Pay-Per-View Live Streaming Services: Your Guide To Hosting & Platform Options

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Some things just need to be watched live.

A few years ago, Grantland featured an article on this very topic, declaring that (when it comes to sports, at least), “it’s live… or it’s totally dead.” The reasons they offered ranged from the rational (if the game already happened, the drama of what could be is gone) to the irrational (hmmm…. maybe we can influence the outcome of a game just by sheer psychic energy). Then there’s the idea that you just never know what might happen at a live event. I mean, is the possibility of a bear breaking into the stadium and attacking the players ever really off the table?

That’s what makes live events—in this case, your content—so worthwhile. So why not charge for pay-per-view live streaming (PPV)? The idea of monetizing live video content seems to be catching on, as more organizations are realizing the true value of their product. If people are willing to pay to see the event in person, there’s no reason they wouldn’t do the same to watch it live on TV.

PPV is the number one way to generate revenue from your live stream. But there are a few things you should know about pay-per-view services before you start tallying up the dollars and cents.

Pay-per-view isn’t the only way you can generate revenue with your live stream. Download this free guide to find out more about monetization options.

Pay-Per-View Live Streaming—6 Things To Consider

1. Not all live streaming platforms are pay-per-view video platforms.

As of now, none of the free live streaming platforms—YouTube, Ustream, Periscope, etc.—are capable of putting video content behind a paywall. And in fact, even many paid live streaming platforms don’t have the infrastructure to support PPV and the activities associated with it. Fans typically pay for events by credit card, which means the platform you use must have some way to handle credit card processing.

So if you’re currently using one of these platforms to live stream your events, you’ll need to switch to a provider with more advanced capabilities.

How Stretch does it: While many live streaming companies use outside vendors for payment processing, we handle it all in-house. When an end user purchases video content, the transaction goes through our own secure processing system. For you, that means superior customer service. As your live streamed event takes place, you can “talk” access our payment system directly and track your revenue in real time. And if our support team receives an email from fan who needs a refund for any reason, we can easily log into our merchant account and provide a refund right away—no back-and-forth necessary.

2. Pay-per-view services take a cut of the money.

It’s common for live streaming platform providers to take a cut of the revenue generated from PPV. Beyond that, there are two questions you’ll need to ask:

  • What percentage of the revenue from the event will you receive?
  • Who pays the credit card processing fees? These fees usually come to 3%-5% of the transaction amount. Many live streaming providers take those fees out of the total revenue, then split the remaining funds with you.

How Stretch does it: Stretch does a gross revenue split, meaning the total revenue is split with you first, and then credit card processing fees are taken out of our share only. That means more money in your pocket from every event.

3. Flexible pay-per-view packages can maximize your returns.

Fans are more likely to buy your video content if you offer them a range of purchasing options. Some people want to watch one game, while others know they want to view every game of the season. Still others might want to watch only championship games.

The problem is, not all pay-per-view live streaming providers offer high degrees of flexibility. If the only purchase option fans have available is high-definition (cost) vs. standard definition (free), that’s not enough to provide a great experience for fans. We highly suggest making it easy for people to pay ahead of time for whichever package they prefer.

How Stretch does it: You design your viewing packages, mixing and matching whatever you like, and we make it happen. Our sports clients create packages that include everything from day passes to team passes to playoff packages to second-half-of-the-season packages.

5. Ease into pay-per-view live streaming the way you want to.

If you’re hesitant about how PPV will be perceived by your fans, take it slow. Start with the minimum price required (this will vary by provider) and work your way up over time. Use the ramping-up time to build a fan base, putting the proceeds back into your equipment to help produce a higher-quality broadcast. It’s a great way to generate some revenue and improve your live stream at the same time.

How Stretch does it: To cover our margins we may set a minimum price per event, but if you don’t want to charge that much, we’ll work with you to get to where you’re comfortable. We want you to feel good about your offering, and help you attract as many viewers as possible.

6. Let viewers access your live content however they want.

Over-the-top (OTT) streaming devices are increasing in popularity—there’s one in four out of every 10 U.S. households. Your fans should be able to access your PPV content on their platform of choice, whether through Apple TV, Roku, or anything else. Some platform providers offer support for OTT, but not all have the ability to put the video content behind a paywall.

How Stretch does it: We can deliver any live broadcast to an OTT device as PPV content. The key is giving viewers a way to prove they’ve paid for the content, which we do through an activation code. To watch, viewers simply log into their Stretch account on a laptop or a phone, get an activation code for their purchase, and plug the code into their OTT device.

Interested in offering pay-per-view live streaming?

We’d love to work with you to get it started. If you have questions about our pay-per-view services or how pay-per-view-live streaming might work for your organization, let’s talk. In a free 30-minute consultation we’ll answer any questions you have about PPV; or, if you’re already using PPV but are looking for a new platform provider, we’ll review your current monetization strategy and see how it can be improved. Monetization is a natural extension of live streaming—take advantage of it!

How-To-Monetize-Your-Live-Streaming-Productions

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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Live Streaming: The 4,500-Word Ultimate Guide

Live Streaming 4500-Word Ultimate Guide

Our entire team here at Stretch is, if nothing else, ambitious. We have a tendency to go all out—just ask the group of elementary school kids we took to task on a recent company laser-tag outing. Let’s just say there were more than a few “No mercy!” rally cries from our overzealous bunch. That’s why it seemed perfectly reasonable to go all out on our blog, too, which is how we ended up with this “everything you could ever possibly want or need to know about live streaming” (aka ultimate) post.

So have a look around, skip to the parts you’re most interested in, and then, hopefully, you’ll have some new bits of knowledge you can put into action. And if you still have questions about anything you’ve read here—including questions about your own streaming setup or our live streaming platform—give us a shout. Our ultimate ambition with this post (see how we did that?) is to help all of you live streamers out there reach your goals. Good luck!

Table Of Contents
Part 1: The History Of Video Streaming
Part 2: The Equipment You Need To Live Stream
     Basic Live Streaming Equipment
     Advanced Live Streaming Equipment
Part 3: Live Streaming Technology Advancements
Part 4: How To Live Stream
     Choose A Live Streaming Platform
     Prepare Your Streaming Setup
     Starting Your Live Stream
     You’re Live Streaming! Now What?

Part 1: The History Of Video Streaming

Live web streaming exists thanks to several early innovations, starting with George Squier’s work on signal transmission in the early 1920s. Squier came up with a way to transmit audio signals over electrical lines and received several patents for his work. His original intent was to deliver music directly into homes, but when radio caught on, he made a change of course. Instead, his company, called Muzak (sounds like a modern day startup, doesn’t it?), sold and delivered prepackaged “elevator music” to stores, offices, elevators, and factories.

In the decades following, another foundational element of live streaming, the internet, slowly evolved. This worldwide network of computers would eventually make it possible to share continuous streams of data with people around the world. The first live stream actually took place on June 24, 1993, when a California band called Severe Tire Damage broadcasted a live performance to the world from outside the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. The stream utilized new technology, called the Mbone, that made audiovisual broadcasting possible; up until that point, it had mainly been used for academic purposes.

By the mid-1990s, however, the primary focus was on audio-only streaming. In 1995, a company called Progressive Networks introduced RealAudio, a compressed audio format that allowed people to listen to music as it was being downloaded. Once audio streaming paved the way, it wasn’t long before live video streaming came to fruition.

Live event streaming has come extraordinarily far in 20-plus years. Today’s technology is developing faster than ever, with new and exciting developments year after year that are progressively making live streaming more accessible to everyone—even giraffes.

Part 2: The Equipment You Need To Live Stream

For all its technological advances, live streaming is still pretty simple if you want it to be. The equipment you choose to use depends on your level of experience, your budget, and your goals. Over time, your organization will likely evolve in all three of these areas, which will affect the live streaming technology you use. The basic equipment needs are the same across the board, but because most people vary in their current situations, we’ve found that there are two different categories of live streaming equipment: basic live streaming equipment and advanced live streaming equipment.

Basic Live Streaming Equipment

If you’re still considering live video streaming or if your organization is about to experiment with it for the first time, we can guarantee you’ll find success if you keep it simple. Trying to do too much right out of the gate not only opens the door to added technical challenges (there’s enough of those to go around at every level of experience), it will also be mildly to monstrously frustrating for all those involved. Live event streaming should be fun! If you follow the guidelines below, you’ll end up with a good-quality broadcast—and your hair still intact.

Here’s what you’ll need to get going.

A Video Source (Aka A Camera)

You might be tempted to spend thousands of dollars in this area, but there’s really no need—$400-$500 will get you a fully functional camcorder that can handle the job. Any consumer camera that’s less than five years old will have what you need to start streaming.

That said, your live stream may have certain requirements that will be better met with a more expensive camera. For instance, if you know you’ll be shooting from far away and need to zoom in quite a bit to really capture the action, it’s advisable to buy a camera with high-quality zoom capabilities. So consider how you plan to use the camera before making a purchase.

Download our free guide to get popular camera and encoder options for churches.

A one-camera production is best to start, because it’s the simplest option. As you gain more experience with live streaming, you may want to add additional cameras (and check out the advanced live streaming technology list below).

It’s also possible to use an iPhone or an iPad as your camera. In that case, the only things you’ll need as far as live streaming equipment are the device itself and a mobile live streaming app. While there are several app options, we always recommend GoCoder from Wowza, which works with a variety of live streaming platforms, including ours. This handy app delivers your video and audio content to any device and it’s very easy to use. Your streaming provider may also have its own application for streaming live video from a mobile device, so be sure to check on that first. Or, if you’re using Ustream, Livestream, YouTube, or a social network to stream, there’s no need for an app—you simply stream directly from their mobile applications.

A word of caution, however, that there are some drawbacks to using an iPhone or an iPad for live streaming: The picture quality on mobile devices doesn’t stack up to what you’d get with a traditional video camera, and the lack of optical zoom means you’ll need to stay fairly close to the subject you’re focusing on. Also, you’ll likely want someone manning the device, whereas with a traditional video camera, you can set it up and walk away. Lastly—but maybe most importantly—beware of data charges if you’re not connected to a Wi-Fi network!

That being said, if your mobile device is all you have to start, it’s a good temporary solution. In fact, it’s a great way to test if your live stream is a viable product in the first place, before traveling too far down the live streaming road. It’s also a good secondary live stream setup if you’re trying to stream two events simultaneously, or if you’re streaming an event without a physical location.

A Tripod

It might sound like an “extra” piece of equipment, but having a tripod eliminates the slight shake that always accompanies a hand-held camera. (We know you think you’re holding steady, but trust us, you’re not.) The professionalism it will add to your broadcast will make it money well spent.

And to all you iPhone/iPad streamers—we recommend tripods for you, too! In addition to the tripod, you’ll also need a mount to hold your iPhone or iPad in place.

A Computer

You probably already have one of these—either a Mac or a PC—and most likely whatever you currently have will get the job done, as long as it has either a Thunderbolt port (Macs) or a USB 3.0 port (PCs). To check on your computer, look for the following:

  • USB 3.0—Depending on the computer manufacturer, one of two symbols will designate the USB port: Either the inside of the port itself will be blue, or the port will be labeled “SS” (which stands for “Super Speed”).
  • Thunderbolt—most often found on Apple computers, this port will be labeled with a lightning bolt symbol.

An Encoding Device

Video encoding is the key to streaming live—it’s the process of converting your video input into a digital format so it can be played back on a computer and then sending it to either a content delivery network (CDN) for distribution on the internet, or a live streaming provider (like Stretch). The process of encoding helps make large video files smaller so they can be moved more easily over the internet. It is absolutely essential for live web streaming.

There are two types of live stream encoder devices:

  • A hardware encoder is a separate device dedicated to video streaming.
  • A software encoder runs on your laptop or desktop computer.

Plenty of people spend time debating the merits of hardware vs. software encoders. Why? Because both options are good, but they also both have advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation.

Since hardware encoders are built solely for encoding, some people claim they’re more reliable. They also remove added strain from a computer that’s already running a number of other processes, which could help avoid problems related to speed and function. Software encoders, on the other hand, are easy to reconfigure, making them more flexible than hardware encoders. They’re also very simple to use and make for fewer things to lug around when you’re bringing live streaming equipment on the road.

Software Encoders

For people just getting started with live streaming, we usually recommend Flash Media Live Encoder (FMLE) from Adobe, a free software encoder. You can download it to any computer (Mac or PC) in less than 10 minutes. It’s perfect for a basic, single-camera production (it doesn’t support multiple cameras, unless you have a video mixer that you are feeding into your computer). Wirecast software is another good bet; you can use it to add production-quality effects to your broadcast, like lower-third graphics, scoreboards for sporting events, and multiple camera shots. Wirecast runs anywhere from $495 for the studio version to $995 for the professional version.

Important note: If you plan on using a software encoder, you’ll also need an additional piece of equipment for your live stream setup: acapture device. Computers aren’t necessarily made for receiving video and audio from other sources, so you need a way to convert those signals into something the computer can recognize. A capture device does just that—converts the video output into a digital format that your computer can understand. (With most hardware encoders, you will not need a capture device unless you have a mismatch of signal output/input on the camera/encoder respectively.)

Your capture device should be compatible with the type of computer you’re using, either a PC or a Mac. It plugs into the Thunderbolt port on a Mac or the USB 3.0 port on a PC. The Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder is a good choice for the Mac; for PCs, we recommend one from Magewell’s USB Capture Family. Both devices are economical and perform well.

Even if you’re just starting out, it pays to think long term when it comes to software encoders. If your goal is to build your live streaming program into a sophisticated multi-camera production over time, we strongly suggest selecting a software option that can grow with you. It will not only save you money in the long run, it’ll also save you from having to relearn another system later on down the line.

With that in mind, take a look through this list of critical features that a software encoder needs, along with a few things that are simply nice to have.

Critical features your software live stream encoder should have:

  • The ability to stream and record simultaneously (just in case!).
  • The ability to switch between video sources (for enhancing your broadcast later).
  • The ability to send to multiple destinations (for maximum reach).
  • A built-in graphics editing system (even the most basic graphics system will save time and improve your broadcast).

Ideal (but not necessary) features for your software live stream encoder:

  • A built-in audio mixer (for better sound and making volume adjustments).
  • Social media integration (so fans can interact with you and each other during the live stream).
  • The ability to replay in real time (especially handy for sports).
  • The ability to color-correct your video source (if you don’t have time for white-balancing).

Hardware Encoders

When it comes to hardware encoders, the Teradek VidiU is a good choice for a simple camera production without graphics. It’s an affordable solution that Teradek promotes as being “perfect for novices.” Plus, its compact size makes the VidiU perfect if you tend to live stream from a variety of venues.

Another hardware encoder we like to recommend is the Matrox Monarch HDX—a good fit for studio live streaming. The Monarch also works well if you already have a fully produced feed “ready to go” from another production environment, like a television truck on location. The Monarch takes that feed, encodes it, and sends it to your streaming provider.

All-In-One Production Platforms

Beyond hardware or software encoders, there’s one more option to consider: an all-in-one production unit like the Tricaster or Wirecast Gear. These production platforms are dedicated hardware solutions that both produce and encode the live stream, allowing you to change cameras, add graphics, pull in video or images, and more. This option works for both studio installations and portable setups (although you do need computer monitors, a keyboard, a mouse, etc). They’re also easy to use—just plug in your cameras and start streaming.

A High-Speed Internet Connection

Because it’s live web streaming, download and upload speeds are vital. Download speed is more important to your viewers that are trying to “pull” down your live feed, but a robust upload speed is critical for your ability to “push” a live stream out successfully.

If your upload speeds aren’t up to snuff, your viewers will almost certainly experience heavy buffering (the spinning wheel of doom!). To test it, make sure you’re connected to the network you plan to stream from and go to speedtest.net; once you run the test, you’ll get your upload speed in seconds. A high-definition (HD) live stream requires a speed of 3-4 MBPS; standard definition (SD) requires 1-2 MBPS. A slow upload speed is a non-starter for your ambitions of live streaming glory.

Whatever location you’re filming from, you’ll need internet access in one of three ways:

  • Ethernet (hardwired internet)—recommended for reliability.
  • Wi-Fi.
  • Mi-Fi (provided through cellular carriers like Verizon and AT&T).

Locations vary widely when it comes to internet access, which can make this element one of the most challenging aspects of your live stream setup.

Advanced Live Streaming Equipment

If you’re an experienced live streamer you already have the basic live streaming equipment. Here, we’ll mention a few add-ons that will improve and enhance your production.

Multiple Cameras

Single-camera productions are fine, but if you want to truly boost the quality level of your production, it’s time to introduce multiple cameras. Having more than one camera allows you to shoot from a variety of angles, giving viewers the feeling of actually being there.

For more detailed information on this topic, check out this article. To sum it up quickly, you have two good options for a small-scale multi-camera production setup:

Want more information about live streaming equipment? This extensive live streaming checklist includes lists of necessary and optional equipment, as well as preparation checklists.

  • The least expensive option is to use Telestream’s Wirecast and a Mac. BlackMagic’s UltraStudio Mini Recorder (or something similar) can bring the HDMI signals from two cameras into your computer via its two Thunderbolt ports. If you have three cameras, you’ll need a USB-based capture device like the Magewell USB Capture HDMI Plus or a Magewell SDI Plus for the third one.
  • A PC setup requires one or more PCI Express cards (however many you need) to bring in the video. You’ll also need one of the following: the DeckLink Mini Recorder (similar to the UltraStudio Mini Recorder) that accommodates one HDMI or SDI input at a time, the DeckLink Quad 2, which has eight channels that can be assigned as you like, or the Pro Capture Quad SDI, which lets you bring four inputs into your desktop tower computer.

Besides the setup, one of the challenges of working with multiple cameras is covering the distance between their placement and the control room (or the main camera). Unless you’re using wireless cameras, you’ll need plenty of cables to bridge the gap. Speaking of cables…

SDI Cables

The basic live streaming setup uses relatively cheap HDMI cables. The longer they get, the weaker the signal gets, which is why we recommend keeping them under 10 feet. If your camera placement requires spanning more than 10 feet, you’ll need an HDMI-to-SDI converter.

Rather than extending your HDMI cabling, a better alternative is SDI. With SDI you can go very long distances—up to 300 feet—without amplification. You can even run SDI cabling farther if you like—up to 2,700 feet—using signal boosters every 300 feet. You’ll find this a lot easier to use when trying to add additional cameras to your live stream setup.

The Blackmagic UltraStudio Mini Recorder includes both HDMI and SDI connections. And if your camera doesn’t have SDI natively, you can pick up an HDMI-to-SDI converter for less than $100; the benefits you’ll get will be well worth the price.

Wireless Tech For Live Web Streaming

If you’re managing multiple cameras, the next step is to shed the cables. Depending on where your cameras are situated, you might end up laying hundreds of feet of cable all told, which is time-consuming and, for some locations, a downright difficult proposition.

What if, instead of running that 300-foot cable, you could have 300 feet of wireless capability? Being able to take your cameras wherever you want to go—even right up to the edge of the action—makes for an exciting broadcast that will be appreciated by your viewers. It also lets you be a bit more creative with your camera angles, because cabling can be restrictive.

If you’re thinking of giving it a go, we usually recommend Teradek’s Bolt wireless system. Not dependent on Wi-Fi or 4G internet, it creates its own wireless local area network to talk to a receiver and a transmitter. But you will need batteries to power both the camera and the transmitter.

Audio Equipment

Good-quality sound is part of a professional-quality live stream. Incorporating an audio mixer allows you to include one or more broadcasters and play prerecorded commercials or interviews. It also gives you more precise control over your audio levels. Some encoders come with a built-in audio mixer that allows you to adjust the volume on each source individually as they’re brought into the live video. Wireless transmitters and receivers can also be valuable if your audio setup is not geographically close to the production location.

Graphical Tools

If you’re looking for a fairly simple yet noticeable way to improve your broadcast, consider investing in some graphical tools. Not just for sports, graphics can enhance any kind of live event streaming—you can to attach titles to speakers, provide information about materials being discussed or used (like hymns or scripture references), or conduct live polls. For sports in particular, graphics tools allow you to share information directly from a scoreboard controller, or statistical information and headshots. There are lots of ways in which graphics can enhance a broadcast; just think about what your viewers might want to see, and you can most likely make it happen.

For those of you using Wirecast, NewBlue Titler (made by NewBlue) runs alongside it, letting you render graphics and integrate them quickly into the Wirecast workflow. It can run on the same computer as your encoding software.

Part 3: Live Streaming Technology Advancements

There won’t likely ever be one definitive list of live streaming equipment—live streaming technology continues to evolve due to the growing popularity of live video streaming and the fast pace of technological innovation. At the moment, these three trends will be shaping the immediate future of live streaming:

  • Wireless camera technology is seeing a dramatic price reduction thanks to recent advancements. Soon it may be an attainable option for many more broadcasters, a development that could have a significant impact on the production process.
  • NewTek’s Network Device Interface (NDI) continues to grow as an industry standard. NDI uses a venue’s existing network to enable communication among several video sources, eliminating the need for cables or wireless equipment. NDI is already transforming production workflows and will continue to do so, especially with the arrival of new, related products—including one that converts a camera signal directly into NDI.
  • Thunderbolt 3 video devices, including capture devices, are beginning to hit the market for the latest version of Apple’s MacBook Pro. That’s great news—it streamlines the connection between capture device and computer (no more Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 adapters!).

Like many others in the industry, we are anxious to see how the continued evolution of virtual reality (VR), and even augmented reality (AR), impact the live streaming product as a whole. As new developments and opportunities present themselves, we’ll keep looking for exciting ways to integrate with our existing platform.

Part 4: How To Live Stream

You’ve gotten your equipment—great! But what’s next? You’re almost ready to go…

Choose A Live Streaming Platform

Before you can start live streaming, you need to decide how you plan to broadcast—in other words, what platform will you use to share your live stream with the world? There are two kinds of live streaming platforms:

  • Social media networks like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
  • Live streaming platform providers (Stretch is a platform provider; there are many other providers to choose from as well).

We feel it’s important to note that this isn’t necessarily an “either/or” choice. Many organizations utilize both options, as they both have different strengths. Having a good live streaming strategy that encompasses both methods can be a good way to reach your live streaming goals. Some organizations also utilize more than one social media network, as they have different audiences and different features. (This article has a good breakdown of your choices and the features associated with each.)

To state it simply, social media networks are great for “Johnny on the spot” streaming—for filming impromptu, short clips that you want to share with the world. These types of video streaming services allow you to reach your entire subscriber base as soon as you go live.

Platform providers have their strengths, too. You can give your live stream a more professional look with a portal custom-designed for your organization, which helps to build your brand. And a good platform provider will also act as your live streaming partner, which means they’ll be there to provide technical support, offer guidance on live production techniques, and help you build out a long-term live streaming strategy.

A platform provider can dramatically improve the quality of your live stream—if you choose the right one. Find out what live streaming services you should expect from a streaming provider.

Do your research before choosing any of the above options. (And, if you’re thinking about setting up your live stream so it can be viewed on your organization’s website, read this first.) Then it’s time to dive in!

Prepare Your Streaming Setup

If you hope to pull off a live stream successfully, you can’t show up an hour before the event, set up your cameras and computer, and roll. It’s a good idea to put some thought into preparing for your broadcast, even up to a week in advance of the event. Testing your equipment and checking out the venue beforehand will go a long way toward minimizing problems—and stress!—on the actual day.

Here are a few things to take care of well in advance:

  • Check your connection to the venue’s network.
  • Check the speed of the network you plan to use.
  • Do a streaming test to check video, audio, and transmission speeds.
  • Make sure you have a way to record your stream locally.
  • Make sure your streaming software is up to date.
  • Secure backup cables and equipment if possible. (The more backups you have, the better!)

Download this extensive live streaming checklist for more detailed guidance on live stream setup and preparation.  

On the day of the event, set up your equipment as early as possible. The length of your cables will help determine placement. In general, the longer the cable, the more chance there is for something to go wrong or a signal to get lost. (Also, remember that HDMI cables more than 10 feet long may require an amplifier.) And if you’re setting up outside, keep the computer out of direct sunlight; none of the equipment should ever be hot to the touch.

Once you have everything in place, connect all the necessary cables—with camera or cameras turned off—and ensure that all the connections are tight. Then turn the camera(s) on and open your streaming program.

Tip: If you’re setting up the day before an event, shut down the computer overnight rather than putting it in sleep mode. Even in low-power mode, your computer still consumes energy and its CPU percentage will be higher as a result. Keep the computer off the night before to start fresh on the day of the event.

Starting Your Live Stream

We recommend starting your live stream 15 minutes ahead of the event’s scheduled start time. Starting a few minutes early gives you time to catch any last-minute problems and adjust basic things like audio, graphics, or camera focus. It also gives viewers something to see as they settle in before the program and a bit of time to sort things out if the stream appears not to be working.

It’s smart to check your feed by watching it the same way your viewers do. If you’re working with a live streaming platform provider, they should handle this check for you (and you can always contact them for confirmation); otherwise, you can pull up the feed on a device on your own. Sometimes everything looks like it’s working properly in the streaming program, but it isn’t coming through on the viewers’ end. That could be caused by any number of things, but testing can solve these problems before the event starts.

Once the stream is started, check on it occasionally (make sure you use a different network than the one you’re streaming from). Streaming is unpredictable at times—even a small dip in the network can knock you off the air. Ideally you’d head off any problems at the streaming computer before they made it through to your viewers, but if that isn’t realistic, simply check the feed in the viewers’ interface on another device several times throughout. You should also be able to depend on your live streaming platform provider to monitor the feed and communicate with you about problems.

You’re live streaming! Now what?

Keep it going! The more you do it, the better you’ll get—and the easier it’ll get. To develop a consistent and reliable production process right from the start, download our extensive live streaming checklist. It outlines the necessary tasks at every stage of production, starting a week before the event, so you can pull off a smooth live stream every time.

If you’re looking for some helpful advice about your live stream setup, process, equipment, or anything else, schedule a free 30-minute consultation call with Stretch. We’ll evaluate what you already have in place and make recommendations on how you can improve.

Good luck with your future live streaming!

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Evaluate Your Live Streaming Platform On These 4 Features

Evaluate Your Live Streaming Platform On These 4 Features

If live streaming seems like an extra—an afterthought compared to the rest of your organization’s operations and activities—then you’re missing out.

Your live stream is more powerful than you realize. For most viewers, it may be their first point of contact with your organization, and first impressions can be hard to reverse. So if you’re not doing everything you can to make a great first impression with your live stream, even your efforts to provide something “extra” could be working against you. Besides that, your live stream could be generating revenue, making it an even bigger contributor to your organization’s overall success.

Live streams that make a good first impression are usually supported by a first-class live streaming platform provider. What makes a provider first-class? In our view, it’s one that excels in relation to these four things: the viewing experience, branding and messaging, monetization options, and support.

We don’t like to brag, but we’re also not against pointing out our strengths, which is why we’ve outlined below how we stack up on each. Does your platform provider make the grade on these four features? Let’s find out.

Live Streaming Platforms: 4 Areas To Evaluate

1. Viewing Experience

It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that it should be crazy-easy for people to find and access your content in a variety of ways. But there’s more to a phenomenal experience than that. The best live content is also enhanced with relevant, immersive features viewers want.

Stretch Internet’s live streaming platform is second-to-none, and we’re constantly striving to improve. We’ll work with you to determine the features your organization needs, but our offerings include:

  • Access on any screen, from any device (including mobile and a growing list of over-the-top applications).
  • Enhanced social media integration.
  • Instant highlights.
  • A live data feed.
  • A multi-view feature for watching simultaneous events (PIP, two at a time, or even four games at once in our “mosaic” view).

2. Branding & Messaging

A first impression—and every impression thereafter—should reinforce your organization’s branding and messaging. Some platforms prioritize their own branding over yours, an approach that undermines all the hard work you regularly put into your live stream. The best live streaming platforms put you first, resulting in a more professional product.

With Stretch Internet, it’s all about you. Our goal is to help you share your stories more effectively. With us, you’ll get:

  • An attractive viewing portal custom-built for your organization.
  • The ability to upload your own graphics and other notifications.
  • Twitter integration so your users can see your organization’s social activity.
  • A news & notes section for general announcements to your audience.
  • A ticker message for event-specific messaging.

3. Monetization Options

Even if you don’t plan on charging viewers to watch your content in the immediate future, the ability to monetize it sometime down the road is a valuable option to reserve. Rather than allowing you to promote your own sponsors or supporters, some video streaming platforms place their own advertising around your content instead. Or, in the case of a content paywall, they may charge extra for processing fees.

At Stretch Internet, we want to help you get the most from your live stream, whether it’s through sponsorships and ads or pay-per-view (PPV). The funds you generate could help keep your program going, or even expand and improve it. With Stretch, you can expect the following:

For PPV

  • No credit card processing fees—we’ll take care of it!
  • The infrastructure to support PPV and all its associated activities (credit card processing, refunds, and customer support for viewers).
  • Flexible PPV purchase options for viewers (we can build customized packages to your liking).

For Sponsorships & Ads

  • Control over both dynamic ads (commercials) and static ads (the ones that appear alongside your content).
  • 100% of the revenue generated from ads.
  • The ability to add your own preroll.
  • The flexibility to adjust inventory options on the fly.

4. Support

Live streaming has its challenges, which makes it all the more important to have an awesome support system—not only for you, but for your viewers, too. True top-of-the-line support is proactive, not reactive, meaning your live streaming platform provider should find and address problems before you even realize they exist!

At Stretch Internet, we pride ourselves on being one of the best live streaming platforms available when it comes to support—it’s one of the most commonly cited reasons for our clients’ high satisfaction levels! Many live streamers are dealing with small teams (or nonexistent teams, in some cases), so we know how critical it is to have a reliable support system.

To support your live stream, we:

  • Work to identify issues early and help you address them.
  • Handle customer support questions and problems.
  • Work nights and weekends, when many live streamed events take place.

To support your live stream process, we:

  • Design a custom production workflow that makes sense for your organization.
  • Provide advice on technology and production.
  • Work with you to help your organization reach its live streaming goals.

Looking for a live streaming partner?

If you’re looking for a live streaming partner—not just a provider—then take a closer look at Stretch. Get to know us better by scheduling a free demo of our platform. You’ll see what the experience looks like from your viewers’ perspective and get to try out our easy-to-use content management system. And you can ask us anything you like—help and advice is our thing. Simply fill out this form, and we’ll be in touch!

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How To Build An On-Campus Broadcast Network

Broadcasting-live-sports

There are some things that even master multitaskers can’t accomplish easily; among them is being solely responsible for preparing, producing, and distributing a successful live streaming program for multiple college sports. If you’re trying to do it all, cut yourself a break! Instead, take a page from Ron Smith’s book. The sports information director (SID) at Westmont College, Ron started broadcasting live sports there nine years ago. Since then, he’s learned more than a thing or two about how to turn a small, narrowly focused live stream for college athletics into a broadcast network that reaches an entire community.

Broadcasting Live Sports: Networking To Succeed

The live streaming program at Westmont College currently covers eight sports and live streams between 80 to 90 games a year. Ron maximizes the potential for his live streams in three ways: using student workers, connecting with local cable channels, and expanding the content of his live streams.

Student Workers

As the person in charge of the program, Ron’s live streaming responsibilities focus on providing training, purchasing and managing equipment, keeping the equipment in working order, and scheduling broadcasts. But when it comes to game day, “It becomes—at that point—a student broadcast. The program wouldn’t be possible otherwise.”

Having a good platform provider also helps ensure the success of your live streaming program. Start building your network with a good foundation—find out how the right platform can help.

There are often 15 to 20 students involved in producing Westmont’s live streams. They’re divided into two sets of crews: on-air broadcasters and production techs. Any given broadcast has two broadcasters and three production technicians on-site.

  • On-air broadcasters open the broadcasts, provide play-by-play as well as color commentary, and handle pre- and post-game interviews with coaches and players. They also research every game they’re involved in before it starts.

Student broadcasters come from a number of majors and have different interests. Some are interested in sports broadcasting as a career and others have different goals entirely. What ties them together is at least some knowledge of sports. Everyone in this group is required to take a sports broadcasting practicum class, a one-unit course that can be taken up to four times.

  • Production techs handle the audio equipment (broadcaster headsets, wireless mics, hooking into the PA system for announcements), video equipment (setting up cameras), graphics (bringing in live data from the scoreboard), and production (pulling all the components together—including pre-recorded video ads and interviews—and providing direction to the broadcast). Production techs also receive training, but they don’t get academic credit for it.

Local Cable Channel Distribution

Offering interested viewers a chance to see games live is great, but it’s even better if you can maximize your production team’s time and effort by expanding viewership.

According to Ron, the school’s live stream attracts around 250 viewers per broadcast, with another 50 viewers watching archived versions of each event. To broaden the program’s reach, he works with the local cable channel, TVSB (TV Santa Barbara). His team records the broadcast, edits it, and then delivers a final copy to TVSB. This provides content for public access television in the Santa Barbara area. TVSB replays each of the sports broadcasts four times, making it accessible to every Cox Cable subscriber in the community—about 48,000 households!

Broaden The Content Scope

Part of Ron’s rationale for starting the live streaming program was to use it as a platform to spotlight all of Westmont College—not just the athletic program. To that end, he likes to incorporate short, pre-recorded videos into the live stream that promote the school and let people know more about what’s happening on campus. For instance, the promotion may feature non-athletic activities, professor interviews about current research, student accomplishments both inside and outside the athletics program, or activities happening around campus. This allows the sports live stream to benefit the entire college—and it makes a difference to the students involved. “For [the student workers], it’s an exciting thing to be part of—they know they’re making a significant contribution not only to the athletic program but also to Westmont as a whole.”

Start Building Your Network

It might take time to build an effective network for your live stream program, but be patient—Rome wasn’t built in a day! If you’re not sure how to get started or need some expert advice, set up a 30-minute consultation call with us here at Stretch. We’ve helped a number of colleges and universities (including Westmont) get their live streaming efforts off the ground, and we’ve tackled all the challenges that broadcasting live sports has to offer. Let us be a resource for you, too!

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4 Multi-Camera Production Techniques

Multi-Camera Production Techniques

Using multiple cameras for your live broadcast has its advantages. You can cover more territory and enhance the content with varied angles and interesting shots—all of which have the potential to make your live stream more appealing to viewers. In case you missed it, the key word there is potential. Multi-camera production is usually considered a step up from the single-camera broadcast, but it can also be a step down if you rush in without thinking it through.

Let’s take a look at some multi-camera shooting techniques that can enhance your live stream. Some might take time to master, but the end result will be well worth the effort.

4 Smart Multi-Camera Production Techniques

1. Follow the 180-degree rule.

Knowing where to put your cameras is one of the biggest challenges for most production teams moving from a single-camera to a multi-camera setup. Here’s why: In a basketball game, for example, Team A is going right to left; Team B is going left to right. If you place two cameras on opposite sides of the court, the teams will be running in the opposite direction every time you switch cameras—and your viewers will be left dazed and confused.

All of your shots need to make sense as a whole. The 180-degree rule ensures that all of your cameras are filming from a singular direction. Think of an imaginary line across the center of the court. You can place your cameras anywhere behind that line on one side, choosing a variety of angles to mix up the shots—but not on the other side. That way, all of your cameras are strategically placed to ensure that directionals remain consistent.

2. Nail down the logistics of your central camera location.

With a single camera setup, things are fairly simple—you have your computer or encoder right next to the camera, 10 feet of cable, and everything plugged directly in. With multi-camera production, you’ll have to do things a bit differently. First, determine where your broadcast will originate from. Will it be where the primary camera is, or will you be able to choose a dedicated space at the venue for the computer and the producer?

Live stream logistics can make or break your broadcast. Download this checklist of what to do before, during, and after live stream events for a win every time.

Once that decision is made, you’ll need to figure out how to get your camera feeds—some of which originate from cameras located 100, 200, or even 300 feet away from the central camera—to that location. Wireless technology is still somewhat challenging to use and expensive (though it’s getting cheaper!), so the most cost-effective way right now is still cabling. Get the right cabling and converters, and, if you’re using a venue often, figure out a way to embed the cabling so you don’t have to pull cable each time.

3. Make communication a priority.

Multi-camera shooting techniques are complex enough that you need to make open communication among your team a priority. Each of your camera angles should be different enough that shot changes are clearly new and purposeful to anyone viewing the live feed (two shots that are too close in perspective—both following the ball from a slightly different angle, for example—might actually unsettle viewers).

There are two ways for a producer to manage multiple camera shots:

  1. Meet with your camera operators before the event, telling each one what to shoot throughout. It’s somewhat rigid, but it could work if you’re just starting out.
  2. Use walkie-talkies and headsets—or a full broadcast communication system—to provide directions on the fly. You’d still probably want to set some parameters ahead of time, but open communication allows for a greater degree of creativity in a broadcast.

4. Have a clear vision for your multi-camera production.

Graduating to a multi-camera setup for your live stream events is a natural step in a lot of cases, but it’s only beneficial if you have a clear idea of how you’re going to use all of those cameras. What are you hoping to achieve? Do you want to bring in specific shots that you aren’t currently able to get? Once you get started, you’ll likely feel compelled to splice in multiple camera angles when the action of the scene may not really require them. As a result, you could end up with a disjointed broadcast. (A well-placed single camera is better than a poorly orchestrated multi-camera production every time!)

So before you make the leap, talk it through with your production team or your platform provider. Come up with some loose guidelines as to when and how often to switch—sometimes it’s best to stick with a certain angle for five or even ten minutes. A producer’s vision is key to pulling off most of these multi-camera shooting techniques successfully.

Talk It Through With Us

We love talking—especially about anything having to do with live streaming. If you’re looking for advice on multi-camera production techniques, why not get in touch with us for a free 30-minute consultation? We stream more than 65,000 events each year, so we’ve seen it all and would be happy to provide expert advice on your equipment, setup, and even your live streaming goals. It’s our goal to help you feel more confident about your live stream going forward.

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4 Common Issues While Broadcasting Live Sports (& How To Fix Them)

Common Issues While Broadcasting Live Sports

If you’re involved in live streaming sporting events, you more than likely have the following things in common with the athletes you’re filming:

  1. You like a good challenge.
  2. The more you practice, the better you get.

None of us will ever be perfect, but improvement is a worthy goal, especially when it comes to mastering something like broadcasting live sports. It’s a unique challenge, no doubt about it. The pace and unpredictability of live games can throw even the best live streamers for a loop. If you’ve ever found yourself shaking your fists in the air due to yet another recurrence of one of the issues below, now’s the time to get proactive.

Broadcasting Live Sports: 4 Common Issues & Their Fixes

1. The fast pace makes it difficult to master camerawork and placement.

We hear you: It’s hard to film sports—harder than almost any other type of event you might live stream. The amount of movement compared to a church service, for example, is multiplied a hundredfold. Often, teams set up one camera to cover the entire field without a single shot change. That’s fine—as long as it’s set up on the same planet as the game. A static camera placed too far away from the action means your viewers are barely getting a glimpse of what’s going on; the same goes for a camera located in a less-than-ideal position on the field. On the flip side, maybe you’ve tried doing camerawork, but it ends up being too busy, with constant movement in an effort to chase down balls and follow players. For many viewers, it might conjure up feelings of nausea rather than excitement.

The fix: We like to think of this issue as less of a problem and more of an opportunity. If you only have a single camera, experiment with different locations until you find one that adequately covers the playing field but also allows viewers to see the action relatively well (this may require a longer cable or a wireless setup). Or, try using two cameras—one for a static wide shot of the field and another manned by an operator-in-training. With someone at the computer to switch between cameras, try for a steady mix of shots: wide shots combined with baseline shots as well as the occasional close-up of the pitcher or batter getting ready for action. Eventually you’ll develop an awareness of the right shot, and it will have a huge impact on your broadcast.

2. Your cameras and/or computers can’t keep up, and your images are blurry.

No doubt about it—cameras and computers have to work harder to broadcast live sports. The more movement there is, the more your equipment works to update the pixels in the frame. (Water polo poses an extreme challenge, with the playing field and the players constantly moving.) A blurry picture could mean a few things, but more than likely, it is a sign that your CPU is being overworked, your camera might need an upgrade, or you need to rethink your encoding settings (higher bit rate and/or resolution).

You should be able to depend on your platform provider for live streaming advice and proactive tech support. Find out what else a good platform provider can do for you with this free guide.

The fix: There’s no silver bullet here—especially not one that would work in every situation. But the better you or someone on your staff knows your camera, the better your chances will be for success. To help mitigate the problem, make sure the settings on your camera are optimized to track fast movement, and verify the resolution settings are where they should be. Some cameras even have a motion setting you can adjust that will help with sports specifically. On the computer side, make sure there aren’t any additional programs running that are increasing the demand on your CPU (sometimes the old tried-and-true restart can alleviate CPU issues). Also, keep your computer out of direct sunlight at all times, which could cause overheating. If your CPU doesn’t seem to be too high, try upping the quality of your live stream by increasing the bit rate and possibly the resolution—make sure to verify your network can accommodate the higher quality first so you don’t compound the pixelation issue by adding buffering.

3. Constant venue changes make it hard to come prepared.  

For live streamers, preparation is about expecting the unexpected. Venue changes are common, which makes internet connectivity unpredictable. You simply don’t know until you show up what kind of connectivity you’ll have or what’s available to begin with. You also don’t know what to expect in terms of logistics—the best placement for cameras, the location and number of outlets, etc.

The fix: While it’s not ideal to broadcast using a mobile hot spot, it’s good to have one handy. If the internet goes down or you can’t connect for one reason or another, at least you have a way to continue your live stream. Also, have plenty of cables and extension cords for power purposes in case the distance to an outlet is longer than expected or the ideal camera position turns out to be farther away than you thought. Both are simple fixes but super helpful in a pinch.

4. Simultaneous events make it difficult to manage multiple live streams.

Simultaneous sporting events, like tournaments, pose another unique challenge. Two, three, or four games in a day can be hard on your equipment and a drain on your manpower. You need to set up equipment in two different locations and have a way to monitor the live feed in both places. Hopefully the locations are within walking distance, but it’s still difficult to stay on top of two games at the same time.

The fix: Make sure you have a way to communicate between venues as well as designated parties to manage the live feed in each location. We also recommend having simple checklists for each crew to follow to streamline the entire process—setup, event, and teardown. Keeping the lines of communication open is key. Perhaps you can identify one point person to monitor the individual sites from a central location and be in communication throughout, similar to how the Northwoods League monitors all of their league events.

If you’re having trouble resolving a particular issue with your live sports broadcast, get in touch! It’s our goal to help live streaming be as easy as possible for you while also being a memorable experience for your viewers.

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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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Should Your Organization Live Stream?

Should Your Organization Live Stream

There comes a point where any organization shooting for growth over the long term has to try something new. (Heck, even people do that.) So what about trying out a live stream? Live streaming is steadily becoming part of popular culture; it’s also easy to pull off and super engaging for your audience. And the organizations that have experimented with it have shown it can be an exceptionally valuable business tool. Specifically:

  • It can raise the visibility of your brand.
  • It can help drive traffic to your website and/or social media accounts.
  • It can extend your reach beyond your traditional network.
  • It can generate revenue through monetization.

How might your organization benefit from the trend?

How Your Business Or Organization Can Use Live Streaming

Educational Institutions

Many schools have already seen the benefits of live streaming their sporting events, but so many other aspects of education are also a good match for live streaming. School districts can stream teacher training sessions and PTA meetings. Classroom teachers can broadcast their own lessons or seminars, watch subject-matter experts solve real-time problems, and connect students with peers across state lines and even abroad. Even school plays, concerts, and other events could be live streamed.

Live streaming tip: Announce live stream broadcasts early and often via your school’s social media account or through emails to relevant parties. Viewership and engagement will generally increase as you put more effort into enticing your audience. Also, the more regular you are about scheduling live streams, the more your community will come to expect it—and show up to watch.

Government Organizations

Governmental bodies aren’t typically known for being speedy or readily adopting new things, but live streaming offers a way to change all that. Imagine the impact of a governing official sharing news as it happens or interacting with constituents in real time. Most people would welcome the chance to participate in a Q&A session with their local leaders, attend city council meetings they can’t get to in person, or keep track of an important voting process as it happens. Community organizations and facilities could also use it to share news and cover local events.

Live streaming tip: Extend the life of your live streams by creating a place to archive them after the fact. Your live videos become instant assets that can be shared by viewers to extend your audience even further; they can also be used and repurposed for future events.

The right live streaming platform will partner with your organization to help you reach your live streaming goals. Download this free guide to find out what you should know before you sign on.

For-Profit Businesses

For-profit businesses can use live streaming to increase both internal and external engagement. What better way to invite customers to get to know your company than by bringing them inside? Show them how your product is made, answering questions in real time throughout. You could also feature new products and show how they’re used, conduct classes for interested consumers, or broadcast interviews with employees or clients. Business conventions, too, are a natural for live streaming, in that you can include people who can’t attend the event in person (and charge a fee for entry!). With the right platform, you can enhance your brand’s image and share valuable content.

Internally, live video is a great way to bring remote locations together for company meetings or announcements, train employees, and share proposals and presentations.

Live streaming tip: Offer live viewers an “exclusive”—something they wouldn’t get without watching live. The ability to interact with a live stream (asking questions, for instance, or going behind-the-scenes somewhere) is appealing and may even be different than what viewers would experience in person. Play up this angle to encourage people to connect.

Nonprofit Organizations

Most nonprofits have an ongoing need for funds, which makes it all the more important to cultivate strong relationships with donors. Live streaming isn’t expensive, and it’s a great way to humanize your organization—which in turn makes you more appealing to donors. Plus, it extends your reach beyond the limits of geography. You can easily broadcast fundraising events live to make them accessible to viewers everywhere and include a link to accept donations.

Live streaming tip: Video is powerful! Show (don’t tell!) donors how their contribution has made an impact. Follow a few volunteers while they work or set up a fundraiser, or share success stories of people and families in your community. You don’t need a crack production team and tons of equipment—just a good story and a volunteer or two willing to film it.

Do More With Live Streaming

Here at Stretch, we’ve seen organizations use live video for everything from tractor-pulling contests and beauty pageants to Lego-building competitions and fitness classes. Some are even monetizing their content strategically to earn additional revenue. No matter what or how they’re sharing, they’re giving viewers something of value—and giving their business what it needs to grow.

Need a helping hand? Live streaming is always easier with a knowledgeable partner, so if you don’t have one, let’s talk. We can help identify the live streaming goals for your business and point you to the equipment you’ll need to get your stream off the ground. And we’ll have your back through every event you stream—no worries about technology snafus. Looking forward to seeing your live stream soon!

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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

5 Organizations Doing Live Streaming Right

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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