With the constant improvements in technology, some say it is easier to make ends meet. Diverting from the common manufacturing and selling of products, many Internet users are taking advantage of online platforms to make money. The appearance of broadcast jockeys (hereafter BJs) was possible due to high demand in videos on the Internet. The prominent market maker in the video streaming industry is Google’s YouTube and Hulu even if there are many controversies around those services. They provide users with a plethora of videos, either user created or professionally produced, that can be watched according to their interest. Nevertheless, considering YouTube’s platform is an alpha, the beta would be Afreeca TV.
Afreeca TV is a live interactive broadcast platform developed in 2006 by Nowcom, a company based in Korea, engaged in the provision of network security solutions and Internet services. The Internet broadcasting service, Afreeca TV, is a free service for online TV programs and provider of a live online personal broadcasting platform for anyone, anywhere, and anytime. Afreeca TV is available for both PCs and mobile phones, especially smart phones such as iPhone and Android phones.
An interesting fact about the company is that they have pioneered a unique micro-payment based monetization model that is normally used in the online gaming industry. Afreeca TV provides its users with items such as star balloons, stickers, and other rare items available to distinguish BJs from other users or make them unique, thereby having more thumbs up from their fellow viewers. Usually, users buy such items to utilize them on famous BJs’ pages to gain personal attention from BJs. BJs with regular appearance on the Afreeca TV eventually get famous and even work full-time, as it gives them enough cash-flow to support their hard-work. Moreover, a higher income for BJs is guaranteed by having more users’ visit, items sold, and recommendation clicks from viewers. Rumors say, popular BJs have made more than $300,000 for the past 3 years. They sometimes have professional managers, make-up artists, and IT technician like a mini professional media production shop. Nevertheless, BJs are not necessarily doing it for the money but fun (or maybe fame.) For instance, a bus driver in Seoul broadcasts his radio show through his iPhone, capturing his daily routine while playing radio music and entertaining commentaries for those who watch him on the show. He is not necessarily undertaking such an activity to solicit money from viewers, but instead he is trying to gain recognition and have fun. In order to gain more recognition and viewer-ships, some BJs have had cases showing explicit material such as soft porn, stripping or copy-righted material that should not be shared at all. These occurrences can negatively affect the proper usage of online technology and platforms itself, as it can arouse predicaments; hence, the service team of Afreeca TV has been working around the clock to minimize such materials and lessen the risk of getting framed for misuse by BJs and viewers.
Afreeca TV debuted as a great platform for airing the protest rallies on US beef products that took place in mid-June 2008. In a newfound democracy, “Freedom of Speech” was practiced in such a platform as it continually showed the live footage of protesters having violence and severe conflicts with law enforcement. Similarly, a SNS like Twitter provides their users with a platform that enables them to immediately tweet useful information that others cannot receive directly through other traditional forms of media. The only difference between Twitter and Afreeca TV is in the form of how the information is conveyed: words vs. videos. Not only does it broadcast political matters, but it is another universe of lonely beings who want to vent, share their idle time and do almost anything in a live online setting.
A well-known competitor of Afreeca TV in the US is Ustream.TV, founded by West Point graduates, which raised about $88 million for their investment from various venture capitals including Doll Capital Management, Band of Angels, and Softbank. Unlike the Korean counterpart, Ustream.TV and other US live broadcasting services like Justin.TV, Flixwagon, and myshowroom.TV, heavily rely on advertisement or the pay-per-view model.
Afreeca TV’s unique monetization model is an interesting system that should give inspiration to entrepreneurs in the interactive media industry. Imagine a similar platform and monetization model applied to a larger audience base outside of Korea. Afreeca maybe able to give an answer for revenue beyond conventional ad-base revenue only model. Hence, the company providing the live broadcasting platform could rake in profits, while Internet users who are interested in that particular topic could watch the content directly and immediately without being edited or filtered in ways done by local or cable TV channels. It’s an interesting value proposition.
(This article was developed with H.G. Byun, a publicist at KingsBay Capital.)