YouTube Is Beefing Up Its Live Video Game to Compete With Facebook and Periscope

Online video giant playing catch up

YouTube may have been first in the online video space, but as the digital ecosystem explodes, the online video giant has fallen behind in one of the newest trends: live video.

Last night during its keynote at VidCon, the annual confab for online video creators, YouTube took a major step towards fending off competition from Facebook and Twitter-owned Periscope. Kurt Wilms, YouTube's product lead for immersive experiences, reminded the audience that YouTube has been in the livestreaming game a lot longer than its competitors. "We've been offering livestreaming since before it was cool," he said.

But while Wilms pointed out that two major events of the last five years were livestreamed on YouTube, the Royal Wedding in 2011 and Felix Baumgartner's "Space Jump" in 2012, the fact is the online video giant has fallen behind. 

YouTube's place in the live video arena even took a hit this week on Capitol Hill. When C-SPAN turned off its cameras just as Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives began a sit-in demanding action on gun legislation, some lawmakers turned to their personal Facebook Live and Periscope accounts to stream the 25-hour long demonstration. C-SPAN ended up broadcasting various social feeds from the Representatives inside.

To that end, Wilms said that YouTube would be adding a livestream component to its mobile app, which should make it easier for creators to stream live video, essentially in the same way that Periscope and Facebook Live work. "We created that capture button last year to make on-the-go creation easier than ever, and soon it will give you the to option to broadcast what you're seeing live," said Wilms.

Wilms pointed out that YouTube still gets large audiences whenever it livestreams something, though its mostly for pre-planned events, like a 360-degree livestream during Coachella which brought in more than 21 million viewers. 

YouTube's announcement comes a few days after The Wall Street Journal revealed that Facebook signed contracts with some 140 athletes, celebrities and media companies to create videos for Facebook Live, leaving YouTube to fight for viewer and influencer attention. Yahoo's Tumblr also entered the live video fray this week, but their goal is to work alongside apps like YouTube, YouNow and others.

YouTube does have an incredibly large and loyal user base on its side as it expands its live reach. But just in case, it's also adding a mobile notification bell to alert fans when their favorite creator is streaming.