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Tumblr launches live video support in partnership with YouTube, YouNow and others

TechCrunch TechCrunch 21/06/2016 Sarah Perez

Tumblr this morning announced support for live video on its service, confirming our report from yesterday that such a move was in the works. The feature will allow Tumblr users to live stream video directly to their followers’ Dashboards, and will also send out push notifications when users go live or reblog a live stream. Along with the announcement comes further clarification on how the feature will work. Instead of being a direct copy of something like Facebook Live, Tumblr is integrating with existing services – including YouTube, YouNow, Kanvas and Upclose – and then using Tumblr as the publishing and discovery platform for those streams.

For Tumblr users, support for live video is being introduced through the partnered apps themselves – you’ll enable Tumblr sharing in a new setting that publishes live streams to Tumblr’s native video player. If you have more than one Tumblr blog, you’ll be able to specify which to post to. From then on, when you go live on that service, the stream is automatically published to Tumblr.

All partner apps ready to support live video streaming to Tumblr on both iOS and Android, except for YouTube which will have iOS support available in a few more days.

Though Tumblr is not the live video host, it will behave a lot like its social network competitors when it comes to getting these live broadcasts in front of its users.

Sharing live video to Tumblr will send out a push notification to your Tumblr followers. Followers will be alerted also if you republish a live video. And if they click the notification, they’ll be taken to the live video directly on Tumblr.

Your live video will be pinned in the first position at the top of your followers’ Dashboards on Tumblr on both web and mobile when you’re live, too. The post itself will be badged to indicate which service you’re using as the live video host. If you click through on that badge, it will open up the app or take you to the App Store to install it.

In addition, if you choose to save the replay of the live video on the provider’s service, that live video will continue to live on Tumblr as a regular video post, the company says. It can then be replayed at any time after the live broadcast concludes.

On the livevideo.tumblr.com blog, the company had been teasing a schedule of events that included things like a live broadcast from the surface of Mars, a Q&A session with Adam J. Kurtz, a basketball lesson from a Harlem Globetrotter, some designed-to-go-viral entertainment events, and others.

These streams will now serve to kick off the live video launch by featuring original content from Tumblr that’s inspired by its community.

Tumblr will do a countdown to this launch from 2 PM to 4 PM today, then the main programming will begin at 4 PM ET. (Those who followed the livevideo.tumblr.com blog should receive push notifications at that time.)

The company also says that it’s working with a number of media partners who will be live streaming live content and events to Tumblr’s service, such as Mashable, Refinery29, MTV, The Huffington Post and others. In total, 15 partners have committed to publishing live videos on Tumblr, and more are being added.

However, the company clarified that, for now, live video is an editorial offering only – not an ad offering. That may change in the future, though.

As we noted yesterday, support for live video on Tumblr is part of a larger strategy for its service, which has been struggling to meet its revenue expectations following the Yahoo acquisition. Now it’s clear that Tumblr isn’t trying to directly compete with the likes of Facebook Live or Periscope, but has instead chosen to tie into competing services as a means of joining the live streaming market without having to build its own dedicated tools for hosting live video itself.

It makes sense that the company is leaning on its strengths as a home for content discovery and community with its move into this space. After all, it’s already well-known as destination for GIFs and other memes that have shaped internet culture, so it may as well add live video into that mix.

But it is interesting that the group of supported services that interoperate with the new feature don’t include some of the leaders in the live streaming market, such as Facebook, Twitter’s Periscope or Amazon-owned Twitch, for example. That said, YouTube support could still bring a sizable community to Tumblr, as could YouNow’s interactive entertainment platform, which has over 100 million user sessions per month and live-streams 50,000 hours of new video content daily.

The others are much smaller services. Kanvas lets users live stream using filters, GIF stickers, and other animated effects, while Madrid-based Upclose has 100,000 active users in countries like Spain, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina.

However, Tumblr plans to expand support for live video partners in the months ahead, we understand. To make the feature work, the company developed a private spec that allows the third-parties to stream their live broadcasts into Tumblr’s native video player. The plan going forward is to open up that spec to other providers.

Still, by not developing its own live streaming technology in-house (or buying some) and not introducing a feature that lets users click a button to “go live” from their Tumblr app, the company is missing an opportunity to become a more significant player in live video. While the user-facing aspect to live video is focused on automating the publishing of broadcasts to Tumblr via a one-time configuration (“set it and forget it”), ultimately, Tumblr will be thought of as another distribution channel for content, and not the source.

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