Live Video Streaming Takes Center Stage as Clubhouse-led 'Live Audio' Trend Fades

Lon Harris
Lon Harris is a contributor to dot.LA. His work has also appeared on ScreenJunkies, RottenTomatoes and Inside Streaming.
Live Video Streaming Takes Center Stage as Clubhouse-led 'Live Audio' Trend Fades
Evan Xie

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According to The Hollywood Reporter, Spotify plans to shut down its standalone live audio app, the logically-titled Spotify Live, at the end of April, as part of a larger shift away from real-time programming.

This represents something of a reversal from the last few years for the Swedish audio platform. In the early days of the pandemic, live group chat or “social audio” apps – led by Clubhouse – briefly became a major viral trend, with scores of bored people stuck at home logging in for large-scale free-ranging conversations. In March of 2021, seeking to join the wave, Spotify acquired Betty Labs, the startup behind the live chat app Locker Room, for around $67.7 million.


The Live Audio Autopsy

Locker Room was a sports-focused platform giving fans a place to connect, discuss their favorite teams and, let’s be honest, trash talk at a time when in-person events weren’t happening and sports bars were shut down. The app hadn’t built a massive community at the time of the acquisition – only counting around 19,000 installs post-launch – but nonetheless gave Spotify a presence in the exciting new world of social audio. At the time, the company’s research and development chief, Gustav Söderström, openly acknowledged that features like Locker Room might not ever drive revenue but added “it has potential, and it’s our job to explore.”

Despite Locker Room’s relatively slow start, on paper, the deal made some sense. Whereas a new upstart app had to attract a lot of users quickly in order to jumpstart worthwhile conversations, Spotify already had hundreds of thousands of people listening to the latest Gorillaz joint, ready to try out any new features the moment they appeared. As well, Spotify already collects personalization data on the listening habits of its users, in order to better recommend content to them. Tying that recommendation engine into curated programming – say, alerting a user when a hot podcast about a subject of specific interest to them was starting – seemed like a natural evolution for live audio platforms.

By June 2021, Spotify had launched its own live audio app – Greenroom – which was rebranded to Spotify Live in 2022. This was accompanied by a large-scale marketing push by the company around live content, incorporating the company’s line-up of big-name celebrity podcasters, like “Call Her Daddy” host Alex Cooper, “Daily Show” vet Hasan Minhaj, and influencer Tana Mongeau.

By late 2022, though, it became clear that internet users were losing interest in live audio, either due to an end to pandemic lockdown protocols or just the trend wearing itself out organically. In December of last year, Spotify started quietly cancelling a number of its live shows, including “Deux Me After Dark,” “Doughboys: Snack Pack,” and “The Movie Buff.”

In general, Spotify plans to pivot away from live content and deeper into new music discovery, with a variety of new features helping artists to promote songs to potential new fans. At a March promotional event, the platform introduced “Marquee,” a new way for artists to promote and sponsor their own releases, and an enhanced discovery tool helping artists and labels to prioritize specific tracks they want to promote.

Spotify’s not alone, either. Facebook also saw the writing on the wall and scaled back its Clubhouse clone – “Live Audio Rooms” – in mid-2022. Amazon also laid off half of the team working on its Amp live radio app last year, after it failed to generate significant interest from users.

Hope for Live Streaming Video

Yet while live audio seems to have faded, live video remains a key area of interest among the major streamers. Hot on the heels of its big Chris Rock live comedy experiment, Netflix has announced another livestreamed event – the Season 4 “Love is Blind” reunion. Couples and singles from the show will reunite along with hosts Vanessa and Nick Lachey for a livestreamed breakdown of the season’s biggest events on April 16 at 5 pm PT.

Netflix hasn’t released specific viewership numbers around the Rock special. It managed to land in Netflix’s Top 10 chart in the US on its debut week, despite only being available to stream for the final two days of eligibility, and the streamer has planned more live events in its wake, so we can presume it was at least somewhat successful. The streamer also presented the SAG Awards live on its YouTube channel this year.

User-generated content hubs like Twitch and YouTube aside, most of the interest in livestreamed video from the major subscription players remains centered around sports coverage. While there’s undoubtedly a large audience that enjoys watching live sports, moving these eyeballs on to streaming platforms also remains a bit of an inexact, uncertain science at this point.

According to Nielsen, Amazon’s 11-year mega-deal to bring “Thursday Night Football” to the Prime Video platform averaged around 9.58 million viewers per game in its first season. Amazon’s own internal figures put the numbers at more like 11.3 million viewers. That’s still below the viewership on “Thursday Night Football” games back in the 2021 season, when they were also being simulcast on Fox and cable’s NFL Network, but it’s still better than many had predicted, considering that the games were now streaming behind the Prime Video paywall.

With Amazon’s contributions more than making up for the loss of ad revenue, the NFL financially profits off of the deal, according to The Athletic. Apple’s “Friday Night Baseball” live streams go fully behind the paywall this year, after some games were available to stream for free last season. That company also may still be looking to get deeper into live video; a recent report indicated that they’re considering a bid on English Premier League soccer rights as well. Ultimately, it may just come down to the content itself. While “live podcasts” failed to become appointment viewing once Americans were freed from lockdown and allowed to go to brunch again, baseball and football games retain enough significance to get Americans to actually plop down on their couch at a pre-set time and flip on their favorite streaming devices. - Lon Harris

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🏰 Disney's Epic Investment Stands Out Amidst Gaming Industry Layoffs

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

🔦 Spotlight

In the midst of widespread gaming industry layoffs, a glimmer of positive news emerges as Disney announces a significant move: a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games. 🏰💰🐭

Image Source: Disney

Disney's $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, disclosed late Wednesday, signals a strategic alignment aimed at expanding the success of "Fortnite." The deal enhances Epic's growth prospects after financial setbacks, including layoffs, and strengthens the partnership between the two companies. With Disney gaining a larger equity stake in Epic, the collaboration will broaden the integration of beloved Disney franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Avatar into the game, potentially boosting its appeal and longevity. This significant investment underscores Disney's commitment to interactive entertainment and signifies a shift towards games as a primary revenue stream, aligning with the growing trend of digital engagement among younger demographics. Moreover, the potential for crossover sales of physical Disney products within "Fortnite" and the exploration of new content distribution channels are just some of the opportunities arising from this partnership.

For LA tech, the Disney-Epic Games partnership represents a validation of the region's burgeoning tech and gaming ecosystem. The substantial investment in Epic, who maintains a large Los Angeles office with 1,000+ employees (according to LinkedIn), reflects confidence in the LA’s talent pool and innovation potential. Additionally, this partnership between two industry giants fosters an environment for further collaboration, investment, and growth within LA's tech sector. As Disney and Epic Games deepen their ties and explore new avenues for content integration and distribution, it not only elevates the prominence of LA as a tech hub but also stimulates economic growth and job creation in the region. This partnership highlights LA's unique position as a hub where technology and entertainment converge. With its ability to integrate diverse industries, LA is driving innovation and expansion in digital entertainment. 🚀💸🎮

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • ProducePay, a financing and marketplace platform for the fresh produce market, raised a $38M Series D led by Syngenta Group Ventures joined by Commonfund, Highgate Private Equity, G2 Venture Partners, Anterra Capital, Astanor Ventures, Endeavor8, Avenue Venture Opportunities, Avenue Sustainable Solutions, and Red Bear Angels. - learn more
  • Blush, an invite-only dating app that drives users to local businesses on dates, raised a $7M Seed Round from individuals like Naval Ravikant. - learn more
  • Mogul, a startup founded last year that provides an overview of an artist's royalty earnings and identifies areas where money is owed but has not yet been collected, raised a $1.9 million seed round from Wonder Ventures, United Talent Agency, AmplifyLA, and Creator Partners. - learn more
  • Avnos, a hybrid direct air capture startup, raised a $36M Series A led by NextEra Energy and joined by Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. - learn more
  • AI.fashion, startup whose mission is to help retailers enhance the online shopping experience by providing consumers with virtual try-ons and personalized fashion recommendations, raised a $3.6M Seed Round led by Neo. - learn more
  • Suma Wealth, startup that aims to demystify financial topics and provide culturally relevant content, virtual experiences, and resources to help Latino users navigate financial challenges and opportunities, raised a $2.2M Seed Round . Radicle Impact led, and was joined by Vamos Ventures, OVO fund and the American Heart Association Impact Fund. - learn more
  • 222, a startup that helps users discover their city and meet new people through unique social experiences, raised a $2.5M Seed Round. Investors included 1517 Fund, General Catalyst, Best Nights VC, Scrum Ventures, and Upfront Ventures. - learn more
  • LimaCharlie, a security operations cloud platform, raised a $10.2M Series A led by Sands Capital. - learn more
  • Polycam, an app that uses a smartphone’s sensors to capture 3D scans of objects, raised an $18M Series A co-led by Left Lane Capital and Adjacent, and joined by Adobe Ventures and individuals like Chad Hurley and Shaun Maguire. -learn more.

LA Venture Funds

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a startup building software to decarbonize logistics for logistics businesses and goods business through a vetted marketplace and optimization software. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $1.5M Pre Seed Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

Venture Waves, Climate Tech Wins, and Silicon Beach's Ongoing Evolution

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Anduril Seeks $1.5B in VC Funds

Defense company Anduril Industries Inc., based in Costa Mesa and founded by Palmer Luckey, is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in fresh funds to boost its valuation to $12.5 billion or more, according to sources quoted by The Information. This fundraising effort, if successful, would mark one of the largest venture capital rounds of the year.

Image Source: Anduril

Anduril recently secured a contract to develop and test small unmanned fighter jet prototypes under the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, beating out major defense companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Alongside General Atomics, Anduril will design, manufacture, and test these aircraft, with a final multibillion-dollar production decision expected in fiscal year 2026. This program aims to deliver at least 1,000 combat aircraft to fly in concert with manned platforms and is part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance initiative. Central to Anduril’s success in this contract is the Fury autonomous air vehicle, acquired through the purchase of Blue Force Technologies. This victory underscores Anduril's rapid advancement in the defense sector, aligning with Luckey's vision of building faster and more cost-effective defense assets. - learn more

Los Angeles Ranks Number 1 in Emerging Climate Tech Hub

The 2024 Emerging Climate Tech Hubs Report by Revolution highlights Los Angeles as a burgeoning center for climate tech innovation. LA's growth in this sector is driven by its diverse talent pool, strong research institutions, and a culture of environmental consciousness. The city's unique mix of legacy industries, such as entertainment and aerospace, alongside emerging tech companies, positions it as a pivotal player in the climate tech landscape. This shift reflects a broader trend of decentralized climate tech funding across the U.S., reducing the historical dominance of California's traditional hubs. - learn more

Silicon Beach: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Assessing the overall health of the startup market is challenging, especially as venture capital funding has decreased by an average of 61% from 2021 to 2023 across the top VC markets in the US. Markets with robust ecosystems in AI, SaaS, Biotech, Healthtech, and Fintech appear to be weathering the downturn better than those focused on Consumer and Gaming industries, areas where Los Angeles traditionally excels.

Percent Change In VC Funding By Region

CB Insights

LA Times paints a rather bleak outlook on the Los Angeles tech scene noting venture capital funding in Greater Los Angeles plummeted 73% from 2021 to 2022. Silicon Beach, once a vibrant tech corridor, currently faces high vacancy rates and lacks late-stage financiers, especially in the AI sector. However, there are positive signs, including growth in aerospace startups and increased venture capital investment in early 2024, suggesting a potential rebound for LA's tech ecosystem.

While LA may not be exceeding expectations during this period, its tech ecosystem warrants a nuanced evaluation, given the broader market dynamics and its strong performance in specific sectors. Reach out to us with your thoughts.

🚀 SpaceX gears up for another stellar year, active raises, and more

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Happy Friday Los Angeles! You made it through the first week of 2024!

🔦 Spotlight

Elon Musk may be a divisive (albeit entertaining) figure, but the continued success of SpaceX is pivotal for the aerospace industry in Los Angeles and more broadly around the world.

Image Source: SpaceX webcast

What happened with SpaceX in 2023?

  • Elon Musk challenged Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight.
  • SpaceX launched 96 successful missions with its Falcon series of rockets, a 57% increase over its previous annual record.
  • SpaceX conducted two test flights of the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, Starship.
  • Roughly two-thirds of SpaceX's launches in 2023 were devoted to building out Starlink, the company's satellite-internet megaconstellation.
  • Isaacson’s Elon Musk biography was published in September including everything from Musk’s tumultuous relationship with his father to his work ethic and “demon mode”.

Moving forward what can we expect from SpaceX and its controversial founder? Continued innovation pushing the aerospace industry to new limits? Yes. More drama? Without a doubt.

Here is some of what is to come in 2024:

🤝 Venture Deals

Just Announced

Check back next week!

LA Exits

  • CG Oncology, an Irvine, CA-based developer of immunotherapies for bladder cancer, filed for a $100M IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (CGON) with Morgan Stanley as left lead underwriter, and has raised around $317m in VC funding. - learn more
  • McNally Capital agreed to sell Advanced Micro Instruments, a Costa Mesa, CA-based maker of gas analyzers and sensing technologies, to Enpro (NYSE: NPO). - learn more

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a hard-tech startup that is developing a technology for decarbonizing natural gas, is raising a $1.5M Seed Round. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $250K Angel Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

📅 LA Tech Calendar

Sunday, January 7th

Wednesday, January 10th

  • Startup Cafe: Networking with a Kick - Entrepreneurs, Startups, and Tech Enthusiasts join together to meet and connect with like-minded people, industry professionals and investors, while enjoying a nice cup of coffee in Venice at The KINN. This week’s interactive discussion about AI’s evolution in entertainment will feature Dr. Sam Khoze and Rachel Joy Victor.
  • Venice Tech Happy Hour- Join Startup Coil and FoundrHaus Wednesday evening and enjoy the sunset from the rooftop, grab a bite overlooking Abbot Kinney, and mingle with other tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs by the bar on the patio.

Have an awesome event coming up? Reach out to be featured on next week’s Newsletter!

📙 What We’re Reading

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