YouTube introduced a new live video streaming service on Monday in a move that pushes the web’s most popular video site into more direct competition with traditional television.
The Google-owned site said it would test the live video platform for two days before deciding on how to roll out the feature to users worldwide.
“This new platform integrates live streaming directly into YouTube channels; all broadcasters need is a webcam or external USB/FireWire camera,” YouTube representatives said in a blog posting.
“Included in the test is a ‘Live Comments’ module, which lets you engage with the broadcaster and the broader YouTube community.” The service will initially be limited to four YouTube partners, Howcast, Rocketboom, Next New Networks and Young Hollywood.
The move comes as Google prepares to launch its Google TV product later this year, and amid reports that YouTube is preparing a pay-per-view section on its site, which until now has been totally free to viewers.
YouTube has previously used outside technology to broadcast live several special events, ranging from a U2 concert, to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and Indian cricket matches.
But the new service will use YouTube’s own servers to stream programming to viewers.
While YouTube is the top video-sharing site in the U.S., it still has a lot of catching up to do to compete with established live streaming sites like Ustream and Justin.tv and LiveStream, which already have tens of millions of viewers each month.