Adapting to the New Normal: Live Streaming in Singapore Post-COVID

1. Introduction

The global pandemic COVID-19 has drastically disrupted the performing arts industry. In Singapore, the live performance sector was flooded by cancellations during the initial stages of the pandemic when travel restrictions and social distancing measures were implemented. As a result, this has greatly affected those under this sector, especially gig workers – freelancers who earn their living through short-term engagements – due to them being a significant portion of the workforce and with few institutionalized support structures set up to protect their rights and welfare. It has also highlighted other structural inequalities, hierarchies, and vulnerabilities within the scene. Many in this industry, both artists and administrators, found it difficult to adapt to the ‘new normal’. Nevertheless, as a result of COVID-19, things had to change – and one of the things that changed was live streaming. While live stream service isn’t exactly a new concept, the spike in the demand for it has led to these freelancers pivoting their skills to include changing their artistic model and adapting their skill sets and reimagining content creation that is tailored to the digital space.

1.1. Background of Live Streaming Services

Since the implementation of a series of social distancing measures in 2020, there has been a surge in the demand for a virtual environment to substitute the actual setting where physical interaction is difficult. The service we look at in this study is live streaming. A live streaming service allows users to watch a real-time online broadcast. The public viewers can interact with the streamers through a chat window and sometimes are able to purchase virtual gifts to support the streamer financially. A relevant nomenclature often seen in the service is called streamer. A streamer is an online content creator who creates videos and broadcasts games or daily activities to the public. They often interact with their viewers in real-time and engage them to show appreciation for their content. The viewers who enjoy these real-time broadcasts are often paying viewers. Paying viewers are entities that pay to access personalized content by purchasing virtual gifts during a live broadcast. These purchases are often referred to as virtual tipping, small-request tipping or clapping. It is a rapidly growing phenomenon on many OTT platforms such as YouTube, Uplive and its affiliates and Twitch. These services are growing in prominence and influence, and playing an ever-increasing role in the global entertainment industry.

2. The Impact of COVID-19 on Live Streaming

A recommendation report from TBRC Research in December 2020 estimated that the live music streaming market will witness high growth. It mentioned that the increased usage of internet-enabled devices, including mobiles, tablets, and laptops, has led to live streaming becoming a key part of people’s lives. Observing this trend, many organizations in Singapore from different industries are trying out live streaming as part of their way to engage with their audiences. This includes workshops, concerts, conferences, and social media. While it is inevitable that as the industry evolves and shapes, problems and misuse are bound to crop up, it is thus important to understand both the commercial and social issues from different players in the event industry in Singapore, which is the focus of this research.

Covid-19 has effectively grounded the event industry in Singapore. With the implementation of the government’s social distancing and restrictions on large-scale gatherings, the hosting of physical events has been severely affected. This has led to an increase in the use of technology for online interaction. The use of live streaming as a real-time platform has seen an exponential increase as it allows people to be connected regardless of geographical constraints. Although live streaming is not new, there are new applications adopted as both audiences and event-based companies demand more intricate capabilities to add flavor to their events.

2.1. Rise in Demand for Live Streaming Services

The potential for businesses to achieve success through live streaming especially after COVID-19 restrictions are gradually relaxed is substantial. According to a marketing report, consumers prefer to watch live content over on-demand video, with 44% of consumers preferring to watch live content from their favourite brands compared to the 38% that would rather watch prerecorded content. The report also suggests that there will be more live streaming Singapore ahead, with 42% of consumers claiming to watch more live content in 2020 than in 2019. Businesses can potentially leverage on the power of live stream service to promote their goods and services in real-time at potentially lower costs than producing pre-recorded promotional videos and also generate considerable number of live views, as well as recorded video views when consuming live content, helping businesses to reach their sales targets faster.

The need to keep social gatherings to a minimum in light of COVID-19 restrictions has led to a significant increase in the use of live streaming platforms around the world. In Singapore, live streaming platforms for private uses gained newfound popularity especially during Circuit Breaker period, with families organizing live stream dinners and friends live streaming their at-home “pub” socializing sessions into the digital world. Not only the generalized use of private live streaming services have gained stride, previously predictable events such as weddings and corporate town halls are turning to live streaming platforms to reach out to a wider number of participants to include members of the public who may not have had the chance to participate in the festivities pre COVID-19.

3. Technological Innovations in Live Streaming

Voice interaction and direct showcases are critical for the audience’s sense of presence and increasing communication cost. Fog computing and edge computing have thus become key for both content delivery networks and intelligent devices to address these rising requirements while implementing advanced video processing. The use of spatially diversified frame of view in a multi-layer quality video storage approach would be crucial to reach desired immersive effect. In terms of delivering very high-quality streaming video from the GPU server to numerous smartphone devices, software or hardware approaches beyond those identified and allowed by the developers through a general-purpose terminal solution either offer the same degree of QoE with lower net horsepower requirements or promote a greater quality level with the same expense. In any case, there is currently no money saved from the stable experience of the media industry, where viewers are willing to pay for high-quality video services which provide clear consoles with a stable and fair source of income. In general, live 4K video streaming is the perfect introduction to combining UHD multimedia, mass simultaneous user involvement and dense VR atmosphere as a stimulus for video service research.

In terms of live streaming technologies, a lot of the audio-visual advancements in recent years have been driven by performance and engagement in different parts of the value chain. For example, at the content production and transmission level, larger sophisticated devices are needed, such as transportable unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and fast post-production equipment, in order to capture live events with increasing diversity. Using a long term evolution (LTE) unmanned vehicle equipped with a van mobile broadband router, a video signal is sped up and sent to hundreds of viewers concurrently. Whether via feature phone, smartphone, laptop or wired set-top box, high-performance mobile applications have been built and disseminated from live video streaming platforms to their audiences. Under the hood, augmented reality (AR), 360° viewing, and other dashboards created by video processing reinforce the quality and appear of the content, thus replacing the original 2D distribution to exhibit the spatial concept and strengthen both interactivity and immersion.

3.1. Enhancements in Video and Audio Quality

The desirability of biometric technology in businesses producing wearables, as well as consumer usage activities, would grow as a result of such a predicament. Specifically, corporations can develop display platforms that allow them to connect with other businesses.

Apart from video resolution, customers may also be concerned with audio clarity during a live stream. If the audio quality is compromised, information about the product or service cannot be clearly conveyed to the viewers. To resolve audio defects, some live streamers have turned to using dedicated microphones to improve audio clarity, taking advantage of the strong gain and reduced background noise to allow customers to enjoy clear images and audio simultaneously.

In addition to attending exhibitions and fairs physically, customers can now participate in these events virtually and engage in various booths and stalls at the event. During COVID-19, the Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Community Day annual event was conducted virtually, featuring an N-level live stream facilitated by Minister of State Low Yen Ling and performances by ministers. It also included a virtual technical discussion platform. An event such as the URA Community Day can still be conducted by allowing customers to view videos while maintaining social responsibility.

By addressing customers’ concerns on video resolution, businesses can build better rapport with their customers and secure their purchase more effectively. As a live streamer, the quality and resolution of the live video can leave a lasting impression on your viewers and even create greater engagement between you and your customers. The advancements in technology have paved the way for an improvement in the video and audio resolution of the live stream. Newer smartphones and DSLRs have improved the quality of video, allowing content creators to conduct smoother livestreams.

4. Challenges and Opportunities in the Singaporean Market

However, there are also clear opportunities when it comes to the Singaporean market, plus those who have met with success are sharing their experiences as well as tools and services that are available to help Singaporeans. The COVID slump may have concluded as far as the household-sized air fryer and instant noodle market is concerned, but live streaming is not an entirely new thing in Singapore. The interest in live streaming has tapered off along with the emergence of considerably more channels, and while Singtel’s existing service, Repeat Shopping List makes it possible to compare but not directly sell from programs on offer elsewhere, LazLive, Shopee Live, and start-ups like Naiise and Youbela are among others who continue to tinker at the concept for more engaging and personalized presentations. There are also a number of tools and services that are available to create stronger presentation and distribution options for producing live streaming content—from iStudio to Hi5, as well as regional and China-oriented consultants like Academic Live and WTS, and the familiar OBS.

While e-commerce live streaming has been widely popular in China, Taiwan, and Korea, the Singaporean market lags behind in terms of acceptance, especially during COVID times. Yet, there seems to be an excess of supply for a lack of demand. This may be a chicken-and-egg problem—live streaming has not achieved the popularity that would attract more variety, and without variety, people may not notice live streaming. Singaporeans are also known for the “Singa-Consumer” culture in the arena of public complaints, so producers are aware that they need to be at their most professional when dealing with consumers. In Singapore, producers also face significant concerns about harboring or taking delivery of prohibited goods. These can range from those small enough for the postman to be able to deliver, like an illegal DVD, to those so large that the logistics team may unknowingly be transporting them unless these nodules are abandoned upon detection or interception.

4.1. Regulatory Environment for Live Streaming Services

Although the provision of live streaming is not subjected to specific regulatory licensing requirements, live streaming providers tend to use common online platforms to reach a larger audience. They are encouraged to adhere to social media guidelines as well. For instance, the Info-communications and Media Development Authority of Singapore advises social media influencers on digital advertising when they promote and endorse services on digital platforms. The approach taken by the Singapore government is attractive to foreign firms looking to provide live streaming services. Domestic firms, existing limited liability media companies, or digital businesses are generally subject to more stringent licensing, regulatory, national and foreign ownership, and corporate governance rules which are not extended to foreign multinational technology companies or websites.

The development of live streaming in Singapore has been relatively unfettered, as the provision of such services is not yet subjected to regulatory licensing. Live streaming is a type of broadcasting service provided over the internet, which can bypass regulatory licensing requirements common to traditional broadcasting services due to the unique nature of the internet. In the Singaporean context, as live streaming is not considered “content” under the Broadcasting Act, it successfully avoids most of the Broadcasting Act’s regulatory provisions. This makes things relatively simple for live streaming providers, who are able to operate using simple business tools registration and social media guidelines instead.

5. Best Practices for Effective Live Streaming in Singapore

Delivery: Today’s audiences are savvy, and they know what they like. Whether your delivery style is formal or casual, lively discussion with varying pitches generally garners more interest than a dull monologue. While delivering your talk, strike verbal mile markers to keep your audience engaged. Break your content into bite-sized portions; plan questions to the audience or sprinkle a quiz, initiate a poll, give the audience something to talk about in the comments section. Know your tech. Make sure to have a good quality internet connection and a 4G phone signal as a fail-safe backup. Ensure that presentations are free from copyright restrictions, so as not to inadvertently breach any broadcasting laws. It’s important to remember that live video is two-way. Businesses must engage with viewers in real-time to demonstrate their responsiveness. Being personal and acknowledging your viewers builds credibility and trust. Idle bikes taking a live stream are not nearly as engaging as an enthusiastic on-air host.

Prepare & Backstage View: Live is unscripted, but a level of preparation is crucial for an effective session. Set clear objectives and strategies that translate to realistic goals. The speakers and story during the live session should relate explicitly back to the key objectives for the event. Establish a crew for technical, run-through, and production support. Dress smartly and properly groom, be aware of the background and lighting for the filming. Rehearsals or short pre-broadcast run-throughs can help eliminate jittery nerves and resolve any technical issues with presentation materials.

Given the tough competition, businesses need to be “camera-ready”. It’s no longer enough just to go “live” from your account. Whether you’re a seasoned expert or a complete newbie, use these best practices to make your live broadcast stand out and attract your target audience.

  1. Best practices for effective live streaming

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