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Exploring the Cultural Impact of Live Streaming in Singapore

1. Introduction to Live Streaming

The unique features of live streaming Singapore have driven the growth of streaming platforms and user base in Singapore. At last count, YouTube and Twitch, among other platforms, had over 5 million registered users in the country. Furthermore, content creators—termed “broadcasters” or “streamers” on platforms globally—produce and share live streaming content through original and diverse formats such as video game speedruns, “play” (cooking, art, or anything else that can attract viewers’ interest), music, and the now-mainstream content creator monetization known as IRL (“in real life” live videos), and more. The ability to produce and disseminate live-streaming video content has democratized the broadcast sector by supporting a range of creative content of differing focus, budget, and depth within reach of all broadcaster creators. In fact, live stream service has gained global prominence as a viable career path and is in the process of revolutionizing the media and entertainment industry. The global popularity of live streaming, known universally as “streaming,” reflects the massive shift in audience preferences and shifts in the economics of media consumption. Audience members not only prefer to watch unique content, but they also increasingly expect it. Digital users are now primarily interested in accessing real, relatable content from “real” people, not just those created or produced for television consumption.

The breadth of available broadcast content is a direct consequence of the range of motivation behind the broadcast. It is now well recognized that viewers consume digital content for entertainment, education, social, or practical reasons. In economic terms, this breadth of motivations underpins the diversity of digital content across platforms. These platforms are, in turn, growing more elaborate at serving the broadcast contributors and their respective viewer audiences. Little doubt exists that the consequences of these interactions include both social and cultural change. High levels of content interactivity are unique, in particular, to live streaming. Due to their real-time nature, live streaming interactions are built on the principle of synchronicity, in which responses to broadcast events among contributors and viewers are coordinated and occur without perceptible delays. Participants not only create and modify content in real time but also interact in actual real time.

Live streaming is an activity that involves hosting and transmitting live content over the internet to connected viewers or audiences. As the name suggests, this content is made accessible in real-time over streaming services or social media platforms. Commonly, the content itself includes a range of video broadcasts that may vary in terms of quality, intent, and production value. Live streaming also involves a high degree of interaction between the broadcasters and the connected audiences. This real-time connectivity makes live streaming a unique form of digital content creation and distribution. Furthermore, the instant feedback provided during viewing sessions supports a wide variety of content creation and consumption patterns.

1.1. Definition and Evolution of Live Streaming

Over the years, the definition and context of the term “broadcasting” has evolved with the technological shifts, prevalence, and popularity. Simply put, broadcasting refers to the act of delivering media content such as audio, images, or video to viewers or listeners through a medium such as a radio or television. Media contents were first delivered through analogue broadcasts, which utilized analogue signals transmitted through the radio frequency electromagnetic spectrum. Whenever broadcasters wanted to reach their audience, they had to encode their media contents and send them out over the available medium, just like any other message. People who wished to receive these media contents had to tune into the correct channel. This meant that there was a delay between when the broadcaster transmitted the message and when listeners could hear it. The introduction and continual growth of the Internet has changed the content development, delivery, and consumption landscape.

2. Live Streaming Platforms in Singapore

To capitalize on this growth, several live streaming platforms have emerged, the most famous of which are Twitch, YouTube Live, Twitter Live, Facebook Live, Mixer, Bigo Live, and Instagram Live. In Singapore, the most popular live streaming platforms are Twitch, a website owned by Amazon and primarily used for live gaming, and Bigo Live, a mobile app owned by a Singapore-based company that concentrates viewership on Asia. Available in 191 countries, it is the sixth most utilized video live streaming app in the world. The Bigo Live app was created by David Li and Jason Hu, two entrepreneurs from China, and launched in March 2016. In 2018, Bigo Live acquired a company in South Korea by the name of Beansmile. In May 2019, Bigo Live launched a new mobile game streaming platform owned by Cube TV.

Live streaming is rapidly changing society, as with each broadcast, hours and hours of original content are replaced daily. In 2016, the most popular live streamer, using the name “Pewdiepie,” had 57 million subscribers, watched for over 14 billion minutes, and earned over 14 million dollars for his content. At its initial stages, gamers were the bulk of live streamers, forming tight-knit communities with active engagement from game fans and fellow gamers. Today, businesses and individuals alike are live streaming a variety of events including beauty tips, the preparation of homemade meals, unpacking newly bought items, playing musical instruments, and giving live comparisons of different retail products. More traditional events such as weddings, graduation ceremonies, and other significant events are also making use of livecasting to share events in real time with friends and family located further away.

2.1. Key Players in the Industry

Key players (overseas) – Twitch, YouTube, Facebook Gaming, Mixer. The first key players mentioned were Twitch, which has a headquarters in San Francisco, California, United States. The platform was founded in 2011. It is a live-streaming platform for gamers. Content has expanded to include music, cooking, and other categories. Twitch was acquired by Amazon in 2014 for close to 1 billion dollars. The platform is monetized through ads, subscriptions, bits, and donations. YouTube Live (now YouTube Gaming) is the live-streaming platform of this popular video hosting service. YouTube primarily hosts recorded videos, but live streams offer monetization tools like ads and subscriptions, which position them as a competitor to Twitch. Google, the parent company of YouTube, brought in close to 4 billion dollars in ad revenue from YouTube in the last quarter of 2019. Facebook Gaming (formerly known as Facebook Live) is the live-streaming platform of Facebook. Facebook started as a social networking platform in 2004 and later acquired Instagram and WhatsApp. Facebook Gaming made off-platform efforts to bring in big streamers in recent years and lured more viewers to gaming streams in this manner. It is a competitor to YouTube Gaming and Twitch. Facebook has courted popular gamers to stream exclusively on the platform. Mixer was a live-streaming platform owned and operated by Microsoft. Microsoft acquired the platform in 2016. In 2019, Microsoft shut down live streaming from its mobile operating system that is installed in billions of smartphones. The rise of live streaming as a content format has seen a few popular live streaming platform players pop up. While Asia has Huya and DouYu battling one another, the western world has Twitch, YouTube (now YouTube Gaming), Facebook Gaming, and Mixer (acquired by Facebook).

3. Cultural Significance of Live Streaming in Singapore

Live streaming captured real people in real moments in real definition and delivered it to us through a one-way communication channel that ended only when the stream stopped broadcasting. It combined entertainment and therapy, forming connections to ease loneliness and validate life. The result was the creation of a new space in a country dominated by housing, shopping, and working space, generating a substantial impact on our people-to-people and people-to-space relationships.

Though live streaming is a global phenomenon, it has had a distinct impact on Singaporean culture and society because it offered a solution to a real space problem experienced by many Singaporeans. Dense population and limited space make affordable housing a challenge that connects heartlands and the overhead bridges that connect them. This was bridged with a different kind of attachment that extended the feeling of kinship to people who appear on these bridges. The reach of this bond extended and eventually became a national bond when an old man who sits and imposes order and control on his piece of the world, and a tiny little girl who constantly moved exuberantly throughout, became part of our national identity and pride. Overhead bridges and heartland residents had become very special because we were able to enter into that space through a screen, at groups and experience an emotional connection with the people who inhabit it.

3.1. Impact on Traditional Media

Traditional media refers to various broadcast institutions like newspapers, televised news shows, and news online. These institutions facilitate broadcasting news, basic information, entertainment, and advertising messages to a broad public audience via accessible media models. Media in the form of classic news like daily newspapers and news websites such as Reuters and CNN use state-of-the-art news blending time-sensitive news stories with personalized policies to include high-quality dealings through extensive audience access. Besides, traditional media lead to high costs of obtaining news, necessary technical discussions, and the ability for many people to meaningfully debate. They have reported news to support democratic choices, like offering broad access to information and upholding severe monetary and core implication checks. In terms of personal and professional waves, changes in traditional methods are therefore important for the production and supplies of news reports, entertainment, and funded information.

With the increased availability and quality of mobile video streaming, present-day viewers are able to broadcast live content at an unprecedented level. This has resulted in millions of users tuning in to live broadcasts every day, and the explosion of live streaming has provided a channel with all-inclusive broadcasting activities for everyone. Due to live streaming’s good compatibility, it threatens the sustenance of traditional media that rely on traditional network technologies and elite groups who receive professional training in particular technical fields for the coverage and delivery of quality content to an essentially passive audience. The changes introduced by massive audiences consuming produce various possibilities, including increased audience engagement, broadcast reform, and members of the public broadcasting content tailored to their own needs as against striving for audiences.

4. Challenges and Opportunities in the Live Streaming Industry

This constricted understanding of live streaming has made it difficult for the industry to develop effectively both domestically and internationally. The industry serves people directly, values diversity, and includes everyone, but there is still a need for the establishment of norms, rules, and industry best practices. According to Hubs and Denham (2016), there are few laws that directly address live streaming. Topics relating to legal regulations may also vary incorrectly between interpretative differences, or indeed, may not be applied at all. Furthermore, mobile network laws and other technical issues can also be barriers to entry for the live streaming industry. Unclear legal boundaries and barriers to expansion are obstacles that hinder growth in a sector characterized by potential.

The live streaming industry is also characterized by its low barriers to entry. Anyone with a mobile phone and an internet connection can become a live streamer, and it is specifically due to this fact that many people tend to take the live streaming industry at face value when they do not really understand the enormous potential of the industry and its numerous possibilities. In stark contrast to traditional media industries, live streaming offers its participants the power and freedom of individualism and unique personalities, giving creators a platform for self-expression, diversity in content, and creation, and the ability to break gender, ethnic, and social norms. There is no need for branding labels or external representations of support or trust between actors and the audience, as the quantifiable data produced by platforms satisfies the market, consumers, and live streamers’ need for trust. The need for human satisfaction and relationships explains the speed and scope of expansion of the global live streaming industry and can be seen as the main common feature and thematic unifier of individual cases, as the underlying connotations of the live streaming industry manifest in the goals and development of the industry.

4.1. Regulatory Concerns

Another crucial challenge associated with user-generated content and Singapore society lies in the blurred boundaries between private and public spheres, and targeted and mass communications. In the pre-Internet era, the distinction between what is consumed by the intended recipient and that being readily accessible by the mass audience is readily understood. For example, one can usually listen to a radio broadcast and be assured that the audience is not only by chance composed of its intended targets. However, for many legacy media examples, the recorded material’s content does not change, and we as the audience do not contribute to the production of the media product. Moreover, media channels are generally managed or scheduled with carefully crafted motifs by professionals.

One critical challenge associated with live streaming via mobile devices revolves around the monetization of users’ content. Castells’ articulation of the culture of real virtuality underscores the idea that creative expression seamlessly fits into mobile communications that are practiced as one flows among sites. Yet, the intellectual property rights (IPR) attached to these forms of real-time mobile communications are not adequately designed to incorporate content delivery in Singapore and possibly in many other parts of the world. Examples of content delivery-related regulatory concerns in Singapore are various. First, according to the evidence we have presented earlier, the majority of respondents produced content, hence it follows that the majority are potential players in the content delivery industry.

5. Conclusion and Future Trends

It is undeniable that the personalities and cultures of performers have become an important appeal to live streaming and played an important role in the transmission or communication of cultural power on live streaming platforms. In the research on whether the digital live streaming craze is purely a fandom for targeted idols, this research explored the development of live streaming and raised concerns about the blurring of virtual and reality by the definition of the centrality effect of cultural value in live streaming. In response to these shortcomings, exploring the nature of cultural and festival power in live streaming, as well as the performance and promotion culture, has an important theoretical and practical significance. Although digital live streaming services have greatly benefited users by enabling interactivity in a sharing community, there is a significant lack of comprehensive research on the understanding of the cultural power behind digital live streaming activities. The findings show that the development of live streaming is influenced by the centrality effect of cultural value, tour performance, and promotion culture have an impact on live streaming culture, and tour factors have impacts on consumption behaviors. The value of live streaming service is subsequently enhanced.

The emergence of live streaming is an important cultural, social, and economic phenomenon, and it carries innovative and transformative potential which greatly enriches digital live streaming in cultural consumption. First, this research presents the state of digital live streaming in Singapore, which exists in different domains and involves various types of live streaming. The types of live streaming have been evolving. However, the consumption habits and the value of live streaming have yet to be substantially improved. Although live streaming is influenced by traditional cultural forms like those of a city channel, it still has innovation potential for expanding the value of existing cultural resources, creating cultural heritage marketing, and online ticket purchasing channels for other cultural products.