Twitter is doing whatever it can to help its live video streaming acquisition Periscope beat independent competitor Meerkat. Multiple sources tell TechCrunch that Twitter has been contacting celebrities who use Meerkat, trying to convince them Meerkat is dying and that they should use Periscope instead.
Sources also say Twitter has been in touch with media companies that use Meerkat, going so far as to imply that if they don’t exclusively use Periscope, it could cut off their access to Amplify. Amplify, in short, is Twitter’s answer to commercial TV: it’s a product that pairs media companies with brands to create promoted tweets based around video clips, giving a boost of reach both to the media company and the brand sponsoring it.
But Twitter is not the only one trying to catch stars, it seems. One source tells us that Meerkat has been tapping celebrities from Vine, a Twitter-owned app, to get them to broadcast on Meerkat. Meerkat disputes this (see update, below). Many Vine stars already broadcast on YouNow, another competing live broadcasting app. And Meerkat also managed to bag a big exclusive with Madonna, albeit with some hiccups.
The moves by Twitter highlight not just the acute competition between the two apps — which are much more alike than they are different — but also Twitter’s push to position itself as a broadcasting platform, with the coveted content and audience that come with that.
We have contacted Twitter and Meerkat for a comment for this story and will update as we learn more.
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and Twitter investor Chris Sacca are said to have contacted high-profile public figures after they broadcast on Meerkat, claiming Periscope has broader reach and a better app. Twitter’s celebrity outreach team is also said to have gotten involved on behalf of Periscope in what our sources describe as very aggressive tactics.
“Twitter hounds every celebrity after they try Meerkat. Almost to the point of stalking,” a source said, adding that it’s leading to some tension internally as well. “Twitter is absolutely obsessed with Meerkat. They talk about it all the time to the point that the Periscope employees and founders are angry.”
Meerkat unwittingly built its initial live streaming app on top of Twitter’s social graph, communication, and distribution systems, not knowing Twitter had acquired fellow live streaming app Periscope months earlier.
Meerkat gained early traction and mindshare amongst the startup community. But to break into the mainstream and pick up real critical mass with consumers, social media products often need very popular people to spread their apps to their fans.
After Twitter confirmed its acquisition of Periscope, sources say it began contacting celebrities asking them to wait until Periscope launched to choose which live streaming app they would use. Then, with just a few hours notice, Twitter cut off Meerkat’s access to Twitter’s social graph. This makes it far less seamless to follow Twitter contacts on Meerkat, although users can still share links to Meerkat streams on Twitter.
Much like Twitter’s recent move to cut off firehose partners DataSift and NTT because Twitter wants to make a bigger move to work directly with data companies, Twitter’s move to axe Meerkat access in light of Periscope is not too much of a surprise.
But apart from looking a bit like a big bully in its anti-Meerkat tactics, it remains to be seen whether Twitter can stave off competition by directly lobbying against rivals — especially since there are other competitors already out there, and more likely to come. We’ve heard, for one, that Yahoo is looking at how it could potentially develop a product in the area of live video streaming.
In the end, the app that’s capturing and building its audience best will win, and the jury is out on whether either of these will be the “winner” at the end of the day (plenty of growing pains at both, btw). Currently, Periscope is ranked number 165 of among all apps in the U.S. and 22 among social apps according to App Annie, while Meerkat is 120 amongst social apps and was last pegged at 1142 in the overall chart.
Live streaming could be big, but clearly Twitter doesn’t think there’s enough room for both Periscope and Meerkat. Reports of Meerkat’s death have been exagerated, but it will have to scramble to live through Twitter’s marketing onslaught.
Update: Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin tells us that while his team did reach out to Vine stars pre-launch, that was for a previous streaming app called Yevvo. “Since Meerkat launched on February 27, the team has actively approached zero people asking to use our product. All we do is work with inbound,” he said.