October 13, 2016
SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter is taking the smartphone shackles off its live-video service Periscope in its latest attempt to broaden its audience.
The Periscope Producer feature announced Thursday will let media companies and other users pipe live video feeds directly into Twitter, without using a smartphone to record the images. Since its debut early last year, Periscope had been confined to live video feeds being taken on a smartphone.
If it had been available last week, Producer could have enabled a Florida television station showing live video of Hurricane Matthew on its own website to redistribute it on Twitter. To start, Producer will be limited to a small group of media companies such as Disney's ABC News. Others can apply for approval here.
Periscope CEO Kayvon Beykour said Producer will be available to all comers soon, something that he acknowledged could lead to unauthorized redistribution of live video. Piracy has been an issue dogging Periscope since people began using the service to broadcast live video of movies and TV shows with their smartphones.
The Periscope extension ups the ante on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's bet that the increasing popularity of online video will help widen the messaging service's appeal.
Twitter already has been streaming more news, entertainment and sports events, including the National Football League's Thursday Night games for 10 weeks during the season. Twitter hopes to build a following beyond people who rely on the service to tweet their thoughts and keep tabs on what's happening around the world.
If the plan works out the way that Dorsey envisions, Twitter will evolve into a broadcaster that becomes the go-to place for watching live video in a digital town square where people can share their opinions with each other.
But Twitter's focus on video hasn't done much for the company yet.
Since the end of 2014, Twitter has picked up just 15 million monthly users to expand its audience to 313 million people through June. During the same stretch, Facebook gained 319 million users to extend its reach beyond 1.7 billion people.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also is pouring more resources into video, including live events recorded by its users on their phones. That emphasis may make it more difficult for Periscope's expanded capability to make a major difference, given that people can find a far larger audience for their video on Facebook.
In an effort to distinguish Twitter from Facebook, Dorsey has been trying to position it as the "people news network" — though with little success since he replaced Dick Costolo as CEO 15 months ago.
Things have been looking so bleak that Twitter's board last month hired investment bankers to woo suitors that might be interested in buying the San Francisco company, according to published reports that cited unnamed people familiar with the matter. The prospective bidders included Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., as well as Apple Inc., Salesforce.com and Walt Disney Co.
The possibility of a sale tantalized investors until other media reports made it seem unlikely that Twitter will strike a deal soon. With a sale apparently off the table, the company's stock has dropped by 27 percent in the past week.