Northwoods League: Why We Started Pay Per View Live Streaming

Northwoods League - Stretch Internet

Thinking about transitioning from a free-to-view live stream to pay-per-view streaming (PPV)? You’re not the only one—lots of organizations are making the switch.

The Northwoods League, the largest organized baseball league in the world (and a Stretch client) switched to PPV nearly seven years ago. And according to Glen Showalter, VP of Operations, they’ve never looked back. We talked with Glen recently about the League’s PPV experience and why they decided to switch to a paid live streaming model in the first place. (For more background on how the Northwoods League manages its complex live streaming operation, check out this article.)

Northwoods League: The Decision To Switch To PPV Streaming

The Northwoods League has been around for almost 25 years, but didn’t begin live streaming its games until about 10 years ago. At that time, the League started broadcasting on a no-cost platform.

“For that first year or two, I believe the League was trying to understand the live streaming platform and the process, and was doing its best to get personnel on all the teams up to speed,” explains Glen. (The League included about 16 teams at the time.) Back in 2010, he says, getting involved in live streaming was a much bigger challenge than it is today. The cost of equipment was higher, and fewer people knew about live streaming, making it more difficult to get answers when they ran into trouble.

The Northwoods League considered offering PPV in 2010, but Glen says, “I think it was probably something that would have been difficult to do right out of the gate. I believe the League had an internal expectation that it needed to deliver a certain level of quality to our customers before we could start charging for content.”


Pay-per-view isn’t the only way to monetize your live stream. Download this free guide to find out about your options. 


Soon after the live stream launched, it was clear that the broadcast wasn’t attracting the right demographic on the free platform. There were a large number of viewers, but viewing times were short—approximately 20 seconds on average. Most viewers weren’t really interested in watching the whole game (or even a few minutes of a game!), but dipping in and out of free hosted streams on the same platform was easy for casual visitors.

Over the next few years the broadcast improved, but the viewing times didn’t increase significantly. Eventually, the conversation came back around to pay-per-view streaming.

Live Stream Pay-Per-View: Benefits For The Northwoods League

The benefits of pay-per-view streaming became clear pretty quickly: The overall number of viewers dropped, but the ones that remained were watching for a longer period of time—more than 20 minutes. This indicated that the PPV broadcast was hitting the right demographic, and was keeping audiences engaged.

The goal of PPV, according to Glen, was to provide a better product in the long run. “Unlike most organizations, for us, [live streaming] is not a moneymaking venture. The cost of our live streaming operation is significant—with 20 teams, 4 cameras per team, 20 switchers, etc.—and the numbers get pretty big. By going to PPV, we can recoup some of those costs and put money back into the program, making [the broadcast] better for future seasons.” This strategy has worked well, as witnessed by the League’s continuously improving quality of their live stream.

The professional-quality live stream is also an important marketing and branding tool for the League. It’s helped to improve name recognition well beyond the Midwest. The Northwoods League is viewed as the premier baseball league for all summer college players, drawing approximately 800 players each year from around the U.S. Odds are good, Glen says, that anyone interested in collegiate baseball has heard of them, and their live stream only helps boost that profile.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, the live stream is extremely valuable to fans of the League. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to offer to players, their parents, their family members, and friends. Players come from all over the country—from schools in every state. For parents in California to be able to watch their son play in a league in the Midwest is terrific, especially when it’s a high-quality broadcast they can watch with Apple or Android TV, or another home streaming device. They can really see what’s going on and hear the action.” When parents found out that the games were being live streamed, most were thrilled that they could watch their kids play without having to drive for hours or take a flight out to see a single game.

The Northwoods League’s Live Streaming Program Today

Today, the Northwoods League uses Stretch as its live streaming platform provider to stream more than 750 games, for 20 teams, every 3-month summer season. Its viewer numbers continue to rise.

Glen says that moving to pay-per-view streaming was the right decision for the League, made at the right time. Part of the reason they’re able to continue pulling in so many viewers is their flexible subscription model, powered by Stretch. Fans can choose to watch as many games as they want—from a single game, to a half-season, a whole season, championship games only, and more. Giving people choices makes them more willing to buy.

And with such a huge live streaming operation, Glen notes what a relief it is to have Stretch for help with both production issues and fan support. “We found that, with some platforms, the support isn’t there. It’s hard to get in touch with an actual person. Stretch customer support is great.”

Are you interested in trying pay-per-view streaming?

Consider the benefits your own organization or sports league might get out of live stream pay-per-view; is it time to stop giving away your valuable content for free?

If you’d like to learn more about the Stretch live streaming platform and our monetization options, give us a shout or schedule a free demo. We’d love to help you make the most of your live stream!

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5 Examples Of Unique Pay-Per-View Live Streaming Events

Pay-Per-View Live Streaming Events

When you understand that there are endless types of events people would like to watch in person but simply can’t, it becomes clear that pay-per-view (PPV) live streaming is a smart way to do business.

In fact, we’re seeing an increasing number of organizations (not just sports organizations) realize the value of their live stream content. Where companies once offered live streaming for free they now charge for access, and many are either covering their costs or turning a profit.

You could say PPV is breaking out of the box—both in terms of the boxing ring (traditionally associated with pay-per-view) and in terms of the types of events that are now being streamed at a price.

Below are some of the more interesting instances we’ve seen of pay-per-view live streaming, some of which may be well on their way to becoming commonplace. How might your content play into the mix?

5 Examples Of Unique Pay-Per-View Live Streaming Events

1. Yoga classes and events.

Kundalini yoga exercise classes, Q & A sessions, in-depth discussions—you can get access to all of this via pay-per-view live stream at RA MA TV (courtesy of the RA MA Institute). Not all of its content is PPV; some is offered for free. Their special pay-per-view-events are considered premium content, and include things like workshops and courses with master teachers (the New Moon Total Solar Eclipse event, for instance). They also offer bundles of live-streamed workshops at package prices, and give discounts for pre-registering to virtually attend an event. Their PPV strategy encourages participation and expands their global “RA MA Community,” and makes money at the same time.

Pay-Per-View Live Streaming Events - 1


Get our free guide to learn about options for generating revenue with your live stream.


2.  Funeral services.

According to the Telegraph, 50% of all funeral homes and crematoria can now broadcast funeral services online—but we’re not sure that nearly that percentage of the general population knows about it. People seem to be divided on the trend, though the younger generation seems more accepting of it overall. For faraway family members who can’t attend the event in person, live streaming offers a chance to “connect with the collective emotion of the event.” Many funeral homes are doing all they can to limit viewing to family members and friends of the deceased, including password protecting the broadcast. Although the majority of funeral live streams are offered for free, some charge for access, like the U.K.’s Coychurch Crematorium (which also sells audio and video recordings of services).

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3. Battle rap.

Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg vs. Luke, Common vs. Ice Cube, and LL Cool J vs. Canibus—they’re some of the most memorable battle raps on the books. But even if you missed those, you can still see some of today’s all-star rappers compete thanks to Watch Battle Live’s HD PPV. Acknowledging that not nearly enough fans will have the opportunity to attend most events live, Watch Battle Live hopes that viewers will get a “firsthand experience, like you are in the building, feeling all the energy in the crowd.” From a peek at one of the previews, we’d say that’s a good assessment of what viewers can expect.

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4. Intimate concerts and events.

A pay-per-view live streamed musical event might not sound so unusual, but here we’re talking about limited admission to a virtual concert filmed in the artist’s living room. Oh, and did we mention that the artists take requests from their viewing audience and stop periodically to chat with viewers? Website Stageit pulls off these types of events regularly, featuring not only musicians but also comedians, chefs, and magicians. Shows are not archived (which only makes the live event even more valuable) and performers can collect tips in addition to the money earned from ticket sales. This is a new way of thinking about live streaming when it comes to events and so far, it seems to be working. (Anyone else up for a Jimmy Buffett concert?)

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5. Every sport imaginable (almost).

Move over, boxing. We found pay-per-view live streaming opportunities for a multitude of sporting events, even some of the more unusual ones:

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What did we miss? If you know of other unique pay-per-view live streaming events then tweet us @stretchinternet—we’re always interested to hear other creative ideas!

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20 Intriguing Live Streaming Statistics

We probably don’t have to convince you of the popularity of live streaming—if you’re here on the Stretch website it would seem you’re on the right side of things already. But it’s useful to evaluate the current state of things occasionally by looking at industry statistics. Statistics tell us where we’ve been, where we’re going, and what we should be on the lookout for somewhere down the road. If you’re as passionate about live streaming as we are, the stats below will be of interest to you as well.

Individually, the following live streaming statistics are interesting, but together, they tell a story: Live streaming is here to stay, and we can’t wait to see what happens next.

Live Streaming Statistics

1. The live video streaming market is estimated to grow from $30.29 billion in 2016 to more than $70 billion by 2021. (PR Newswire)

2. Internet audiences are viewing more live content than ever before—81% viewed more in 2016 than they did in 2015. (Mediakix)

3. Thirty-six percent of Internet users said they watched live video as of November 2016. (eMarketer)

4. 63% of millennials have watched live content and 42% have created it, making this group the largest consumers and creators of live video. (eMarketer)

5. Eighty percent of people would rather watch live video created by a brand than read a blog. (Livestream)

6. The search term “Facebook Live Stream” has increased in popularity more than 330% since Facebook Live’s debut in August 2015. (Mediakix)

7. As of June 2016, most of the companies publishing on Facebook Live were outside of the U.S. At that time, the top publisher was Mercedes-Benz, with a total of 38 live videos. (Socialbakers)

8. Facebook Live videos are watched three times longer than videos that aren’t live. (Mediakix)

9. In June 2016, organizations streamed almost 200 live videos on their Facebook pages—six times more than they streamed only six months earlier. (Socialbakers)

10. Research on Twitch and YouTube shows that streamers who generate content on a regular basis for a dedicated audience are likely to generate three times more income over a span of two to three years streaming, compared to those who produce inconsistently and have a less stable audience. (Streamlabs)


Interested in monetizing your live streamed content? Find out more about this trend and how you can take advantage of it with this free guide to monetizing your live streaming productions.


11. In 2016, Facebook paid more than $50 million to media companies and celebrities to produce live content. (Those deals were not renewed in 2017.) (Business Insider)

12. Live content on Facebook receives 10 times more comments than regular videos. (Business Insider)

13. Seventy-eight percent of Facebook users watch live streaming on the platform. (Zero Gravity Marketing)

14. Twitter and its partners created 600 hours of live video content from a total of 400 events in the last quarter of 2016 alone. (Adweek)

15. Twitter’s live programs in the last quarter of 2016 were primarily about sports (52%), news/politics (38%), and entertainment (10%). (Adweek)

16. About half of Twitter’s live video viewers are under the age of 25; 33% of viewers are from outside the U.S. (Adweek)

17. In Q4 2016, 31 million unique viewers tuned in to Twitter to watch various types of content. (Adweek)

18. Animal Adventure Park saw its YouTube live views count surpass 232 million during the pregnancy of the world’s most famous giraffe, April. (It garnered more than 7.6 billion minutes of live watch time, total.)  It was the second most live-viewed channel in YouTube history. (YouTube)

19. Twitch ranks 84th on the Alexa ranking of the world’s most popular web pages—one spot ahead of the New York Times. (Sports Illustrated)

20. The record for most concurrent viewers for a single stream was set in 2017 by eleaguetv, a professional esports team, with 1,027,493 viewers. (TwitchStats)

Know of any other interesting stats? Tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know!

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Should You Offer An Online Church Service & Live Stream?

Should You Offer An Online Church Service & Live Stream

Still weighing the benefits of live streaming your church services? And here we thought this article would lay all of your doubts to rest.

But if it didn’t, keep reading. So many churches have started live-streaming their services that there are plenty of success stories out there; for that reason, we’ve included lots of links to other articles we thought might be helpful. If, after reading, you still have questions about online church services feel free to give us a shout.

Will live streaming my church services impact attendance and participation?

Physical Attendance

Top of mind for most pastors with regard to church live streaming is attendance. With attendance rates already in decline, it’s understandable that the idea of offering people yet another reason to stay home seems counterintuitive.

Churches that have instituted live streaming do, in fact, notice a shift in attendance patterns, but not in the way you think. New Hope Chapel in Massachusetts experienced an increase in attendance among young people under the age of 21 thanks to its live stream. Other churches, too, have noticed that many online viewers eventually start to attend mass in person at a church they first discovered online and liked.

If attendance rates do decline in conjunction with church live streaming, the two phenomena are not necessarily connected. It could be that there are deeper issues at work.

Engagement

Once upon a time, attendance was the only way to measure a church’s success, but today, that’s no longer the case. There’s much more to a healthy, growing church than the number of people who physically, or even virtually, attend a service. A more important indicator of success is engagement among your parishioners. After all, the real goal is to encourage as many people as possible to help spread the word.

As you might guess, it’s incredibly difficult to measure how well any church achieves engagement—as Christianity Today puts it, “transformed lives, healthy congregations, [and] exercising faith, hope, and love” are intangibles that can’t usually be directly evaluated. But you can be certain of this: The more people that are actively engaged in your ministry, the more you are fostering a high degree of discipleship.

Do the phrases small staff and small budget describe your church? You can still offer church services online! Download this free guide to find out how to make it happen.

Live church services that are also archived on your website help foster engagement in the following ways:

  • During a live stream, viewers can engage with one another via Twitter, sharing ideas and increasing understanding of your message.
  • Your live streamed resources are accessible by anyone, any day of the week—not just Sundays! Congregants can satisfy their need for learning and fulfillment often, which helps speed the engagement process.
  • Live stream viewers, already online, are more likely to share inspiring parts of the service immediately via social media, spreading your message even further.

In what ways will live streaming impact my church physically?

Some churches are bucking the declining attendance trend and heading in the opposite direction—they’re growing. Live streaming is helping them achieve that growth in an unexpected way: by expanding onto multiple campuses. The latest trend (some are calling it “the new megachurch”) isn’t about having the largest audience under one roof; it’s about having multiple campuses open in different geographic locations. In the past 15 years, more than 8,000 multisite churches with five million congregants have been founded in the U.S. (As this article shows, multisite isn’t for everyone, though.)

Live streaming makes the multisite concept easier. It’s both cost- and time-efficient—one pastor giving one sermon takes the place of multiple pastors doing the very same thing or one pastor giving multiple sermons on the same day. That leaves more time for more pastors to concentrate on their congregants and their staff. Multisite live streaming also enables a small church team to have a big impact, making it possible to cast a broad net over a large geographical area.

Will live church services help reach our fundraising goals?

It’s entirely possible! You can set up your live stream to allow viewers to contribute to church offerings online while your in-person congregants carry out this task inside the church. (The right live streaming platform provider makes it easy to do this!)

Some churches have seen live stream viewers give even more in the way of donations than physical attendees. One of the churches described in this article receives a third of its total income from online viewers and, some weeks, sees more donations come in online than its congregation gives in person.

Can I afford to live stream our church services?

Live streaming isn’t that expensive. From an equipment standpoint, there’s a good chance you can rustle up almost everything you need to get started from the equipment you already have (or from a congregant or two who haven’t used their old, dust-covered video camera in a few years). Start with the most basic setup (even an iPhone or iPad will get you rolling), and add on over time. Depending on the streaming provider you choose, they might be able to help you build out a workflow over time by identifying your long-term streaming goals and then proposing a multi-year plan to acquire the necessary equipment (our production department handles this for our clients).

How will church services online benefit my existing congregants?

It’s not just about growth; live streaming your church services is good for your existing congregants, too.

First, it fills a void for those who are unable to attend church for one reason or another (including blizzards!). This article by Religion & Ethics Newsweekly gives several great examples of parishioners who’ve been able to stay connected to their church despite the fact that they can’t get there in person, including two seniors with physical challenges that make it hard for them to leave their home on Sundays and a family that continued attending church even while on vacation in Israel. Lifehouse in San Antonio says that 60-70% of its live stream viewers are already active church members; they’re simply unavailable to attend on the occasional Sunday due to out-of-town commitments, or they like to participate in additional services other days of the week.

And what about former church members who’ve moved away, students who’ve left for college, or congregants who split their time between two homes? If they’d prefer to remain connected to your church rather than find a new one, live streaming gives them that opportunity. Does your church support missionary work? If so, it’s probable that your missionaries would appreciate a way to stay connected even when they’re far away from home.

Live streaming also paves the way for potential new members, who may prefer to see what a church is like before attending in person. (This article suggests that newcomers to any town may watch a church’s live stream an average of six times before deciding to visit in person!)

Ready to learn more about live streaming your church services?

Why not give your church the chance to spread its message beyond the walls of your gathering hall?

We’d love to help. We’re a live streaming platform provider that works with churches, sports programs, production companies, and all kinds of other community organizations to help them share their live streamed events with interested viewers. And while some live streaming platforms are free of charge—like YouTube and Facebook—their “hidden” costs come in the form of time, lack of technical support, and prioritization of their goals over yours. With Stretch, your goals as a church come first.

If you’re still considering whether or not to live stream your church services, take the next step forward and talk it through with an expert. Schedule a 30-minute consultation call with Stretch, where we’ll help identify your live streaming goals, suggest equipment, and clarify the process—whatever you need. (No commitments necessary!) We can guarantee you’ll come away feeling more knowledgeable about the process—and you’ll be one step closer to the live church services that are helping so many other churches thrive.
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The 10 Best Resources & Blogs For Tech-Savvy Churches

Thanks to the internet, these days no one has to try anything new without help. That’s just as true for churches, that, luckily, have tons of resources at their fingertips which can help with everything from writing marketing email subject lines, to building mobile giving apps, to setting up digital libraries for church members.

Sometimes, though, there’s almost too much help to choose from, which is why “best of” posts tend to come in handy. You may already be familiar with some of the most popular church resources and blogs on our list, but we tried to dig a little deeper to offer a few additional resources you may not have yet discovered. We hope you’ll give them a read to see if they line up with your church’s goals.

And, of course, if live streaming your church services is anywhere on your tech to-do list, you already know where to go for help!

Not ready to start live streaming your church services but want to know more about it? Download this free guide to see what’s involved before you take the leap.  

The 5 Best Church Resources

1. Courageous Storytellers

Its mission is to help church communicators tell the story of their church in the best way possible—so it provides all the tools you could ever need to get the job done. Resources, knowledge, training… it’s like having an extra person on your team who has all the answers, even for those questions you didn’t know you had. Some resources are free; there’s also a membership option to get access to new monthly resources along with everything Courageous Storytellers has ever created.

2. That Church

The founders of That Church believe in doing and changing, not listening and following. To that end, all of their company’s resources and events are geared toward helping church leaders inspire change. They provide a podcast, an online magazine, mobile apps and a TV app(!) for easy access to all of their material; they even have a live stream of their annual conference. You can get anything you want, however you want to get it.

3. Pro Church Tools

Ninety percent of the weekly content Pro Church Tools publishes is free and was designed specifically for the purpose of helping churches reach their audiences. It has an extensive collection of audio, video, and text resources; members of the Pro Church Academy get access to even more video courses, cheat sheets, templates, and formulas. The idea here is that anyone can succeed in getting their church noticed—despite small budgets and no experience.

4. Church Technical Leaders

Developed for church technical artists, this site intends not only to be a learning resource but also to serve as a place for like-minded technical individuals to foster relationships. On its website, “The City” makes connection-building easy, giving users a way to meet church and technical leaders anywhere around the world. It also has a terrific blog (“The Sacrifice Of My Pride” by Martha Shafer is recommended) and offers day-long LeadLab events periodically to learn more about church tech.

5. Church Media Spot

Church Media Spot has an exhaustive list of resources to improve your church communications, including videos, graphics, photos, music, websites, and fonts, as well as links to a variety of learning resources like conferences and church blogs. If you’re looking for practical tools to get your message across more effectively—and wow your audience while you’re at it—this is the place to go.

The 5 Best Church Blogs

1. Church Tech Today

Articles in this blog cover a range of faith-based technology subjects, arranged under the broad topics of communications, software, hardware, worship, and “kidmin” (youth ministry). (There’s even a live streaming subcategory—hands in the air! See “Live Streaming As Ministry” for some great advice on getting started with live streaming.) This one is worth following.

2. Faith Engineer

Written by the pastor—and, pretty much, tech director—of a growing church in a rural town (formerly a design engineer), this blog stands out for its truthfulness in showing the difficulties small churches face in utilizing technology. If you’re in a similar situation and are searching for some real-life perspective on the subject, take a look here.

3. The Creative Pastor

With articles like “10 Items Under $20 That Every Church Tech Booth Needs” and “Four Simple Steps To Improve Your Church’s Social Media,” this blog is direct and practical. The Creative Pastor (aka Kendall Conner) is a self-described “media geek” who wants to make church media simple for even the most inexperienced folks, putting awesome within everyone’s reach.

4. Ministry Tech

Technically a magazine that publishes articles online, Ministry Tech is all about technology and software and how they can be used to support ministry. Its articles cover everything from online giving and security to church management software and effective church blogging. You can even subscribe for free and get the newest issues as soon as they’re published; or, subscribe for monthly tech trend reports.

5. Steve Fogg

Steve Fogg describes himself as a “church communications person who is keen on the power of utilising social media” to help churches grow online. His articles mainly revolve around digital branding, communications, and marketing, with the occasional podcast and ebook offerings. Steve’s writing is clear, simple, and from the heart, which makes his posts easy and interesting to read. It’s an excellent resource for churches seeking technology solutions for bolstering their brand.

We’re sure there are more gems out there—do you know of any church resources or blogs we should add? Tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know!

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Our 10 Most Popular Live Streaming Blog Posts

Our 10 Most Popular Live Streaming Blog Posts

When we say we have freakishly good support (what, you haven’t watched the video about our super support powers yet?), we’re mostly talking about the always-available, hands-on help we provide for our live streaming partners. But we’re pretty proud of our live streaming blog, too, because it’s another way for us to support live streamers everywhere who are as psyched as we are about always learning and improving.

After some data-churning, it became clear that the live streaming blog posts below are our top 10 most popular, so we rounded them up for easy access. Here’s hoping that you count our blog among your favorite live streaming resources going forward—if there’s anything you’d like to see more of, just give us a shout.

1. High Definition, Three Camera Inputs, One Laptop, $3,500

An oldie but a goody, this classic live streaming blog post was written by the director of multimedia and production at Harvard University Athletics. Everyone wants to know how he pulled off a small production setup on a tight budget; he provides the details here.

2. Evaluate Your Live Streaming Platform On These 4 Features

Shopping around for a live streaming platform? Don’t make a move until you’ve read this article, which describes the four areas that define the quality of any platform provider and why they’re critical to your future live streaming success. We promise you’ll sound smarter when you’re ready to comparison shop.

3. 3 Important Church Attendance Statistics & What They Mean For The Modern Church

If these three statistics are any indication, modern churches need to change to keep pace with new attitudes and new ideas. What can your church do to stay connected? We have some ideas; read about them here.

4. How To Live Stream Using Your iPhone Or iPad Camera

It really is as easy as 1-2-3. Take a moment to read these instructions and tips, and you’ll be all set to live stream at a moment’s notice.

You have the equipment, but are you really prepared to go live? To pull off a live stream flawlessly, download this extensive checklist outlining what you need to do before, during, and after your event.

5. How To Set Up A Multi-Camera Live Streaming System

Fans of article #1 will also want to check out this one, which has additional, updated recommendations for small-scale, multi-camera live streaming on a limited budget. Here we offer three options: one based around a MacBook Pro, another using a hardware mixer called ATEM Television Studio, and a third for PC desktops.

6. 40 Live Streaming Tips To Make Your Broadcast Better

“Expect the unexpected” is a good way to describe live streaming, but I think it’s safe to say that we’ll take all the concrete tips we can get to help make the process go more smoothly. In this article, experienced live streamers dish out the best of their advice on everything from equipment and setup to preparation and process.

7. How To Live Stream Using A Camera You Already Own

Have camera, will live stream…. as long as you have the right setup. Even if you’ve never live streamed before, you can still make use of that camera you found hiding under the seat of your car. This article outlines how to transform it from a recording device (or a dust collector) into a live streaming machine in three easy steps.

8. 6 Fundraising Ideas For Small Churches

Live streaming church services is one way for small churches to expand their reach, but we know that fundraisers help keep the doors open. This list of six creative fundraising ideas (we’d love to have a “help squad” in our neighborhood!) hopefully includes at least one or two that your church might consider worthy of giving a go.

9. Essential Equipment: The Checklist For Church Live Streaming

This one’s for all you church leaders out there who’ve ever said (or thought) “I don’t have the staff to live stream,” or “I don’t know enough about tech to live stream,” or even “Live streaming is too expensive.” You can do it with the help of our live streaming resources. Start by reviewing this equipment checklist specifically for churches, then check out our step-by-step instruction guide on how your church can get started.

10. Live Streaming Setup For The Computer Illiterate

For everyone out there who knows nothing about technology and assumes that live streaming is beyond your reach, here’s a nontechnical guide to live stream setup (including pictures!). This basic equipment list is perfect for first-timers and includes a link to our extensive live streaming checklist with detailed instructions on how to prepare for an event.

These are our top 10 posts, but there’s plenty more where these came from! Check out our live streaming blog for something new every week, and visit our website to find out more about the Stretch live streaming platform.

 

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The 21 Best Church Websites

The 21 Best Church Websites

We’re not much for top 10 lists around here (why does it always have to be 10?), which is why we didn’t think twice when we went looking for some of the best church websites on the internet and came up with a list more than twice the size—21, to be exact.

We like these websites for lots of different reasons, but you’ll see the words “welcoming,” “simple,” and “straightforward” mentioned quite a bit in the explanations below. Live streaming aside, these churches did an awesome job (in our view, anyway) at designing sites that drew us in and made us want to stay awhile. So if you’re a church looking to revamp your site, check out some of the entries on this list as well as our previous article on web hosting options for churches. Between the two, you could probably come up with a nice wish list for your own acreage on the web—maybe even a top 10 list, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Are you ready to join the ranks of churches that are live streaming their services? This free guide has everything you need to know to get started.

The 21 Best Church Websites

1. New Vision Baptist Church

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Why we like it: The visual on the homepage drew us in immediately; it feels warm and inviting. We think a lot of people tend to shy away from churchgoing because they feel intimidated, so a “warm” welcome is key. Also, the navigation on this site is very straightforward—only four options—and prioritizes the things the church wants visitors to be aware of (I’m New, Events, Watch Live, and Give).

2. One Church

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Why we like it: The design is simple and straightforward. Within 10 seconds of looking at the site, a visitor would have a good idea of what this church is about and some of its core philosophies. Admittedly, the navigation is a little cluttered, but we still think it’s effective.

3. The City Church

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Why we like it: We like the clarity of this site’s design. There is very little vertical scroll; when you do scroll, you are presented with campus locations and upcoming events. It’s clear this site has a singular mission—to connect people to the church by telling them when and where they can participate. But there are navigational buttons if visitors want to find out more.

4. The Grove

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Why we like it: This one is worth highlighting for the somewhat bold strategy of autoplaying a video of the lead pastor when visitors load the site. This strategy is high-risk/high-reward as it can turn some people off immediately or draw people in who otherwise wouldn’t have played the video on their own. Other than that, the site does a good job of visually representing its worship space and gives visitors a good idea of what to expect.

5. Red Rocks Church

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Why we like it: We like the visual appeal of this one, which makes good use of color in its branding to tie in with the Red Rocks name. It also offers a media section that includes nicely produced videos of various events—baptisms, roundtable discussions, and location launches (there’s one in Belgium)!

6. First Church

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Why we like it: Visitors see three prominent calls-to-action right away: watch a sermon, join the congregation on Sunday, and learn more about the church. The design is modern, clean, and welcoming. We think it’s important to represent the tone of your church with your design and color scheme—do you want to be soft and welcoming or are you trying to express action and urgency with a bolder look?

7. Bethel Church

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Why we like it: Bethel Church’s website seems to “unfold” as you scroll, which has a nice feel to it. Upcoming events, testimonies, and learning courses are attractively laid out and well organized. The site as a whole has a peaceful, welcoming feeling to it (kind of like the website says—“on earth as it is in heaven”).

8. The Summit Church

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Why we like it: The juxtaposition of navigational images is lively and interesting. Plus, visitors are introduced to the pastor and his blog right on the homepage, which we like because it lends a more intimate, personal feel to what could otherwise seem like a very large church. Every page makes good use of white space and is easy to read.

9. Flatirons Community Church

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Why we like it: The hoverable side navigation is unique and lets the main images take center stage (it only pulls out when you place the cursor on it). Church members can immediately find service times and locations as well as ways to give online. There are also video sermons along with discussion questions, making it a great resource for learning.

10. Southeast Christian Church

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Why we like it: Scroll down on the homepage and you’ll see neatly delineated sections for upcoming events, “Life @ Southeast” (social media postings), locations, and information for new visitors. We also like that they have a “Statement of Faith” page that links the church’s core beliefs with scripture references—a unique and powerful way of stating who they are. Attractive visuals and sparse text combine to make an inviting site.

11. Fellowship Church

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Why we like it: The current promotion on this church’s homepage shows it has a sense of humor (“Family Business” refers to a series of teachings about the purpose of family). We also liked the messages that accompany the visuals on the homepage, from “We’re saving a seat for you,” to “Welcome to the best hour of your week,” to “Fellowship Church loves kids!” The message is enthusiastic and clear—join us!

12. NorthRidge Church

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Why we like it: According to NorthRidge, it does church “without all the churchiness.” The text conveys the message well, coming across as friendly, casual, and welcoming—and maybe a little different than the next church, too. A beautiful, clean design also helps.

13. Bayside Church

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Why we like it: Visitors will know right away if they can identify with this church thanks to well-designed text boxes that “pop” against the black-and-white background image, each briefly encapsulating the church’s mission. We also like that this site doesn’t try to do too much: As this is the main website covering all campuses, only the essentials are provided—locations, who they are, and media clips. From there, visitors can navigate to the websites of each individual campus for more information.

14. Ada Bible Church

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Why we like it: With visually appealing curated lists of everything from the latest happenings to “next steps” for congregants interested in moving their religious journey forward, Ada Bible Church’s website is both beautiful and easy to find your way around. The blue faded background visuals play nicely with the main images throughout, so what should stand out, does.

15. Church Of The King

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Why we like it: The Church of the King site tells visitors everything they need to know, with a more unique look than many of the other churches on our list. The circular navigation icons are attractive and thoughtfully designed to command attention. The top part of the homepage (not pictured here) gives priority to promoting the current discussion series. There’s no endless scrolling here—it’s a short way down, but you can easily get what you came for.

16. Gateway Church, Austin

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Why we like it: Gateway clearly invites people to come as they are—“no perfect people allowed.” All of its content reinforces that message. The bright green and black color combination is lively with a touch of sophistication and serves to highlight important text. It’s easy to navigate and enjoyable to look at.

17. Judson Memorial Church

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Why we like it: Everything about this website is striking, from the homepage to the FAQ page. It treats everything a little differently than other church websites, including the fun navigational icons, the words and design for the navigation menu at the top, and the bold font that stands out (that last part we’re not crazy about, but it works with the rest of the site design). Clearly this is a different kind of church.

18. Trinity Church Boston

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Why we like it: The accent colors of blue and gold tie everything on this site together, giving it a more sophisticated, stately look (red is also pulled in under the menu items). Nicely chosen images and a well-organized layout make for an attractive, appealing website.

19. Connexus Church

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Why we like it: Two words—clean and clear. There’s no chance of getting lost on this website, and you’ll enjoy roaming around while you’re at it. Attractive illustrated icons direct visitors to “take your next step” midway down the homepage. And rather than just relying on a “contact us” menu item, the church comes right out and asks if you have any questions that haven’t yet been answered, which leads you right to a contact form. Finally, the “About Us” page shows a friendly team of church leaders and invites visitors to learn more about each one. You’ll find yourself wanting to spend time here.

20. The Old North Church

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Why we like it: The website for Old North Church not only has to reflect the fact that it is Boston’s oldest surviving church building and a historical site, but it also has to be modern in design. This site covers both these angles, with a unique brick background on the homepage, an authentic historical font, and clear and attractive navigation boxes and menus as well as social media links.

21. Mount Pleasant Christian Church

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Why we like it: This church does a better job than most at keeping a consistent look and feel throughout the different parts of its site—including on the homepage, where the scrolling images are different but clearly part of the same whole. The brown, tan, and green color scheme makes that possible and is used to good effect throughout. (Plus, to us it feels homey and warm.) It also includes a prayer wall where visitors can post prayer requests, making the site interactive.

Have something to add?

It’s impossible to cover all the best church websites—but we’re pretty sure you can help! Tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know what we missed!

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People Are Looking For Church Services Online: Should You Offer Them?

Church Services Online

For those of you involved in some aspect of church leadership, here’s a number that should be of interest: 30,000.

What’s the significance? According to our research, 30,000 is the approximate number of Google searches per month related to finding church services online. Some of the most popular Google searches involve “church online,” “church services live,” and “live stream church service.” (The first keyphrase gets 3,600 queries monthly, and the last gets 1,300!)

Those are fairly large numbers already, but it’s likely they only reflect a portion of the overall interest in live streaming church services. There are certainly hundreds of variations on search terms that our research doesn’t reflect; and on top of that, we focused only on the generic term “church”—other denominations, languages, and religions will all have their own search volume and demand.

Don’t forget that Google isn’t the only way people search for things (though it might seem that way). They might also be using Yahoo, Bing, or another search engine; searching directly on YouTube; or asking friends via social networks. In other words, there’s a lot more interest in church services online outside the 30,000 monthly searches currently taking place on Google.

Why all this interest in live streaming church services?

30,000 isn’t only the number of Google searches happening monthly; it’s also the number of things competing for people’s attention every day! (We have no evidence to back that up—it just seems like it must be true.) Seriously, there are a lot of things keeping people from physically going to church these days, including illness, vacation, work, family commitments, school events… the list goes on. And while this may not be surprising to you, church attendance in the traditional sense is declining. In fact, research has indicated that only 20% of the population actually show up on a regular basis.

Worried about live streaming with a small staff and a small budget? This free guide has seven easy steps to get you started live streaming, and includes tips on working with a small team.

But people aren’t just busy—they’re also getting more selective about the churches they want to be associated with. It isn’t just about geography anymore. People want to know what a church body is doing to make a difference in the world, and whether the church fits in with their family’s lifestyle. The ability to choose a church they feel comfortable with and can connect with on their own terms holds a lot of appeal. (Incidentally, people are also searching for specific church services online, like the Zion Church online or Life.Church—they could also be searching for yours!)

So is it in my church’s best interest to live stream church services?

The answer is different for every church, but most churches that have started live streaming have seen incredible benefits, from more engaged youth to more satisfied parishioners. Engagement levels increase, too, because people now have a way to watch additional sermons during the week, and can even search for sermons on particular topics whenever they choose. And don’t worry about finding enough volunteers to help—it’s more than likely that your tech-savvy youth members will jump at the chance.

If your greatest fear is that attendance levels will decrease if you offer church services online, consider this: Live streaming actually has the potential to increase attendance.You’re making participation possible for people who can’t come physically, and leaving a door wide open for potential new members who may be reluctant or anxious to attend in-person. You can be sure that your flexibility and willingness to embrace modern technology will not go unnoticed by those in search of a new church family.

You know people want it—are you ready to provide it?

Start connecting with more people by live streaming your church services. If you’re uncertain about how to get started, let us know. We’re more than happy to help any church new to the live streaming world—and experienced streamers, too!—with honest advice about the technology you’ll need (including an evaluation of any equipment you may already have) and how you can meet your church’s live streaming goals. Take the first step, and get in touch!

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5 Organizations Doing Live Streaming Right

5 Organizations Doing Live Streaming Right

2017 is poised to be the year of live streaming, according to Social Media Today.

Lately, so many brands are finding creative ways to incorporate live streaming into their marketing strategies—and we can all learn a thing or two from them. In hopes of sparking some inspiration, we gathered some of the more intriguing use cases to share. Hopefully you’ll see something here that could be translated to suit your own organizational needs. If not, consider it a challenge: Come up with something original and tweet us about it!

5 Organizations With Creative Live Streaming Strategies

1. Corning Museum Of Glass

5 Organizations Doing Live Streaming Right

One of the world’s premier collections of art and historical glass is in New York state, but that doesn’t limit its reach. The museum makes excellent use of live streaming, so if you’re interested in the science and technology behind innovations in glass, you can enjoy much of what the museum has to offer no matter where you live. It airs regularly scheduled live streams of glassmakers at work and archives them for viewing anytime; special museum events are also aired via live stream.

2. Oculus

5 Organizations Doing Live Streaming Right

Virtual reality (VR) company Oculus is no stranger to the idea that VR is a difficult concept for people to understand. You almost have to see it to get it—which is why encouraging users to share live footage of their gameplay is a smart idea. It also raises awareness of VR for consumers. All that on top of the fact that it’s just plain cool to watch your friends battle Wielders live in 1880s London.

Raise the bar on your organization’s live stream with the right live streaming platform—this free guide has everything you need to know before you commit.  

3. T-Mobile

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T-Mobile’s unconventional (and America’s “sweariest”) CEO John Legere has embraced live streaming as a way of connecting with his customers. His creative live streams range from rants about the communications industry, to company announcements, to cooking shows (you heard us—the January 15 episode of Slow Cooker Sunday had more than 500,000 views!). I think his live stream strategy is working.

4. GE

5 Organizations Doing Live Streaming Right

What began as an experiment in 2015 returned in 2016 as a proven success: GE’s Drone Week. GE’s work is wide-ranging, which can make it difficult for consumers to relate. The idea behind Drone Week was to make concrete connections between what the company does and how its products impact people’s lives. In 2015, it employed a drone to crisscross the U.S. and capture footage of five remote GE facilities; in summer 2016, the drone flew over dams and other infrastructure facilities in Rio to show GE’s contribution to Olympic facilities there.

5. Wendy’s

5 Organizations Doing Live Streaming Right

Wendy’s partnership with influencer Cody Johns had nearly 300,000 viewers gobbling up a step-by-step demonstration of how to make the chain’s flagship hamburger, the Baconator. Wendy’s ran ads in advance of the live stream, which only lasted six minutes. It worked because it made Cody the center of attention (not the burger), which served to build interest without being overly promotional. (It was also a finalist for a Shorty Award.)

What’s your organization doing with live streaming?

Tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know, and your efforts could be featured in an upcoming article!

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What Churches Can Learn From Joel Osteen’s Live Videos

What Churches Can Learn From Joel Osteen’s Live Videos

No doubt about it, Joel Osteen’s live church service is a phenomenon. His home base, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, has more than 52,000 members—the largest membership of any Protestant church in America. On top of that, over 10 million additional people are watching his televised church service every week. Clearly he’s doing something right.

It’s true that Osteen has the best resources at his disposal, including an expert production crew and, in all likelihood, top-of-the-line equipment. Even if you think that sets him a world apart from your situation (maybe two or three worlds, even), there are some real takeaways to be had from a closer examination of his broadcast. Turns out, the success of any church live streaming its services is more about thoughtful preparation and less about money.

Live Streaming Church Services: It’s Not About The Gear

According to Osteen’s audio engineer Brad Duryea, it doesn’t require more than basic, functioning equipment to do a solid broadcast. He was referring to audio equipment, of course, but we think that theory applies to just about every aspect of production. Now your budget does have some impact—you need the basic equipment, in good working order. And while it’s nice to have the cash to upgrade your tech, it’s not absolutely necessary to get the job done well.

There are ways to improve your broadcast without expensive equipment:

  • For the audio: Place your microphones strategically. As long as viewers can clearly hear what’s going on, the visual is less important. Spend time on the positioning of the speaker’s microphone, the ambient mic (or mics) for crowd and background noise, and the mic used for music. Any of these can be muted as necessary. Shift their placement occasionally to capture new sounds and to ensure you’re getting the best sound possible.

Also, much of your broadcast’s sound has nothing to do with electronics. Other important components include the acoustics of the stage and the room, the quality level and volume output of the instruments, the skill level of your audio engineer, and the musicians themselves. Play around with ways to improve the acoustics of your space. Try to isolate any issues you’re noticing and work on improving them one by one.

  • For the video: Shift your camera positions occasionally to give viewers some variety. Your primary camera should focus on the action, but play with your secondary camera (or two) to incorporate new angles.

Have a small staff and an even smaller budget? Download this free guide to find out how your church can start live streaming services now.

Another tip comes from Worship Tech Director: Your cameras can essentially “shrink” the size of the room with the use of close-up shots. It’s understood that the camera director takes a close-up shot every time Osteen looks directly at the camera, so it appears that he’s connecting on a more personal level with remote viewers. Experiment with your shot selections to produce a similar effect with your broadcast.

  • For the lighting: According to Church Production, lighting is one of the most overlooked aspects of live streaming church services. Mostly, if people don’t notice it, you’re doing it well enough—but you can strive for better. The use of backlighting helps counteract inevitable dark spots and adds depth to your projected image. Also, overhead lights should be shifted to shine at an angle instead of directly down to avoid shadows. All of this can usually be accomplished with the lighting fixtures you already have.

Taking it a step further, lighting can also be used to great effect, as evidenced by Joel Osteen’s live church service. His production crew uses dramatic lighting to set the scene for a more emotional experience. Different-colored bulbs instantly add drama, and those shadows we mentioned earlier? They can also be used for dramatic effect if done right.

Make The Most Of Your Broadcast  

Aside from the technical aspects of production, Joel Osteen’s live church service succeeds for a number of other reasons.

  • It’s personal. Osteen isn’t afraid to draw on personal experiences in his sermons, using his life as a springboard to illustrate concepts or hammer home a point; he also sometimes references the experiences of congregants. Tactics like these help him to connect with his audience, as they evoke emotions rather than logic.
  • He cultivates his brand. He understands the importance of consistency across all platforms, so that all of his outlets—from his website, to his print materials, to his live stream—look the same and are immediately recognizable.
  • He surrounds himself with the right people. By “right people,” I mean a team of individuals who can pool their varied knowledge to produce an excellent product. That includes not only people knowledgeable about technology but also people who have high-level interpersonal skills, marketing skills, and organizational abilities.

Need help with any aspect of your live church service streaming? Get in touch. We’ve helped a number of churches increase the reach of their message by streaming their services online. We’ll work with you to simplify your process and improve your broadcast at the same time. And, no more stress over technical difficulties—we’re always just a phone call away!

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