Rev Up Your Motorsports Marketing With Live Streaming

Motorsports Marketing With Live Streaming

Famously referred to as one of only three true sports (bullfighting and mountain climbing also made the cut!), auto racing has never been accused of being dull. But the off-the-charts excitement and nail-biting thrills of the individual races themselves aren’t always enough to build a solid, loyal fan base for your brand. That’s where marketing—and live streaming—come in.

Live streaming also has its share of excitement, making it an excellent marketing tool for motorsports brands. If you’re not already using a solid live streaming platform to promote your events and your brand, it’s time to get started—and get creative.

4 Creative Ways To Use Live Streaming For Motorsports Marketing  

1. Live stream your races.

If you’re thinking this is the obvious way to use live streaming, you’re right—but it’s a crowd-pleaser for a reason. Fans love to watch adrenaline-inducing events in real time. But only a limited number of fans can attend races in person—some live too far from the raceway or can’t make it for another reason. On top of that, there’s only so much seating available at the track (hopefully all of which gets filled).

By live streaming your races, you make the events available to anyone, anywhere, who wants to watch. You’ll open up the experience to a much broader audience, and give your brand valuable additional exposure at the same time.

2. Live stream interviews with drivers and crew members.   

Storytelling is a powerful marketing strategy—and you can put it to work at your motorsports venue by letting drivers and crew members tell their own stories. This helps to humanize your brand, and fans will become more attached to your motorsports park and its events once they start to know the people involved.

To get the ball rolling, plan to live stream some interviews with preselected drivers and crew members. Give them some talking points to consider ahead of time, like how they prepare for a race, how they got into racing, or other personal tidbits of interest. You could also do a series of interviews on memorable racing moments, and create a hashtag fans can use to post their own memorable moments at the track. Post the live streams on your website and on social media and you’ll likely start seeing fans interact.


The live streaming platform you use is critical to the viewing experience, but are you using the right one? Download this free guide to find out.


3. Live stream a “talk show” regularly.

Producing a talk show (or something similar) is another way to give your brand personality and endear you to fans. How do you want your organization to be perceived? Plan content that helps convey that message.

Broadcast a weekly live stream either from somewhere on the track or from a unique location that helps set the stage. This talk show should “pull back the curtain” on racing, giving viewers a chance to see and hear things they couldn’t elsewhere. For example, show what the pit crew does prior to a race and talk to them about it. Or talk to a mechanic about what it’s like to work for a race team, or an engineer about designing and building race cars.

4. Live stream from the cockpit.    

If fans could experience a taste of what it’s like to sit in the driver’s seat, the thrill level of “watching” a race would go through the roof! So why not let them experience it through live streaming? Putting a camera in the cockpit of two race cars is an awesome way to enhance the viewing experience. There may be some logistics to work out with your live streaming platform, such as network and equipment requirements, but it can be done. This is a unique experience your fans won’t soon forget—and will want to come back for time and time again.

Can the live streaming platform provider you’re considering pull off these ideas?

If you’re planning to implement these marketing strategies, you may need the help of an experienced live streaming platform provider. We’ve partnered with a number of motorsports organizations to help them promote their brand through live streaming in any creative way they can think of!

We take pride in the fact that we provide more than just a live streaming platform—we also take your organization’s live streaming goals into account and help you reach them. If you’d like to talk with us about your organization’s needs and how we might work together, set up a free consultation with us today!

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A Pageant Planning Checklist (Specifically For Live Streaming)

pageant-planning-checklist

As a pageant director, you have something of incredible value—the ability to create original video content associated with an in-demand, one-time-only live event.

In the world of live streaming, that’s considered an ace in the hole.

Not only is your pageant one-of-a-kind, but you also have an interested audience ready and waiting. Sure, many of them will attend the pageant in person, but many of them won’t be able to make it—which is where your live stream comes in.

We’d like to help you take advantage of this opportunity to get a wider audience for your event , raise your pageant’s profile, and maybe even make a little more money. If you’re new to live streaming (trust us—it’s easier than you think!), take a look at this article first. Then come back here for a pageant planning checklist that will help you get organized before you get going.

A Pageant Director’s Checklist For Live Streaming

Preparation is everything when it comes to live streaming. The more information you have about the event, the contestants, and the venue ahead of time, the better off you’ll be. And while you’ll never be able to predict everything that could happen during a live stream, we strongly recommend being as prepared as possible—which is where this pageant planning checklist comes in:

𝩊 Determine the best locations for cameras based on the action and the audience.

If you haven’t planned the stage blocking for the pageant yourself, talk to the person in charge of it to get as much detail as you can about important areas of activity. For example, is there a place where pageant contestants will be positioned for judging? Where will contestants be lining up? Where will the stage microphone be, and where will the awards be presented? Strategize your camera positioning around those areas so your viewers can see as much as possible. But keep in mind you’ll have a live audience as well, so be sure your cameras don’t impede the view from any location.


Not sure what cameras or other equipment you need? Download our extensive live streaming checklist for a complete list of equipment—plus a lot more tasks to check off in preparation for the big event.


𝩊 Prepare graphics for each contestant ahead of time.

Viewers enjoy seeing biographical information about each contestant on-screen along with their close-up camera shot. If you have a detailed list of participants handy, start working on graphics that include each person’s name, age, hometown, and any other information you’d like to share, and put them in the correct order of appearance.

𝩊 Prepare the content you’ll use to fill break times.

Live pageants take breaks—but if you shut off your live stream during breaks it’s possible you’ll lose some viewers who think they’ve tuned in to the wrong place or that the event is over. Instead, create something like the image below—including the time that you expect to resume the live feed—to keep your viewers in the loop. Or you may choose to fill the time with pre-produced interest pieces on contestants or the pageant, or with commercials. Another option is to stream some live interviews with participants or judges during the break. Whatever option you choose is fine, but make the decision well ahead of time so you can prepare for it.

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𝩊 Prepare for individual contestant interviews.

Viewers are usually interested in finding out more about contestants, so short interviews are a popular component of most pageant live streams. But you’ll need to figure out the logistics of those interviews well before the pageant begins. When and how will you connect with the contestants you choose? Do you have the necessary A/V equipment to make it happen?

𝩊 Plan how you’ll incorporate master sound from the venue into your live stream.

Whether it’s the music being played or the emcee or contestants talking, you’ll want to bring the sounds from the pageant directly into your production rather than relying on your equipment to pick it up. How you interface with the master sound will vary depending on your live stream setup, but you may be able to pull an output from the main soundboard into your own workflow. Coordinate with the on-site sound crew to see how you might be able to pull audio out of their main board and what cabling you’ll need to accomplish that. This creates a much cleaner video feed, and will sound better for your viewers.

𝩊 Plan how you’ll record the live stream.

The demand for your original content won’t necessarily end just because the pageant itself is over! You may be able to sell DVDs of the event, or make it available on your live stream portal for streaming on-demand. We always recommend recording your event two ways—through your streaming provider and locally, on your computer’s hard drive or on your production unit—so you have a safety net in case one method fails.

Want a live streaming checklist to complement your pageant planning checklist?

We can help! We may not be experts in how to direct a pageant, but we are live streaming experts who have assisted many pageant directors in broadcasting their events. If you’d like to know more about the equipment you’ll need for live streaming and a complete list of the steps involved in preparing for a broadcast, check out our extensive live streaming checklist.

Or, if you’d like to chat with us about your specific event, set up a free consultation. Whether you’re experienced in live streaming or have never done it before, the goal is the same—to produce a top-notch live stream of your pageant. We can help you get there.

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Church Technology Trends You’ll See In 2018

Every year there are new tech trends, many of which crash and burn (sometimes literally—we’re looking at you, hoverboard), never to be heard from again. But some innovations stick and just keep getting better over time.

For the past several years, more and more churches have been experimenting with new technology, weeding out the fads and utilizing only the most effective tools. The church technology trends we see for 2018 are the ones that have proven to be beneficial in the early stages—we think you’ll be seeing a lot more churches picking up on the below technology resources in the coming months.

Church Technology Trends for 2018

1. The use of Snapchat for engaging younger audiences.

If you’re looking for ways to capture the attention of youth and millennials at your church, using Snapchat is a great way to meet them where they’re at. According to Pastor Godbee at the River Church, storytelling is the most powerful form of communication, and more churches are turning to Snapchat, an equally powerful social platform, to tell the “story” of their connection to family and community. In case you’re not familiar with it, Snapchat encourages storytelling by enabling users to create and share a combination of text, photos, videos, and more. Sunday Mag has some great ideas for ways to use Snapchat to tell your church’s story, like creating trivia questions about the most recent sermon. The only caveat is that, since it’s all about sharing content “in the moment,” (you create photos or videos and send them to your network instantly) if you’re planning to use this technology in church, it does require some degree of preplanning—you can’t produce the content you’ll use ahead of time.

2. The use of church management software and online tools.

Church leaders and administrators want to be organized and efficient, but this is often easier said than done. Church management software is invaluable in assisting with those goals, and its popularity is predicted to rise. Part of the reason for that is simply because there are so many software options available, but it’s mostly because you can do so many things with it—from donor tracking to event registration to digital reporting and more.

Free, open-source software (if you don’t count the support costs involved) is also becoming more prevalent, as it allows churches to customize the tool to meet their management needs. Even churches that don’t commit to a complete church management software package are starting to take advantage of online resources like Trello to organize volunteers and collaborate with other leaders and administrators.

3. The use of video.    

We all know how much people love video. Until now, only technologically-advanced churches were using video to create brand awareness and engage the community, but we think a lot more churches will be following suit in the coming year.

There are a lot of reasons to use today’s video technology in church. Video announcements are more memorable than ones that are read, video promotions can be used on Facebook to promote upcoming sermons, and welcome videos help showcase your church’s personality more than words ever could. (Check out these awesome church videos as an example.)

Live streaming is another great way to incorporate technology in church services. It’s a necessity for multiple-campus churches that need to serve more than one geographical location, but live streaming can also be used to promote and broadcast special events, weekly morning prayers, and other things.

4. The use of podcasts.

A 2017 survey shows that 112 million Americans have listened to a podcast—and that’s up 11 percent from 2016. But what’s especially cool about this technology is that it also reaches a broader age group than some other types of technology—25- to 54-year-olds. Additionally, podcasts are becoming more easily accessible (you can listen using Amazon’s Alexa, for instance, rather than the usual method of downloading and retrieving), so their reach may broaden even more in the near future. The churches that have already ventured into the world of podcasting are using them to create Bible studies or devotionals, or to record their weekly sermons. These pastor podcasts might inspire you to create one of your own.

5. Incorporating online giving.

There are many reasons why some churches have started offering online giving options. Aside from the fact that promoting automatic, recurring donations is a smart thing to do, the 24/7 availability of online giving widens the donation window to every day of the week—not just Sundays. It’s also wise to use online giving in conjunction with social media, as people are often more responsive to donation requests being shared by friends and family members. Mobile apps and text giving are also on the rise.

6. Location-based marketing.

Marketing to people based on their location or proximity to a location is being used by businesses everywhere, and is becoming more popular with churches as well. If a congregant or member of the community has either downloaded your church’s mobile app or provided you with their email or mobile number, beacon technology can pick up their location and send them a timely message about a church service or a church-sponsored event taking place nearby.

Churches are likely to find lots of creative ways to use location-based marketing in the year ahead. Having a sale in your church bookstore? Send congregants a reminder if they happen to be passing by. Or, if some congregants are traveling where your church has a nearby branch, let them know you’re around the corner so they can attend service if they like.

Are you aware of a church technology trend we missed? Tweet us @stretchinternet and let us know!

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How Production Companies Price Live Streaming Services

Production Companies Price Live Streaming Services - Stretch

As the owner of a production company, you already have the necessary skills to produce a live stream. So it makes sense to take advantage of the popularity of live streaming and add video streaming services to your current offerings. But you might be wondering how much to charge for live video production.

We asked some live streaming production company owners for their thoughts in hopes of getting you some valuable information on pricing your live stream that you can apply to your own business today. By combining their input with knowledge of your company and your market, you should be able to come up with a solid pricing strategy.

Pricing Live Streaming Production Services

Slavik Boyechko, owner of the Emmy award-winning production company Video Dads, summed up his thought process behind pricing by explaining one fundamental difference between video production services and live streaming: Video production involves a long process of postproduction activities, while live streaming does not. “The only real way to price live streaming in a way that is profitable is to consider the planning costs, gear rental expenses, and crew for the day, rather than hourly services.”

His thoughts echoed those of other live streaming production company owners: Live streaming adds complexity to the video recording process. So the best way to price your live streaming services is to consider the cost of the variables involved in delivering the product, and the level of complexity you plan to offer.


Wondering how much revenue you could be generating with your live stream? Here’s your chance to find out. 


You already have the basics required to produce a good video—including a camera operator, a video camera, and lighting and audio equipment. But you will need some additional resources to live stream, including a live production switcher and video signal transmission. It also takes practice to capture what’s needed for a good, high-quality live broadcast, which requires a slightly different skill set than filming video that will be edited. Beyond those necessities, there are some additional variables to consider budgeting for that will impact the price. Rob Chipman of Big Video Network divides those variables into two categories—production and delivery.

Production variables:

  • Additional camera operators. Unless you plan on a single-camera production, you’ll need one or two more people to work the cameras. Michael Mason of Perfect Chaos Films notes that, for a usual live stream setup, he uses a crew of three people and two cameras.
  • Internet access. An internet connection is necessary for your live stream, and some venues may not have reliable internet access. For an additional cost you could provide your own internet connection using a portable internet hotspot like LiveU. (LiveU units aren’t cheap, so this would be a fairly large addition to your budget!)
  • Travel expenses. But keep in mind that if live video production is an add-on to an event you already planned to shoot, travel won’t add any additional cost.

Delivery variables:

  • Live stream hosting. Will you offer clients a portal for viewing your live stream? The easiest way to accomplish that is to partner up with a live streaming platform provider, which will involve a service fee. If you don’t choose to go this route, you can either stream on a free platform such as Facebook Live or YouTube, or host the live stream on an infrastructure you’ve built yourself.
  • Audience size. The more people that watch your live stream, the more bandwidth you’ll use. The cost associated with bandwidth may be less of a factor depending on the live streaming provider you’re working with. But if you’re hosting the live stream yourself, the estimated audience size is definitely something to consider.
  • Broadcast page design. If your live stream will be viewed somewhere other than on a free social media platform, you may need to design a website to house it. (If you’re using a platform provider, they may already have this piece taken care of.)
  • Pay-per-view (PPV). Your production company has an opportunity to earn more revenue if the organization you’re working with plans to charge for access to its content. (Take a look at StreamByte’s pricing page for an example of a live streaming production company PPV policy and a description of other variables involved.)

Some of the above variables can be organized into “tiers” of live streaming services. For example, your basic live streaming package could consist of a single stationary camera connected to an encoder, with Internet access already provided on-site. That would be a very inexpensive production, especially if you’re filming the event already as part of your usual services.

On the higher end, you could offer a live streaming production with the works: a producer, video switcher, multiple cameras, replays, and play-by-play audio. Hooking your clients up with a professional-grade live stream with all the bells and whistles is a valuable service that many organizations would be willing to pay extra for.

Now that you know the factors of a live stream that impact price and have some ideas about service levels, you’ll want to consider what you’re willing and able to offer and the market you’re in to start determining the price of your video streaming services.

Need a live streaming partner for your video streaming services?

We can help! We stream more than 65,000 events every year and work with all types of organizations, including live stream production companies like yours. If you’d like to talk more about what a partnership might look like and take a look at our live streaming platform, give us a shout. We can also consult on pricing and offer advice about equipment and production issues. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to generate more revenue with live streaming—get started today!

Special thanks to:

Slavik Boyechko, Gear Dads
Rob Chipman, Big Video Network
Michael Mason, Perfect Chaos Films
Samuel Sparhawk, StreamByte TV

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Pay-Per-View Streaming Service: 4 Reasons To Choose Stretch

4 Reasons To Choose Stretch

So, you’ve decided to invest in your live streaming future through monetization (congrats!), but where do you go from here? The number one way to generate revenue from your live stream is pay-per-view, so we recommend starting with a little investigative work to find out more about how pay-per-view works and things to consider as you get started.

After that, it’s all about choosing the provider that’s right for you. Your needs—and your goals for your live stream—should inform the comparison process, setting the stage for success. Below are some of the standout features of Stretch’s pay-per-view live streaming service; if it seems like we’re a good match for your organization, let’s talk!

Stretch Pay-Per-View Streaming Service

When you choose Stretch for your pay-per-view needs, you’re getting a lot more than just a live streaming provider—you’re getting a partner who will actively help your program grow. We’ll work closely with you to help you achieve your goals, and guide you through the monetization process to maximize the impact of your efforts. Other benefits to choosing Stretch as your pay-per-view-streaming provider are:

1. You have full control of your live stream portal.

That’s important if you want your live stream to play a role in your organization’s growth strategy. You put time and effort into creating your content—the next step is making sure it’s delivered in a way that’s consistent with the rest of your organization’s branding. At Stretch, we’ll design a custom portal for your live stream, with a clean, professional look and feel. Within the portal, you also have control over the ads that viewers see. Plus, you’re free to utilize the framework around your live stream as yet another monetization opportunity, using it for local business advertisements or to thank sponsors of the content. The portal is clearly yours—which is not the case for many other platforms. So if you want toreinforce your branding, control what appears around your content, and optimize your revenue potential, Stretch can give you what you need.

2. You have plenty of flexibility in pay-per-view packages and viewing options.

Viewers are more likely to buy your video content if you can offer them a range of purchasing options. They may want to watch one event, several events of a similar type, or an entire season of offerings from your organization. That level of package customization isn’t commonly offered among pay-per-view-streaming services, but at Stretch we’re happy to accommodate whatever options you think will be most attractive to viewers. We’ve created day passes, single-event passes, full season (full access) passes, tournament-specific packages, and more, and we can do the same for you. Plus, we offer pay-per-view support for over-the-top devices like Apple TV, Android TV, and Amazon Fire, giving your clients an even greater degree of flexibility in how they prefer to watch. So if you’re looking for flexibility with regard to pay-per-view package creation and viewing options, Stretch is a good match.

3. You can offer viewers top-notch customer service—without handling it yourself.

Having multiple viewers means handling multiple issues, all while the live stream is taking place. Inevitably, some fans will experience technical problems; others may have questions about payments or refunds. If you have the manpower to manage it all, customer support may not be an issue for you. But if you don’t, Stretch can help. We handle all viewer inquiries during live streaming events for our clients, and on average, respond in less than five minutes. We also handle all refunds if there’s an issue with an event or a specific user. Great customer service reflects well on your organization, and boosts the level of professionalism. So if you’re looking for someone to handle viewer customer service, Stretch is the perfect choice.

4. You can maximize your revenue.

It’s common for providers that offer pay-per-view streaming services to take a cut of the revenue generated and to split credit card processing fees with their clients. It’s also fairly common for those credit card fees—usually 3%-5% of the transaction amount—to come out of your portion of the profits, not the provider’s. At Stretch, we do things differently. We offer aggressive revenue splits with our clients, and take out all credit card processing fees from our side of the split. That means more money goes into your pocket from every event. Plus, you’ll have easy access to real-time revenue data—the number of purchases, as well as your split—so you’ll always know how much you’re making off each event, even down to details like how many purchases were made while the event was live and how many were made on-demand. So if you’re interested in maximizing your revenue, Stretch is the ideal partner for you.

Want to partner up with Stretch?

Are we your ideal pay-per-view streaming partner? We hope so! If you’d like to learn more about working with us, here are two options for next steps: either schedule a free consultation to talk with us about your live streaming program and goals for monetization, or, schedule a free demo of our live streaming platform. Either way—ask us anything! We’re here to help.

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Analyzing Alternatives To Ustream, Twitch, & Dacast

Looking for Ustream alternatives? Or maybe you’re investigating (or have already tried) Twitch or Dacast and are looking for an alternative to those.

These live streaming platforms are among the most well-known, but they aren’t necessarily the best fit for every organization. It all depends on your needs and what you’re looking to do with your live stream. Different streaming providers bring different things to the table; if your live stream is stagnating on Twitch, for example, it may be time to look for Twitch alternatives. And you don’t always have to choose just one outlet—as we’ve pointed out before, it’s a smart idea to combine live streaming solutions for maximum reach and impact.

Sometimes, the grass really is greener on the other side.

Ustream, Twitch, & Dacast: Why look elsewhere?

A lack of branding could be keeping your live stream from flourishing. If viewers can’t immediately identify the content as coming from your organization, you’re missing a huge opportunity to build relationships with potential customers. Your branding conveys a certain look and feel about the company that you hope customers feel good about and remember. Why pass up the chance to communicate that message to hundreds of live stream viewers if you’re putting time and money into producing the stream in the first place?

Ustream and Twitch prioritize their own branding over yours—it’s their live streaming platform so everything looks very much the same. Viewers will more likely than not walk away remembering they watched something on Ustream… but will they remember that the content came from you?

At Stretch, you take control of your live stream portal. Not only is your organization prominently featured as soon as viewers log on, but you have control of the surrounding logos, graphics, or commercials (if you choose to have any at all). All of our clients’ portals are custom-tailored to their organization, and have a clean, professional look and feel.

Your live stream is an important tool for building your brand—is your provider doing everything it can to support you? Get this free guide to find out what you should expect from any live streaming provider.  

Live streaming limitations might also be holding you back. Dacast uses tiered pricing plans based on usage, which essentially places bandwidth usage restrictions on your live stream. So if you’ve paid for 100 gigs and you’re streaming at 2.0 megabits per second, every viewer who watches that content is using that data. (Overage charges may apply, so fingers crossed for not too many viewers!)

Here’s a Dacast alternative: At Stretch we don’t track viewer hours or usage. You can go one of two ways: If you only have a few events to live stream, we’ll negotiate a per-event fee. Or, if you’re going to reach a certain number of events, it makes more sense to go into our unlimited plan—for a predetermined amount per year you can stream as many events as you want.

Monetization options that are limited or nonexistent prevent you from making a profit on your live stream, which in turn stunts the growth of your live streaming program. With Ustream and Twitch you don’t have the capability to monetize your stream, which means you’re losing out on valuable revenue that could be used to cover equipment costs and expand and improve your program. And while Dacast does have monetization options, be prepared to handle viewer support (technical issues, refunds, etc.) yourself. Finally, be wary of how a provider handles transaction fees for credit card processing; many take the fee out of your revenue split, cutting into your profits.

At Stretch you have two ways to monetize—pay-per-view and sponsorships/ads. Our fees include fan support (if your viewers need a refund or anything else, we’ll take care of it). For pay-per-view, we’ll take the credit card processing fees out of our own revenue split, not yours. And, you can use your customized portal to earn additional revenue with ads that also help promote other community organizations.

You’re on your own when it comes to live streaming. That means a couple of things: Not only is there a minimum amount of support (in some cases, no support) for technical problems; you also won’t get expertise, advice, or insight on how to grow or improve your live streaming operation.

At Stretch, all of our clients are considered partners. We want your live stream to be the best that it can be, and we’ll do everything we can to make that happen. That’s why we build customized production workflows for every client based on existing processes, hardware, goals, and budget. We’ll suggest a solution that maximizes your resources and the quality of your stream, and help you reach your overall goals for live streaming, too.

Ready to try a Ustream alternative?

If you’re interested in seeing what Stretch has to offer, either sign up for a free 30-minute consultation with us to review your current live streaming setup and possible ways to improve it; or, take a look at our platform and how it works with a free demo.

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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!

Everything_You_Need_To_Know_About_Live_Streaming_Your_Church_Services_Stretch_Internet

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!

Stretch-Internet-Free-Demo

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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Live Streaming For Production Companies

Live Streaming For Production Companies

Interested in adding live streaming to the menu of services your production company already provides? It wouldn’t be such a leap, since you already have the necessary expertise and most—if not all—of the equipment you need to get started. There are one or two things that might make your life easier, though, should you decide to take advantage of the opportunity.

Live Streaming Production Considerations

A Live Production Switcher

If you’re currently using a video switcher or a production unit that doesn’t have a native live streaming option, consider adding one to your workflow. An all-in-one video switcher (we always recommend TriCaster) does the same efficient work of helping mix and manage your production sources while also giving you the ability to live stream your output in real time.

If you have a good workflow you want to preserve that doesn’t include a vehicle for live streaming (a polite way of telling us to “shove off”), you can simply attach an output from your existing production unit to a computer running encoding software (like Flash Media Live or Wirecast). We’ve seen this plenty of times with school sporting events, where a production team that is televising the game sends the feed to us via their computer/encoder combo so it can be  simulcast in real time.

Video signal transmission

In a traditional video production scenario, you might have footage from three or four cameras you’d pull together after the event to create a nice, neat package. For live streaming production, you have to find a way to transmit the video to your encoder so it can be streamed in real time.

To pull off live streaming flawlessly, preparation is essential. Don’t miss a single step with this extensive live streaming checklist.

There are two options:

  • The most common method is to transmit the video signal via cable. An SDI output works as you can run it up to 300 feet and still receive a good-quality signal. Learn more about different transmission options and recommended equipment in our recent blog post discussing various multi-camera setups.
  • An alternative is wireless transmission, using a transmitter for your camera and a receiver on the production side. Transmitters can be fairly expensive, but you’ll have freedom to move and no plugging and unplugging. Contact us for the latest recommendations if you’re considering a wireless setup.

A Live Streaming Mindset

Live streaming also requires a shift in the way you think about video production. In traditional video production mode, you might film a range of shots to get one that’s perfectly framed—that Hollywood moment, so to speak. In live streaming, you’re only concerned with creating an authentic viewing experience for the audience. Viewers should feel as if they’re present in real time, not as if they’re watching a collection of “best of” shots. You don’t want to be noticed, and, in many ways, grittiness and spontaneity are part of the package. (Not to mention that the occasional mishap sometimes turns into the high point of a broadcast!)

And, live streaming can live comfortably alongside your traditional offerings. If you would normally have several cameras filming at an event, you can still do that—you just may not be able to use all the footage for your live stream. (Multicamera live streaming is totally possible; it just has some additional challenges to overcome.)

Many production companies have designed value-add packages for clients that incorporate live streaming with editing services. For instance, why not offer a post production video package  along with a live stream? You can bundle them together to add value for your clients and increase your revenue from the project. Many potential customers would be just as interested in the opportunity to stream an event live as they would be to get a nicely edited recording of the event, given the chance. And from a production aspect, the philosophy of “divide and conquer” works: Bring out a few people focused on the live stream, with the remainder of your crew gathering additional footage that may not be part of the live stream, but can be used for the final, edited product.

A Good Live Streaming Partner Goes A Long Way

It goes without saying that live streaming won’t be as “neat” of a production as what you can do after the fact. While you’ll have to let go of your obsessive streak, that doesn’t mean your broadcast is destined to be subpar. With the right preparation and a reliable live streaming partner, you can absolutely take your business to new heights. Contact us with any questions about live streaming production or to find out more about our live streaming services and how they might work for your business.

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