is making a play for a slice of the burgeoning live-video market isn’t exactly surprising. Online video accounts for upwards of 50 percent of traffic, according to Feedly, and advertisers are jumping on board: A recent survey of brand executives by marketing analytics firm Brandlive found that 39 percent believed that live-streaming video “would be important to their marketing efforts going forward.” And with some firms projecting that online video will be responsible for as much as four-fifths of internet traffic by 2019, there’s obvious potential for firms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to capitalize with advertising spots.

But it remains to be seen whether Tumblr will be able to attract away users who have already grown accustomed to competing live-streaming platforms. Periscope hit 200 million streams in March, and Twitch reaches tens of millions of viewers each month. Short of an ace-in-the-hole feature, Tumblr won’t have it easy.

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