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Meerkat changes approach, cites competition and slow growth

meerkatLive streaming video app Meerkat is working on a new product, after admitting that mobile broadcast video “hasn’t quite exploded as quickly as we’d hoped.”

In a memo to investors, which was published in full on the Meerkat blog, company CEO Ben Rubin cited competition from the major social networks and said that Meerkat is now investing in a new product designed to address some of the challenges it has faced since its strong initial launch a year ago.

“The distribution advantages of Twitter/Periscope and Facebook Live drew more early users to them away from us and we were not able to grow as quickly alongside as we had planned,” said Rubin.

He claimed that while live video has become an “interesting feature” for established social networks like Twitter and Facebook, “it hasn’t yet developed into a self-sustaining new network as we hoped we would do with Meerkat.”

While Meerkat’s initial aim was to create a “new class of live broadcasters”, so far the value of broadcasting live is not clear to people who are not celebrities, or media or news broadcasters, said Rubin.

“For most regular people   it has been hard to figure out when or even why to go live,” admitted Rubin, claiming that one-to-many mobile live video is still in its infancy and no one really knows what constitutes “‘good’ live video”.

The Meerkat CEO said that the service has had some success in the last year with prominent YouTubers and media companies like Discovery, Hulu and TMZ, but claimed that maintaining these audience levels seemed unsustainable and that the current Meerkat product was not set up to win against competition from Facebook and Twitter.

“There is a bright spot to all of this. We found the best Meerkat moments happened when people who knew each other (either in person or online) came together live and interacted in realtime,” said Rubin, adding that the new Meerkat product would be built around this concept.

In the blog post, the Meerkat boss stressed that the company isn’t going anywhere, but is “thinking about cool new ways that live video might become a part of everyone’s daily lives.”

News of Meerkat’s new direction was reported first by US tech blog Re/Code.