Meerkat CEO founder Ben RubinNoam Galai/Getty ImagesMeerkat CEO Ben Rubin.

The live-streaming app Meerkat is pivoting into a live-video social network after facing intense competition from giants like Twitter and Facebook, CEO Ben Rubin tells Re/code's Kurt Wagner.

Meerkat, which let users easily stream live video, became the darling of the tech world after launching last year, but couldn't sustain its momentum.

"Mobile broadcast video hasn't quite exploded as quickly as we'd hoped," Rubin wrote in a memo to investors that was published on Medium. "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."

Rubin highlights the difficulty of maintaining repeat broadcasters, in part because of the "high emotional cost to being entertaining in a live format" and the challenge of accruing large audiences. Although suited for public figures and celebrities, the value proposition of Meerkat remained less appealing to regular people.

Giant rivals

Twitter and Facebook have been putting significant resources into their respective real-time video products, Periscope and Live. Both have the advantage of letting users reach their already established audiences, whereas Meerkat users essentially had to build a network of potential viewers from scratch. Rubin hints that the new social network will focus on live video between friends, versus people broadcasting to the masses.

Facebook opened live-video broadcasting first to celebrities last July and to regular users in January. More than 31,000 people have used the tool to create more than 246,000 live streams, which have garnered over 5.7 billion views, according to data from Tubular Labs, a video-intelligence software company.

Periscope, now owned by Twitter, launched in March 2015. The app is currently 54th on App Annie's list of 100 top free iOS apps and doesn't rank in the top 100 for Android, but Periscope streams also appear in Twitter's main timeline.

Meerkat's pivot takes it out of the race against Twitter and Facebook, but also proves that there are big challenges that come with making live video attractive to people.

All told, Meerkat raised $12 million in funding and still has 75% of that money left to pursue its new idea, Rubin tells Re/code.

You can read his whole memo to investors here.

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