Reddit Brings Public Access Television Back With RPAN, a “Live Broadcasting Experience”

Reddit's experimenting with the idea of having its own public access network, called "RPAN" that'll be available for a limited time. Details!

Mustafa Gatollari - Author

Aug. 22 2019, Updated 4:49 p.m. ET

Remember the good old days of public access television when they'd let any psychopath who put their name on a list have their own TV show? While that might sound like a terrible idea, it has given us some excellent gifs and early viral clips, like this preacher from the hood who pretended a phone book was a bible.

Well, reddit's bringing that public access magic to their own "live broadcasting experience" called RPAN.

What exactly is reddit's RPAN?

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While giving many people with zero production experience TV time might sound like a bad idea, there's a certain nostalgia associated with RPAN. The entire aesthetic of it looks like old-school VHS tracking, and the branding efforts look like they're paying off: RPAN's already got 70.7k subscribers, which isn't bad for a "test" project that'll be over at the end of the week.

At the end of the day, RPAN is really just reddit's attempt at live-streaming. Think of it as Twitch, but specifically for the reddit community, which is one of the biggest and most dedicated on the internet. It's a natural progression for the platform, which has experimented with third-party and native video uploads. Alex Le, reddit's VP, spoke with Wired about RPAN.

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"We know that our users are familiar with streaming across their internet experience, because they’re seeing it on other platforms. Streaming on other services can sort of be like, just turn on the camera. We think reddit will lend itself more toward shorter-form content, capturing something that’s really interesting in the moment, so that users can cycle through and see a bunch of different perspectives."

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RPAN was available for all redditors to use, with the rear-facing camera on user's phones and tablets set as the default configuration. What's interesting about the streaming service is that only 100 users at a time are allowed to stream, mimicking the limited-network style of old-school TV. Practically speaking, it makes a lot of sense for reddit: fewer streamers mean fewer resources for their back-end team to worry about.

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Since RPAN is a live-streaming service and reddit wants to differentiate it from other options on the web, they decided to implement some strict guidelines for users. Employees of the site monitored the live streams during the test period very stringently, to not only collect data but ensure that community guidelines were met, which prohibited any explicit or NSFW material from being shared.

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Will RPAN become permanent?

With the growing popularity of the platform, it's very possible that it will make a comeback or even become a mainstay of reddit. Implementing it on a larger scale to ensure that community guidelines are adhered to will be a tall order, but the test period should provide enough data for a permanent implementation.

So have you tried out RPAN yet? Do you hope it becomes a permanent feature on reddit?

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