13.05.2015 The rise of Periscope and what you need to know about the new era of self-broadcasting

Live video streaming app Periscope is the hot new social media platform, and is predicted to transform the way we communicate online. But the repercussions for users should make us all wary of jumping in feet first, says our MD Sara Robinson.

If you haven’t already heard of Periscope, expect to be hearing plenty about it very soon. At only four weeks old, this new kid on the block has become an almost overnight sensation, with user numbers mushrooming on a daily basis. In a nutshell, this Twitter-owned app takes long-established webcam technology and makes it portable for the first time, allowing anybody with a smartphone to live broadcast from anywhere to anybody.

Recently I broadcast my first periscope from the Cardiff City match against Millwall and was astonished to see viewers pouring in, many from London who I imagine were keen to see how their team were getting on but couldn’t be bothered making the trip down the M4.

As it turns out, that was a wise decision on their part; the match was diabolical, and why bother with a two-hour train journey when some long-suffering season ticket holder can broadcast the action live from their smartphone and you can watch it from the comfort of your own armchair? Ok, so the quality isn’t top notch – you can’t cut to different angles or cameras – but it beats shelling out for match and train tickets right?

As I watched my ‘viewers’ pour in, I felt a frisson of excitement, but then I wondered “Is this actually legal?”. It suddenly occurred to me that somebody with more expensive lawyers than me owns the rights to broadcast Cardiff City matches. And here we get to the heart of the challenge presented by Periscope and other similar apps such as Meerkat.

It’s easy to see why the ability to live broadcast easily and cheaply via a smartphone is exciting for both individuals and brands keen to connect with existing and new audiences. But there are a number of challenges that arise from the very nature of the live video medium.

Just this week it was announced that the National Hockey League in America has cracked down on fans live streaming on-rink action, issuing a memo prohibiting any broadcast within 30 minutes of a match beginning. HBO also sent takedown notices to Periscope after users used it to broadcast the fifth-season premiere of Game of Thrones last weekend.

It’s obvious why commercial organisations are nervous of Periscope, and as is so often the case, it all comes down to money. With the endless branding opportunities the platform presents, why would they want to hand control of that process over to fans?

It’s too early to tell what the legal repercussions could be for people who contravene any bans, as brands are still getting to grips with the potential implications of the explosion in popularity of Periscope. Yet if we think back to the legal action issued against people downloading large volumes of music illegally, it’s not hard to see the problems that could arise as any organisations with money to lose flex their legal muscle against individuals they perceive to be threatening their interests.

Big brands have been quick to see the potential opportunities Periscope presents for connecting with fans, with fashion labels DKNY, Urban Outfitters and H&M already experimenting with sharing live video content. I predict that we will see a huge growth in brands jumping on the bandwagon over coming months, because we know that video has a stronger impact than other content. For this reason, Periscope has an opportunity to change social media forever and make a big impact on digital content.

But for individuals and brands alike, it would be wise to approach the app with care because, as with any new tool, there are a range of unforeseen issues and potential pitfalls to consider.

For example, if you broadcast live from the pub and a song is playing in the background, are you infringing the artists’ copyright? Traditional broadcasters have to apply for clearance to play recorded music and pay a fee to the publisher. What about the legal implications of confidential conversations or written material being inadvertently shared? If you’re broadcasting on private property that doesn’t belong to you, have you secured permission to broadcast? What about members of the public in shot who haven’t given consent for video of them to be used?

While Periscope could transform the way we all communicate online, the repercussions for misuse – both deliberate and unintentional – are too significant to ignore. For businesses in Wales looking to reach their target audience in a really engaging way with great video content, Periscope is undoubtedly an exciting new marketing tool. For individuals, the entertainment potential is endless.

But my advice would be to make sure you plan your content well, thinking it through in the same way you would with any other marketing or social media activity. Because at the click of a button, your video is out there in the public domain, and with no opportunity to edit, your personal TV channel could bring with it some very real risks.