YouTube To Test Live Broadcasts This Week

Dennis Faas's picture

YouTube will this week test live broadcasting for the first time. If successful, it could bring both new visitors to the site as well as several legal and technical challenges.

At first the company will run a two-day trial featuring live broadcasts from four of the major companies that produce original videos for YouTube, such as Howcast. It will then analyze the data from the trials to find ways to refine and improve the technology before eventually making it available to all users. (Source:

A New Frontier for YouTube

YouTube has previously broadcast live events, but only through partnerships with other technology providers. This will be the first time it has done it entirely with its own technology.

The news comes as several other companies already specialize in making live online video streaming available to home users, though of course these firms -- such as and -- are not as well known to the casual audience.

Live broadcasting of content provided by users entails several technical issues. The main one is that clips must be converted and carried to users almost instantaneously. Another is that, to avoid jerky interrupted pictures, such videos often require a higher bandwidth, requiring more resources at YouTube.

New Service May Explode Illegal Streaming

As with YouTube's existing clips, copyright infringement is also likely to be a major issue.

On other sites that allow live broadcasting, many if not most "streams" contain illegal content. This can cover everything from playing movie files to broadcasting pay-per-view television events as they happen. This is done through a variety of technical methods, some as simple as purchasing an event and then placing a webcam in front of the television.

The big difference with live online video, compared with YouTube's existing set-up, is that it is much harder to police clips. At the moment, YouTube investigates reports of copyright complaints and usually takes offending or suspicious clips down promptly. The problem is that it takes a lot of time to investigate a complaint, meaning it's too late to make any real difference as the event will have already finished broadcasting.

Another drawback for YouTube is that, being so high-profile, it's more likely to attract attention if and when users broadcast inappropriate, offensive or deliberately shocking content. (Source:

However, the company clearly believes these concerns are outweighed by the potential benefits. It notes that live broadcasts will allow users to respond to viewer comments in real time, making videos truly interactive and putting them on a par with television broadcasting.

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