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Do You Need Live?

I've been thinking lately about the value of consuming live content.  Live means that you consume it as it is created or initially distributed.  I'm not talking about where you consume it, just the time factor.

Examples of live content that seem to be unlikely to be displaced by time shifting are:

  • Attending a concert or live theater event
  • Something like talk radio where the consumer participates as the content is created
  • Speaking to someone in person or on the phone

There are some cases where these experiences are time shifted, but they don't have the impact of being there in person.  I've watched concert DVDs or listened to recorded conference calls.  It's not the same as participating live and, in the case of concerts, in person.  Talking to someone on a live basis could be displaced by email, IM, and online social networking interactions.  But, I don't see live speech going away altogether.

Television is certainly shifting away from 'live.'  Fewer and fewer people watch TV as it is broadcast, although the masses still watch TV live.  I watch a few TV shows regularly and watch a lot of sports on TV.  But, even with sports, I tend to record the shows on my Tivo and watch them at some time later than live.  For sports, I certainly watch it on a current basis.  With some practice, you can figure out what time to start watching a sporting event so that as you fast forward through the commercials you can catch up just as the event ends.  That way you find out the result in pretty much a real-time basis, but you can shave 90 minutes or more out of the content consumption time.

For other shows, I like to watch them on a current basis.  I don't like plots to be spoiled, and I like to talk about the shows with friends.  If you are too far behind, you are out of the loop.  So, I try to stay up to date on the shows I like.  But, of course, I can manage my time schedule to watch the shows when it is more convenient for me.  What's the benefit of watching the show as it is first broadcast?

Whether something needs to be consumed live or not has an implication on how it is distributed, both physically and financially.  More and more content is being distributed in some mode other than live.  It's more accessible, it can be consumed in smaller chunks, and it needs to be monetized in a different mode than broadcast.  Perhaps only live concerts and theater are safe.  Everything else needs to continue to adapt to a non-live world.

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