News publishers tap into live streaming on YouTube

With content production curtailed, news publishers have tapped into live feeds on social platforms, especially YouTube, to fill schedules.

Publishers like Sky News, The Sun, The Guardian, Euronews and The Telegraph are among those with the most amount of live-streamed minutes watched during this time. As a TV broadcaster, Sky News has broadcasted its TV channel around the clock on YouTube since November 2019. For that reason, it had 1.1 billion minutes of live-streamed footage watched during the four weeks, more than other news and politics creators and media companies. 

“We’ve been doing a lot of daily live streams to strong numbers as well as a number of original longer-form public service announcement-content around coronavirus,” said Phil Han, director of video at News UK tabloid The Sun. 

During March, the amount of live-streamed minutes watched on YouTube ballooned, increasing 189% in the four weeks beginning March 12 compared with the four weeks prior. At its peak, there were 180 million minutes watched during one week, according to analytics firm Tubular Labs.

Other news publishers have increased the amount of live-streamed footage during March but more sporadically, for instance by pulling in feeds for political debates during weekly Prime Minister’s Questions in parliament. Since September 2019, in addition to its TV live stream, Euronews has been streaming events like news conferences, political events and speeches, live interviews, accompanied with community management.

“We saw strong growth on all our YouTube channels,” said Youva Bouzidi, head of digital products at Euronews. “Most of our channels passed the 500,000 subscribers mark, and two of them passed the 1 million subscriber milestone recently.” 

For news publishers, live-streaming feeds have always been a feature, but with current restrictions in play and a voracious — if waning — appetite in news, it’s now one of the few content levers left to pull. 

Another is health-related and public service content. Three weeks ago The Sun launched “Ask Dr. Hilary” series every Monday to Thursday, where general practitioner Dr. Hilary Jones, known for his media appearances, answers questions about coronavirus. Videos typically get views in the six figures. 

The News UK tabloid has grown its YouTube subscribers to nearly 800,000 in 18 months by producing more original content rather than aggregated clips from agencies like Reuters. The rate of subscriber growth and videos watched has jumped since January, according to analytics firm SocialBlade, the restrictions in larger-scale productions hasn’t dampened growth. During April, The Sun’s YouTube channel has already fetched 20 million unique viewers, said Han.

News, in all its guises, is trickier to monetize, although YouTube’s Player for Publishers initiative helps some media companies build their video operations. YouTube has been slowly allowing content creators to monetize videos that mention “coronavirus” since March after saying several weeks earlier that videos mentioning the virus would be automatically shut off from monetization. This week, the platform introduced more granular brand safety controls, although the fear is they will add to creators’ headaches by over-blocking content that is brand safe, if not suitable.

“We have fed back to teams not to arbitrarily put [coronavirus] in if you don’t have to,” said a chief revenue officer at a publisher. “We saw a competitor doing backflips on a YouTube video to not mention it. It’s a classic hammer to crack a nut solution.”

Bouzidi said Euronews it leans towards pushing more brand-safe content and products that are closer to users’ interests to mitigate against the impact of keyword blocking.

Elsewhere, in early April, CNN International released a new 20-minute weekly show on the technology, etiquette and optimum ways of working remotely, “WFH New Reality.” Led by anchor Richard Quest, the shows are also produced remotely, with Quest making sure the lighting and shots are adequate and carrying out interviews via Zoom and video conferencing software. Coming episodes will look at whether the arrangements that organizations have put in place for working remotely can survive, and there will be big questions to answer once the pandemic ends.

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News publishers have expanded beyond their regular heartlands. Unexpectedly, positive stories and good-news content is also booming. “People singing” is the fourth most popular topic by views from news publishers, behind content covering overwhelmed hospitals, the situation around the world and life during lockdown. Videos of people singing — like this family’s rendition Les Misérables — have fetched 7.9 million views, per Tubular, despite only accounting for 7% of the content uploaded.

This article was updated to include comment from Euronews.

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