WebRTC on the TV: How content producers are turning the audience into even more content

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Lately, we have been thinking and talking about broadcast in multimedia. By now, you might have seen that TokBox is powering applications that go beyond the contemporary one-to-one and small group settings that are typically associated with the current generation of WebRTC apps, to a much larger scale of hundreds or even thousands of people watching and participating in the conversation. At a glance, this might not sound particularly groundbreaking; video has been distributed to large audiences for years. However, a closer look is necessary: with a shift in the underlying technology, TokBox adds the option of real-time communication to the existing large-audience reach of broadcast video, to enable a whole new class of applications.

The shift I’m describing is subtle. The Internet has ushered content delivery to audiences previously inaccessible by conventional television broadcast, but the audience was never a part of the story they were watching. With our proprietary WebRTC media server, any user-generated video stream can be freely distributed to a whole audience, rather than just a single peer. This means that mobile and web applications could freely turn any content-consuming audience member into an interactive, content-producing source, visible to the rest of the audience. Think about this: rather than simply watch a panel of celebrities talk about the upcoming sportsball game, you could instantly join the conversation; argue with those celebrities about which players will most efficiently obtain sports points; and be seen by the entire audience you were a part of. Seamlessly.

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While the consequences of this new shift look interesting, I believe we have only just begun to see the possibilities in the realm of applications that rely on real-time video communication to produce content that reaches a large audience. The “first generation” of apps mimics paradigms that are already familiar to broadcast audiences: talk shows, discussion panels, and news correspondents are all being re-imagined as mobile and web apps replace the functionality of a conventional vision mixer. As audiences become familiar with the concept of interacting with the content they are watching, and content producers become more intrepid in leveraging this technology, broadcast applications will become more commonplace and unique.

What do you think? Looking at producing content with real-time video communications? Want to build your own broadcast application? Drop us a line or read more about our Accelerator Pack for Interactive Broadcast.

This post is part of a series we are doing on broadcast and innovation in media. If you are interested and in the area, I will be speaking in London at TV Connect Wednesday, 27 April, 2016. You can find out more about the event here.