YouTube has broadcast several live events in the past, but, as they noted on the official YouTube blog, they've all been "one-offs". Internet users interested in streaming live video relied on Ustream and other similar services, while larger broadcasters streamed video independently. YouTube, as one of the most popular sites on the Internet, was essentially an asynchronous tool for Lady Gaga and cute cat owners.
Today, however, Google announced that YouTube would become a live broadcasting platform:
Today we're announcing the initial roll out of YouTube Live, which will integrate live streaming capabilities and discovery tools directly into the YouTube platform for the first time. This begins with a new YouTube Live browse page (www.youtube.com/live), where you can always find the most compelling live events happening on YouTube and add events to your calendar.
Their initial live-streamed event will begin in a few hours with a YouTube-sponsored concert series, featuring the most-viewed independent artists from the video sharing site. More interestingly, though, is the fact that this may finally become the social tool that Google has failed to create in its years trying to compete with Facebook.
Although YouTube has featured comments on videos for some time, being able to comment and interact during a live stream takes this to a new level. Right now, aside from the so-called Digitour, the selection of live shows is relatively limited. As Google notes, they are "gradually rolling out [their] live streaming beta platform, which will allow certain YouTube partners with accounts in good standing to stream live content on YouTube."
As this becomes more widespread, YouTube Live stands to not only change the face of broadcast (can you say Google TV?), but also stands to change the face of social. It's one thing to interact over static media. It's quite another to interact (and ultimately, expect to interact) with live video.
Given YouTube's existing extraordinary reach, this stands to be a big deal. Like a really bit deal. We'll see what happens when partners beyond the Indian Premier League cricket matches begin to go live. Because while some of the partners will be major media outlets, this has the potential to enable a new level of success for the pre-Justin Bieber's of YouTube-land.