Encompassing the vast, rapidly changing expanse of livestreamed media, OnNow.tv draws on dozens of platforms and thousands of individual creators to build an organized way to find, follow, and get timely notifications for upcoming livestreams. OnNow.tv is platform agnostic, working with everyone involved to make livestream discovery centralized and simple. The guide is just coming out of beta and includes cooking, fitness/wellness, comedy, music, and other fun livestreams (like the myriad zoos and aquariums going live online). Registered users can get reminders for livestreams they want to see by adding them to their OnNow.tv Watch List, to help them keep tabs on their favorite creators.
“Livestreaming platforms and services haven’t intentionally made discovery hard, but they have so many livestreams, so many creators,” notes Matthew Adell, co-founder and CEO of OnNow.tv. “There’s not a programming schedule for many of the events. The platforms all work differently, running from Twitch, where it’s easy to find, say, a gamer playing a game you like, to Zoom, where a lot of comedians have turned because they can hear the audience’s laughter. Zoom is private; there’s no recommendation page or search function.”
OnNow.tv mashes up the best features of event services like Eventbrite with the evergreen utility of TV Guide, where you can see varied channels in one handy place. As a digital overview, however, OnNow.tv can also surface where favorite figures may be streaming next, beyond their own dedicated channels. “A digital guide can provide insight into what’s inside the livestream,” explains Adell. “For example, you may love DJ D-Nice, and you may want to find out when he is appearing on Insomniac’s Twitch channel. A holistic guide can help you find D-Nice all the places he’s performing. We believe this high-level defragmentation of the market will make it easy to add livestreaming to your media diet.”
Livestreams are a new addition to many fans’ daily entertainment and learning diets. Though many savvy artists, influencers, performers, and educators have been livestreaming for years, the medium exploded as the pandemic struck. The proliferation of options, approaches, platforms, and time zones made figuring out what was on when a huge mess.
Adell noticed the challenge after regularly missing a much-anticipated livestream in the first weeks of lockdown. He teamed up with some like-minded creators, neighbors, and friends, Stephan Jacobs, Henry Strange and Terrence Scoville, as they all dreamed of a way to make livestreams easier to find and catch. Adell’s background is in music tech: He helped lead turnarounds at legal-phase Napster and Beatport; founded and sold MetaPop, a social and collaboration platform for remixers; and as an executive, oversaw several successful exits at major music companies. Jacobs and Strange both had careers in live music; Strange, for example, worked huge tours for artists like Kanye West and Drake and is a professional DJ.
Strange felt the need for a service like OnNow.tv acutely: “As a touring musician and artist, I watched as many creative people and entertainment professionals saw an immediate, dramatic loss of connection with their audience. Everyone turned to livestreaming; the need to reach our fans and community was intense. The internet went crazy during lockdown,” he says. “However, figuring out how to successfully promote a livestream is really complicated. You may have a huge fanbase but just get fifteen people watching your stream. We wanted to solve this problem.”
One central challenge was merely alerting potential fans and followers to the livestreams about to start in some systematic way. To solve this problem, their diverse perspectives led to an ingenious approach. They decided to combine weaving together livestream platform APIs with individual entries by creators. The mix of automated and manually entered data allows OnNow.tv to be truly comprehensive, embracing the small-town yoga teacher or emerging artist with smaller followings and big-name, flashy livestream productions. On OnNow.tv, every stream has its own dedicated landing page, making it one click to add the event to your calendar and one more to share via your favorite social network or email.
Livestreaming at the moment is a virtual stand-in for real-life contexts and performances, but Adell and Strange are eagerly watching it evolve as its own expressive and entertaining medium. Strange notes that many artists and performers are establishing a weekly cadence for going live, or going all in on creating a de-facto broadcast channel. He imagines a future post-pandemic when livestreams work a bit like sports broadcasts have for decades: A few dedicated fans will choose to attend a high-profile artist’s live performance, while millions more can watch live from home.
The format and criteria of what makes a good livestream are emerging, as well. “If you think of film, for example, it began as a recorded version of a stage play until filmmakers discovered the medium’s full potential. Early television was simply a broadcast of a radio program,” Adell reflects. “Similarly, livestreaming is a nascent medium now. We’re at the very beginning of exploring what it can do,” exploration that promises to continue after live performances, events, and classes return.
Unlike other media, livestreaming directly fosters togetherness, an inspiring facet for the team at OnNow.tv. “A livestream doesn’t have to be live content, but it has to be broadcast all at once to everyone. Experiencing the same music, yoga class, or comedy set together in real time can make people feel connected and can really enhance our enjoyment of what we’re participating in,” muses Adell. “These months have shown us the incredible importance of doing things together with your friends, family, or even strangers who are kindred spirits. Livestreams give us that."