The 7 Most Important Live Streaming Metrics To Track

Once you’ve invested time and resources in creating a product, you naturally want to know what people think of it. You’d also be smart to gather all the information you can about who’s using it and how they’re using it so you can make the product better. (Will someone please tell HubSpot that users need to be able to associate a contact with multiple companies??)

The same theory applies to live streaming.

Now that you’ve invested time and resources into producing a quality live stream, the natural progression is to begin tracking some live streaming metrics that will give you insight into your level of success. Depending on the analysis of your data, you may see opportunities you haven’t previously thought of, identify areas in need of improvement, or (fingers crossed!) get confirmation that you’re on the right track.

To that end, we’ve identified seven live streaming metrics that will give you valuable information about your audience and their viewing habits.

7 Insightful Live Streaming Metrics You Should Be Tracking

1. Device viewership.

Where are people watching? These days, desktop computers are being used less frequently for viewing live streams, while mobile and OTT devices (like ROKU and Apple TV) are becoming more prevalent. Knowing how your viewers are watching helps you know what to focus on in your broadcast.

For example, some supplemental live stream material—like a Twitter feed or a live sports data feed—doesn’t always translate well to mobile devices. So if 80% of your viewers are watching your live stream on a mobile or OTT device, they may be missing out on an important part of your broadcast. Knowing that, you can focus your resources on moving as much of that supplemental information as possible onto the actual video itself, so your mobile and OTT viewers are getting everything they need to fully enjoy the experience. Plus, more mobile viewers means you may want to consider lowering the quality of the stream you send. Users on mobile connections have less bandwidth to work with and have a greater likelihood of experiencing buffering issues. Beyond those practical applications, examining this live streaming metric is simply good practice so you know where your viewers are.

2. Live viewership vs. on-demand viewership.

To better understand the needs of your viewers, it’s important to know how many people are watching your content live and how many are watching it later, on-demand. If your primary audience is watching live, do you even need to offer it on-demand? On the other hand, you may discover that most viewers are watching your content after the fact. If that’s the case, you might consider producing more of what’s working—non-live, on-demand content. Doing so might help draw people to your site more frequently. Looking at the numbers collectively can open your eyes to new business possibilities.

3. Repeat traffic.

Are people returning to your live stream to watch multiple events, or do you see mostly once-and-done traffic? This live streaming metric will tell you if you’re producing compelling content that makes people want to come back. (It’s easier to track if your live stream is on a pay-per-view or registration-based platform.)

If you’re a sports team, for example, and notice that you don’t have many repeat viewers, it’s likely that many of your viewers are fans of the opposing teams; repeat traffic, on the other hand, shows team loyalty. So if traffic is low your broadcast may need work, or you may need to spend some additional time/money on marketing.

Use your data to do more with your live stream! Check out this free guide on how to monetize your content.

4. Duration of views.

How long are people watching your live stream? Is the average churn for, say, a 2-hour event three minutes, 20 minutes, or more than 60 minutes? Low streaming duration could indicate that the quality of your content needs work, or that you’re not reaching the right viewing audience (which could speak to your marketing efforts).

This live streaming metric is also particularly useful for monetization purposes, especially in advertising. Advertisers will be more interested in placing ads if a good number of people are watching for a good amount of time because their advertising is likely sprinkled in from beginning to end.

5. Unique visitors to your site.

Unique visitors, or views, are different than total views. If the same person visits your site 10 times in one day, all 10 visits would come from the same IP address, assuming that person is using the same computer/network each time. Those are not unique views (which come from different IP addresses).

If you’re doing PPV live streaming, compare the number of unique views to the total number of passes sold (e.g. total views) in order to get insight into your conversion rate. In other words, how many sales opportunities are actually converting to paid customers? It’s a somewhat imperfect measure (for example, IP addresses can be skewed for viewers using virtual private networks or public wi-fi) but the majority of your viewers are likely to be watching from their home or office computers.

6. Geographical breakdown of your viewership.

Where are people watching your live stream from? This live streaming metric is useful in several ways. First, it can help you refine your monetization strategies, including fine-tuning your price point. If the majority of your viewers are local, you may want to raise the price to encourage people to attend the event in person rather than watch online. Second, it can also help with advertising. Businesses located in the same geographical area as your viewers will be more inclined to advertise on your live stream.

7. Viewer engagement.

If your audience interacts with your content, that says a lot about the quality of your live stream! It also means viewers are more likely to come back for more. So if you’re running a social feed with Twitter or Facebook alongside your broadcast, monitor how often people comment, chat, or tweet a link to the content to their friends—“Hey, I’m watching this game; you can tune in here!”

This article has some good tips on how to improve viewer engagement for your live stream. While some of the article’s suggestions may not apply to you directly, a simple practice that most streamers can incorporate is to have your broadcast talent interact with the audience. Ask questions that viewers can respond to using a specific Twitter hashtag, for example. You can respond to user questions on air or directly on Twitter. Whatever approach you choose, the key is to make the audience feel connected to or part of the broadcast. The bottom line is it’s in your best interest to cultivate viewers who not only watch, but also interact with your content.

To get started tracking, check out Google Analytics, a useful data-gathering tool used by many of our clients. And if you have ideas about other metrics fellow live streamers should track, let us know!

Improve Your Live Stream By Improving Your Platform

If the data gathered from your live streaming metrics prompts you to improve your live stream, switching up your live streaming platform can help.

With Stretch, you’ll get a custom-designed viewing portal, advanced live stream viewing features (like monetization options, instant highlights, and live data feeds), and best-in-class technical and viewer support. On top of all that, you’ll get expert advice on how you can improve your live stream to reach your organization’s goals. Interested in learning more? Chat with us!


What Is The Cost Of Live Streaming An Event?


This article is for all you potential live streamers out there who have questions about the cost of live streaming an event, in particular: “Does live streaming cost money?” and/or “How much does live streaming cost?”

While we can’t speak for all providers, we can offer insight on how the live streaming industry works. We can also share information about how we price live streaming here at Stretch, and which pricing structure works best for most of our clients.

“Does live streaming cost money?”

We’ve heard this question many times—and the short answer is sometimes.

There are free social media platforms, like YouTube Live and Facebook Live, that allow you to live stream an event for free (other than the cost of any equipment you may have purchased for production).

The best live streams are also the most carefully planned. Download our complete list of must-have equipment and detailed task lists to make your next production flawless.

These no-cost live streaming options probably sound great—and they may even be great for a short while—but beware: You don’t get what you don’t pay for. The platforms are free, which means you’ll have no operational support, and no one to turn to for advice on how to maximize your use of the platform or put together a first-rate broadcast. You’re entirely on your own.

If you’d like to provide a better experience for your viewers by producing a high-quality, professional broadcast, you’ll want to choose to pay a live streaming platform provider instead.

Learn more about the advantages of using a paid platform provider—and how you can combine free and paid platforms for maximum effect—before you decide.

Live Streaming Costs: What You’re Paying For When You Choose A Provider

If you decide to go with a platform provider, you’ll be paying for two things: people and technology. But these services will vary depending on which provider you choose.

Some providers actually offer very little in the way of support—despite the fact that you’re paying for it. In some cases you’ll get email support only, and it’s your responsibility to monitor your own broadcast and catch problems as they arise.

On top of that, many providers turn bandwidth usage into a guessing game by arriving at a rough monthly or event cost by way of a live streaming cost calculator. (The more people that watch a live stream the more bandwidth it consumes, so bandwidth is one of the biggest factors in the cost of live streaming an event.) These providers price your live streaming on the following variables:

  • The number of events you expect to live stream
  • The size of your expected audience
  • The bitrate you plan to use

The problem with this method is that your actual live streaming costs are up in the air until after the broadcast is complete. And if you go over the amount you estimated—for instance, your audience is larger than you thought it would be, or you want to stream an extra event or two—you’ll have to pay overage charges to make up the difference. (And frankly, we don’t see how getting penalized for producing a popular broadcast is a solid path to success.)

Stretch Live Streaming Costs: What You’re Paying For When You Choose Us

At Stretch, you’ll always get what you pay for, straight up, without any guesstimating. There are two huge benefits to going with Stretch:

  • Superior customer support. When we sign on a new client we factor in the cost of our excellent support. Our “freakishly good support” goes beyond that of most live streaming providers: We’ll monitor your broadcasts to ensure they go smoothly (we notify you if something goes wrong!), and we have a team of people working behind the scenes to help resolve any troubleshooting or viewer issues.
  • A “no surprises” pricing model. At Stretch, you’ll always know exactly what you’ll pay and what you’ll get. Depending on the partner and type of industry, we can offer the following models:
    • A yearly flat rate for unlimited live streaming. This option comes at a discount because we’re able to secure lower bandwidth pricing in advance. Plus, you can stream as many events as you want and eat as much bandwidth as you want without having to worry about too many viewers – or bandwidth rates going up six months down the line. (A long-term, discounted payment plan is most likely the best choice at any provider—as long as you’ve done your homework and feel confident that you’ve found the right live streaming partner for the long haul.)
    • A monthly plan for unlimited streaming. This plan ensures you’re not locked into a full year contract if you think your live streaming plans could change. It’s a bit more expensive than the yearly rate, but for some clients the flexibility may be worth the cost—and you still don’t have to worry about bandwidth.
    • Pay-per-event. If you have just a few events to live stream or you won’t be live streaming consistently, this plan might be right for you. You still pay a single rate, regardless of number of viewers (we want you to be successful!).

Keep in mind that we’re discussing models for partners who want to make their content available to users for free. We also offer pay-per-view options, which can eliminate out-of-pocket costs altogether and provide a substantial revenue stream back to you.

Plus, with Stretch as a partner, you’ll always have access to the latest live streaming tools and features—like a universal HTML5 video player and automatic archiving of every event—and have a trusted source of technical advice at all times, both of which will help make your broadcast the best it can possibly be.

Need more information about live streaming costs?

Let us help! Whether you have questions about Stretch or about the cost of live streaming an event in general, get in touch and we’ll help you find the answers.


How To Augment Your University’s Primary Live Streaming Platform With Facebook Live

In a recent post, we talked about the idea that social media networks and platform providers bring different things to the table when it comes to live streaming. Social media streaming is ideal for spontaneous broadcasts and short clips. On the flip side, platform providers are a smarter solution for preplanned events, where you’d like to maintain control over messaging, have access to technical support, and provide a more immersive experience for your viewers.

If you’re serious about your live stream, it’s a great strategy to use both social media networks and a platform provider in tandem.

Here at Stretch Internet, we stream all kinds of college sports, and much of what happens in a collegiate sports environment fits all the check boxes associated with using a live streaming platform provider: College games are revenue-generators, so it’s important for universities to control the live streaming environment and be sure the stream always goes off without a hitch. Also, games are scheduled well in advance, making it easy to plan ahead for the best possible broadcast.

Wondering what a good platform provider can do for your school? Take a look at this free guide, How To Choose A Live Streaming Platform, for everything you need to know before you start shopping around.

But there’s still room for Facebook Live for universities. Below are just a few of the ways you could use it to promote your college sports programs in addition to the games your platform provider streams live. Try one, try ‘em all. We bet the excitement they generate won’t be just among fans but everyone involved in the athletic programs as well.

Creative Ways To Use Facebook Live For Universities—Sports Edition

1. Broadcast postgame reactions.

After a game, everyone loves to hash out the best plays and memorable moments. Why not scoot down to the court and get quick, three-minute interviews with the coach and student athletes? While it would be difficult to plan this kind of broadcast ahead of time, it’s easy to pull out your phone and share this kind of spontaneous content immediately with your follower base.

2. Capitalize on signing day.

Every year on signing day, high school seniors commit to playing college sports with schools all over the country. As commitments roll in throughout the day, go live on Facebook each time to announce the latest. Share each player’s basic details with your school community, including their names, where they’re from, and any information about their achievements in the sport.

3. Share game day updates from coaches or players.

Here’s the flip side of postgame reactions: If, for example, tonight’s 7 p.m. basketball game is against a major conference rival, do a five-minute interview with the coach (or an athlete scheduled to play) at 1 p.m. the same day and broadcast it on Facebook Live. Giving people a short preview of what to expect is a great way for communications professionals or sports information directors to generate excitement and build an audience for the evening’s main event.

4. Do a weekly Q&A with your athletic director.

Fifteen minutes, once a week—that’s all you need to make this strategy worthwhile. And because you’re using Facebook Live, fans can easily post questions or comments within Facebook so the athletic director can respond in real time. Keep it short and focused, and this is likely to become a weekly installment that fans will look forward to.

5. Tease formal announcements.

Short teasers are a great way for universities to use Facebook Live. Say, for instance, a new logo reveal is planned for the athletic department, or maybe you’ve hired a new head coach for a particular sports program. In either case, you’ll likely give a scheduled press conference where the relevant parties will appear in person (and that’s a good fit for your live streaming platform provider!). But in the meantime, give everyone a quick heads-up on Facebook Live. Build excitement in advance of the news conference by letting people know there’s something big coming down the line.

A Good Platform Provider Brings It All Together

When it comes time to plan for those full-length, scheduled events, we still recommend having a good live streaming platform provider by your side. A professional-looking broadcast, a top-notch viewing experience, and continued technical assistance for both you and your viewers—these are the things that reinforce your school’s athletic commitment and excellent reputation.

At Stretch, we stream more than 60,000 live events a year, many of which are collegiate sporting events. If you have questions about how live streaming might work at your school or want some honest expert advice about how to get started, drop us a line. We’re happy to help!


Picking A Live Streaming Platform: Social Networks Vs. Platform Providers

Picking A Live Streaming Platform: Social Networks Vs. Platform Providers

One size doesn’t fit all—not even when it comes to live streaming platforms.

These days, there are several good platforms to choose from if you’re interested in live streaming. Social media networks like Facebook Live and Twitter are knee-deep in the game; there are also numerous live streaming service providers like us. While some would have you believe that the two sides are in competition, vying for the top spot, we don’t think that’s necessarily the case. (Sorry to disappoint you here. If you’re looking for some friendly competition, though, we could point you in the direction of any one of our clients’ games currently streaming live!)

When it comes to picking a live streaming provider, we think it’s more about which option is right for your needs at the time. And although you might think you have to choose just one or the other (either a social network or a robust live streaming platform), that’s not actually the case. They can coexist—and even complement one another. Below is a live streaming service comparison that highlights the particular strengths of each of these options. After that, well, we’ll leave it up to you.

When Live Streaming With Social Media Is Better

1. For short, minutes-long clips. A quick analysis of the action, reactions from fans, and short sound bites work well with social media streaming. The simplicity and immediacy of this type of streaming—especially when you can do it quickly using your phone—makes it handy when you just need to share a short clip with the world.

2. For Johnny-on-the-spot streaming. While most school or church events are on set schedules, giving them time to prepare and plan for live streaming, your organization may not have that luxury. (Or, you may not have it all the time.) Again, the ease of social media streaming allows you to share impromptu events or breaking news immediately, and your social media subscribers will be quickly made aware.

3. When audience size is paramount—assuming you have a large number of followers, of course. Your social media stream will immediately reach your entire subscriber base as soon as you go live. You may be sacrificing branding and quality control, but in some cases that’s an acceptable trade-off for a larger audience.

4. If monetizing content is not a priority. If you don’t have a need for a pay-per-view option or the capability to incorporate advertising or sponsorships, then a social media platform is probably sufficient for your live streaming needs.

Monetizing your live stream is just one of the important considerations for choosing a platform. Find out about the other critical components in this free guide.  

When Using A Live Streaming Platform Provider Is Better

1. If you want technical support. You can’t call Facebook Live for help. If you want someone to provide ongoing support by helping with troubleshooting and proactively monitoring your broadcasts, a platform provider is the way to go.

2. For control over branding and messaging. Many platform providers allow you to design a streaming portal exclusively dedicated to your organization, providing a way to help build your brand. Social media channels focus on their own branding, not yours—your content may get lost in the shuffle.

3. When providing an immersive experience for users is paramount. Social media platforms lack the capability to incorporate sophisticated features into a broadcast, so although your content will reach its audience, it may not be as impactful as it could be. The right platform provider can integrate a wide variety of elements to wow your viewers—for instance, live statistics during a sports broadcast.

4. If you’re looking for a knowledgeable partner to help build your live streaming strategy. If you want to improve your live streams over time and create more effective messaging, you’ll want an expert who understands your organization’s goals.

Download Now: How To Choose A Live Streaming Platform

When you do need a live streaming platform provider, there’s plenty more to consider before committing to any particular one. This free guide outlines the necessary elements for a phenomenal viewing experience and how the right provider platform can contribute to your organization’s overall success. Don’t make a decision without it!


4 Excellent Web Hosting Options For Churches

4 Excellent Web Hosting Options For Churches

The do-it-yourself trend is great for an awful lot of things—planning a wedding, redoing your bathroom, or making an eight-prop copter with safety issues—but not so much for creating a professional-looking, reliable website (unless you’re already an expert, in which case please go right ahead).

Your website says a lot about your church. If you haven’t made it a priority, chances are it’s not attracting new members, and it may even be reflecting negatively on your organization. That doesn’t have to be the case! Now it’s easier than ever to have a polished and informative site that will make a positive first impression on visitors—with a minimal investment of time, thoughtfulness, and even resources.

There are a ton of church web hosting options available, but not all are a good fit for your unique needs. So if you’re just starting a website or wanting to upgrade, below are the tops on our list of the best (and most affordable) church website hosting options around and the criteria that landed them there.

4 Of The Best Church Web Hosting Options

Our top picks are below, but first, here’s why we chose them:

  • They passed the “eye test.” Their own websites look professional and include a portfolio of sample sites they’ve built, designed, and hosted. We clicked off of a site within three seconds if it didn’t give the initial impression of being clean, professional, and attractive.
  • They emphasize support. Customer support is mentioned prominently and passionately on their websites. If the site goes down or you can’t figure out how to update content, they won’t make you wait around for help.
  • They design responsive websites. They’ll make sure your site looks good on both mobile and desktop.
  • They make online giving easy. Plenty of hosts offer the option for online giving, but these hosts go the extra mile to make the user experience extraordinary.
  • They make it easy to live stream. The hosts below don’t try to do it themselves (good call—it’s not their area of expertise), but they do frequently partner with live streaming providers to give you what you need.

Haven’t thought about live streaming your church services yet? Find out why you should be—and how to get started—with this free guide to church live streaming.

And our top four church web hosting options are…

1. Clover Sites

According to Clover Sites, every church is unique, so every church website should be unique. They only do custom designs (no templates), so your website will be reflective of your individual church. You’ll get all the tools you need to manage and update your website, and making edits is easy with drag-and-drop tools and real-time previews. A neat feature here is the use of parallax scrolling, a new (and awesome!) web technology that, when used correctly, can really make a site stand out. They are also happy to work with third-party live streaming providers.

2. Ekklesia 360

Ekklesia 360 is a little pricier than the others on this list, but they also have the richest features. A particular bonus is their powerful database tool, ChMS, which allows you to create customized member lists and track interactions with your congregants. They also make it easy to integrate third-party live streaming services into your website. And don’t worry about getting things up and running—they have a team solely dedicated to onboarding new clients and getting your site off the ground.

3. Ministry Designs

Ministry Designs gives you all the tools you need to design a great site, including a broad selection of attractive templates—no tech expertise necessary. Or, you can enlist the help of their experts to build a custom design exclusively for your church. A drag-and-drop website builder makes it easy to update the site yourself, and they also offer Parallax scrolling technology as well as custom add-ons like database configuration and e-commerce options. The initial setup fee is $1,000; after that, it’s $20 per month. One of the coolest things about Ministry Designs: Each of their team members has extensive background in church ministry, so they get it.

4. ChurchDev

Like Ministry Designs, ChurchDev also offers a wide range of beautifully designed templates. They offer to customize any template with whatever features you need; you can also order a new custom design for an additional fee. Unique features include the Prayer Wall, which connects congregants with prayer requests, and a secure church member directory. All of their offerings are included in the standard price—there are no add-on fees or services. Live streaming is supported in all designs, with the help of a third-party provider. They’re also big on support: The average response time to inquiries is less than an hour.

At Stretch, we’re happy to partner with your church web host to help you get the most out of your new website. Live streaming your church services has a number of benefits, and we can get you started, even if you have a small budget and a small staff. Together with your new website, you’ll soon be reaching more people—and making more of an impact—than ever before. 


How To Select A Live Streaming Video Provider

How To Select A Live Streaming Video Provider

Fact: Many companies make a rushed, ill-informed decision about which live streaming video provider to use.

Fact: That’s not advised!

Reading this article may help ensure that you don’t make that same mistake.

When you buy a car, you can’t just look at the price tag—and you can’t just look at the aesthetics. You have to look at the overall package and make sure you’ll be happy driving it today and in several years. The same goes for partnering with a video streaming provider! There are a number of critical factors you have to take into consideration before making your decision. So, we’ve made that process a little easier for you!

Below, we’ve outlined three critical steps you should take and four questions to ask yourself before selecting a live streaming video provider (as well as five ways you’ll know if you’ve made the right choice).

3 Steps To Take Before Selecting A Live Streaming Provider

1. Do your research online. Educating yourself about different video streaming providers and hosting options is easier than ever. Before you narrow down your list of options, be sure you spend a good amount of time surfing the web for providers that will help you with a successful streaming venture. You should be able to get a feel for their technology, look at the streaming experience they provide, and dig up any positive or negative online reviews.

2. Select vendors specific to your industry type. Once you’ve compiled your master list, you should whittle it down based on the streaming video providers who focus on your market. There’s a misconception that all streaming providers are created equal—that they can all accommodate any vertical—but there’s something to be said for finding a vendor who understands your area of business. For example, if you need to stream a business seminar, you may want a vendor who can incorporate a PowerPoint presentation—or if you’re streaming an athletic event, live statistics may be critical for the user experience.

3. Talk to those they’ve worked with. Instead of simply asking for a list of references, ask your streaming provider for a full client list. That way, you can bypass the stock references and cold call someone who has worked with the provider in the past to get an honest opinion. The first question you should ask is, “What happened when you ran into problems with your live stream? Tell me about that experience.” It doesn’t matter if their problem was big or small—every streaming and hosting provider will have issues at some point. You may want to offer the following prompts to get more information: 

  • “Did you try to reach out to them when the issue occurred?”
  • “How quick was their response?”
  • “What was their response?”
  • “Did the problem get fixed right away?”
  • “If it was a lengthy fix, did they stay on it until it was complete?”
  • “How was their communication throughout that process?”

After you learn about the experience, try to get a better understanding of the live streaming video provider as a partner—not just a third-party service provider. For example, ask about a time that the live streaming video provider went above and beyond for the company. Whether the company had a question about equipment or its IT department was struggling and the streaming provider stepped in to help, it’s always good to learn more about a provider’s performance in this area.

4 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Selecting A Video Streaming Provider

1. Will I see advertising from the streaming provider during my live stream? Some “free” live streaming services make their money by cluttering your video stream with advertisements. Of course, this greatly diminishes the user experience. We’ve even heard from clients that their previous provider would put 15- or 30-second midroll advertising in their live streams. Of course, if you’re at a critical point in your broadcast  and your users are interrupted by a soft drink commercial, you can bet that the user experience will a negative one.

2. Will I see the streaming provider’s branding during my live stream? Again, it’s important to ask yourself what kind of experience you want to provide your user with. If you cannot control the messaging and branding of your live stream, that is a big red flag.

3. Will I be able to customize the streaming experience to meet the wants and needs of my viewership? For example, if you don’t see any options for your users to live comment or interact with social media, that could be an issue for your user experience.

4. Will my viewers be able to watch my live stream on Apple TV or Roku? You may want your users to be able to access the live stream from set-top boxes like Roku and Apple TV. If your streaming provider doesn’t currently provide that (or isn’t in the process of rolling it out in the near future), that’s a red flag. Successful live streaming today examines a broader way to reach an audience—not just through traditional computers and phones.

5 Ways To Know You’ve Selected The Right Streaming Provider

1. Your provider is proactively monitoring your eventsnot just sitting around, waiting for you to reach out to them if there are problems with the live stream. A good live streaming provider will have a system in place for their support specialists to monitor a broadcast so, if something goes wrong, they will be ready to respond to the issues appropriately. For example, our team has a system in place that requires support specialists to check on an event at least every 20 minutes.

2. Your provider has a phone number you can call if you need to reach themnot an email-only option that forces you to wait 24-48 hours (or longer) to hear back from someone. Having someone get back with you after a few hours (or a few days!) may work if you’re getting your hot tub serviced, but it does not work for a live-streamed event with a shelf life of 90 minutes or so.

3. Your provider understands how important the user experience is. Does the video provider understand that your live stream should be more than a basic video player embedded in a basic web page? That may work in certain cases—but if immersing the user in the overall experience is important, your streaming provider should be able to accommodate you.

4. Your provider understands the power of your brand and wants to help you build and create that brand. A live stream may be the first opportunity your users have to experience whatever you’re providing—whether it’s a sporting event, business conference, or church service. Thus, you’ll want to give the best impression of your organization—and your streaming provider can help with that.

5. Your provider understands the whole spectrum of streaming, how each and every decision will impact your organization, and what you need to be prepared for. If you want to know what kind of equipment you’ll need to make something happen, how a pay-per-view user platform compares to a free one, or how you can best monetize through sponsorships or advertising, your streaming provider should know how these things impact you and be able to help you figure out the answers.

A Final Piece Of Advice

Do not underestimate the value of live support for your events.

It doesn’t matter how “plug and play” or “streamlined” a live streaming solution promises to be—there will be problems with your stream eventually. And if those problems coincide with a very important event or a critical time in that event, your ability to successfully deliver on your promise of a great user experience will be solely tied to your streaming provider. If they can proactively monitor your feed and troubleshoot any issues that arise, your users will continue to come back to your service. 

If you would love to live stream your event but want a partner to guide and assist you through the process, let’s talk! At Stretch Internet, we stream more than 60,000 live events every year with an emphasis on providing outstanding support and memorable experiences. 


Countdown to GameCentral 2.0

So, if you’re a Stretch client, you’ve probably heard about this little thing we’re calling GameCentral 2.0. The excitement is building! Now just weeks away from the start of the academic year, we’ve started to field a lot of questions about the platform and our scheduled roll-out, and we figured it might be helpful to post an update on our timeline and plans as we get closer to kicking off the year.

Here are answers to the five questions we’re hearing most…

Continue reading

Diving into High Definition

For the past year or so, we’ve quietly started providing HD streaming for a select number of our clients. The results have been fantastic. Check out some samples from Northeastern (you can use the scrubber to move to different points in the video). Kudos to Northeastern’s Imry Halevi and his crew for their outstanding productions.

We’re excited to start making this functionality available for even more clients. Beginning this Fall, any school that has the required bandwidth and hardware (more on both of those in a minute) can stream in HD through our GameCentral portal. There will be an extra cost (there’s just no way around it since HD requires almost four times as much bandwidth). If you’re interested, contact us and we’ll put together a reasonable package – we’re looking at HD as an enhancement to our current service, not a means of generating tons of additional revenue.

While making the switch to HD isn’t incredibly difficult, it is important to understand and consider several requirements before diving in head-first.

1) You’ll need to have upload speeds of 3.0 Mbps or greater from any venue at which you plan to stream in HD. So, make sure to connect a laptop up to any network you plan on using and visit to get a good baseline reading on your bandwidth.

2) You’ll obviously need an HD video source (just because a camera connects digitally into your computer doesn’t mean it’s capable of producing HD video). True HD video needs to be transmitted at 720p, 1080i or 1080p – and this is become pretty standard on most cameras. (Most manufacturers aren’t shy about throwing a big shiny “HD” sticker on their cameras, so that’s the first clue that you’re in good shape). If you’re in the market for a new HD camera, our staff can also provide recommendations for good HD cameras ranging in budget from $750 or so all the way up to $5,000 (or beyond). If you’d like a custom recommendation, just ask!

3) If you’re using a computer (as opposed to an HD-compatible TriCaster or other device), you’ll want to make sure your machine has enough “horsepower” to handle HD encoding. Our streaming software (Wirecast) definitely uses more juice to encode at HD bit rates. It’s easy to see if your computer is up to the task – we can generate an HD settings file for you, have you start up a broadcast and check the CPU stats right inside of Wirecast. We can’t emphasize enough, however, that this needs to be tested well in advance – we don’t want you to run into any surprises on game-day!

Assuming you meet those three criterion, you’ll be all set from a logistical standpoint. But there are some other considerations. Streaming in HD is great for users who have enough bandwidth to view the stream, but you can run into problems if you’re trying to cater to users who have slower connections, or are trying to watch the broadcasts on a 3G mobile device, for instance. We’ve got a great long-term solution coming down the road, which will allow for true “transcoding” – this means you can send us a single HD-quality stream, and our servers can automatically break the stream down into lower bit-rate options based on a user’s available bandwidth. So, for instance, a viewer who only has a 1.0 Mbps connection might automatically be connected to a 750 Kbps stream.

In the meantime, many schools are utilizing Wirecast to send TWO streams to us simultaneously (one in HD, and one in standard definition). It’s as simple as having us build a settings file that can output both streams. The only hitch is that this solution does require you to create two events in the Stretch Internet CMS (one would point to the HD stream, and the other would point to the standard definition stream). The viewer then has the option to choose either stream in the portal. Again, this requirement will go away when we’ve put transcoding in place.

We’ve already heard from several schools who are ready to go for 2012-13, and it’s not too late to hop on board. Give us a shout or drop us an e-mail if you’re interested, or have questions, and we’ll be happy to help!

Happy streaming…

Lots of new toys

OK, first I gotta say that I love our blog name – there was definitely some debate in our office about what we should title our new blog (let’s just say that one idea involved clip art of an alligator – don’t ask). Is Taffy a little corny? Maybe… but admit it, you’re gonna remember it, right?

Alright, down to business.

Who says summer is time to rest? Our development team has been hard at work to get all kinds of new and exciting features in place for the Fall. Consider this a sneak peak…

•Live blogging! When we unveiled our GameCentral interface last summer, we included a live chat feature. And while many schools have used and enjoyed the feature, a lot of schools have held off simply because a chat room can open the door to, well, let’s just say some “colorful” commentary. With that in mind, we’re putting the finishing touches on an integrated live blog (which, like the chat, will appear in the portal adjacent to the audio or video stream). This new feature will allow our clients to utilize a more moderated environment; the admin can choose to approve or ignore user comments for inclusion in the blog, promote other users, include hyperlinks and all kinds of other pretty cool things. You can even use the interface for a blog-only event.

•Mobile live stats! (And, yes, I am going to add an exclamation point after every item because these deserve exclaiming!) We’ve got a beautiful graphic interface set for our mobile live stats this year. We’ll be ready to show off the baseball/softball interface at CoSIDA – and the Fall sports will not be far behind. We’ve spent a lot of time to make sure the interface is pleasing to the eye – but also incorporates the play-by-play and statistical information in a logical and useable way (which isn’t as easy as you’d think when you’re working with a lot fewer pixels!). So, any mobile device with a web browser will be able to access live stats. And, remember, we’re still the only provider to support both StatCrew AND DakStats (you’re welcome NAIA schools).

•Media downloads! (Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but this feature is already live and there’s a link available in the client CMS). Most of our clients have – at some point or other – asked us if they could get a copy of an audio or video file from one of their archives. Now, that functionality exists with just a few clicks. As soon as we’ve posted archives (which happens almost immediately after the event for video – and within 48 hours for most audio events), our users can download the corresponding MP3 (audio) or MP4 (video) files and edit them to their heart’s content. We also support batch downloading, in case you’re looking to download several files at once.

•Automatic audio archiving! For our clients who broadcast audio by dialing into our studio, we’re now going to provide the option to manually start/stop a recording of the audio through simple commands (for instance, 1# might start the recoding, and 2# might stop the recording). The benefit, you might ask? For clients who utilize this feature, their archives will be available almost immediately following the game in the On-Demand tab of the portal (no more waiting for our staff to edit the files).

•Integrated Twitter feeds in the portal! We’re pursuing a means of allowing our clients to have their most recent Twitter feed automatically scroll through the ticker area (above the media player) in the portal. Pretty cool stuff. So, let’s say you have a fan watching a live women’s basketball game and you just tweeted the final score of the MEN’s basketball game – within about 60 seconds or so, that tweet will scroll through the ticker. The possibilities are pretty exciting.

•Pre-roll integration! We already provide the means to incorporate rotating footer graphics and gateway graphics (splash screens) in the portal; now, we’re adding the ability to include pre-roll audio and video clips as well. You’ll be able to upload an audio or video commercial, for example, and have that commercial play as soon a user clicks on a “Watch” or “Listen” link – as soon as it’s done, the stream they requested will automatically begin playing.

So, there you have it! We’ve got several other exciting features coming as well, but this should at least get your feet wet. Let us know your thoughts!