What is Livestreaming?

By Keara McCarthy on July 03, 2023

Instagram Live, YouTube Live, Ariana Grande's live concert on Vevo, and IPL on JioCinema are all examples of livestreaming.

But livestreaming isn't a new concept.

Its origin can be traced back to 1993 when Xerox PARC broadcasted its event over Mbone. 

What is livestreaming, exactly?

Simply put, streaming is a method of video data transmission in which the video file's delivered bit by bit every second from a remote location to the viewer over the Internet. And when streaming happens in real-time, it's called livestreaming. In this case, the data isn't recorded and stored; it's directly transmitted to the viewer. 

This way, the viewer sees the livestreamed content in real-time, much like how sports and entertainment events are broadcasted live over TV.

But that's just the basics.

How Livestreaming Works

To understand livestreaming better, it's essential to understand the details of the technology behind it and the equipment required to facilitate it. 

At its core, livestreaming technology works by getting the video through a variety of processing stages while it's being transmitted to the viewer such that there's very little latency. A lower latency means the viewer will get a nearly real-time viewing experience. 

Equipment

The bare minimum you need to start livestreaming is an audio and video source. You'd also need equipment to help you upload the livestream onto the Internet, i.e., fast WiFi. A smartphone fits the bill perfectly, especially for personal use.

However, if you're a business or an OTT (Over-the-Top) platform, you should consider getting a camera and microphone for superior quality. 

If you're livestreaming a large-scale event, you'd typically have multiple cameras and microphones. In this case, mixing equipment can come in handy to switch between different audio-visual sources.

Types of Livestreaming Platforms

There are numerous platforms on which you can livestream your content.

Social Media

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer livestreaming features to their users in the form of Facebook Live and Instagram Live. 

You only need a smartphone and a reliable internet connection to start livestreaming on these platforms. This makes it the best option for individuals who want to go live with their friends. Similarly, it's great for businesses that want to connect with their audience through social media.

Dedicated Livestreaming Platforms

Unlike social media platforms, where it's possible to upload videos, photos, and text-only posts, these platforms are completely dedicated to livestreams. These include the likes of Twitch, Facebook Gaming, and Caffeine. You can access an audience that prefers to consume livestream content on these platforms.

OTT Platforms

These are platforms that offer television and other video content over the Internet. While OTT platforms usually offer pre-recorded content like movies and TV shows, they also allow you to livestream your content.

For instance, you could livestream sports events, concerts, and other linear TV channels on OTT platforms.

How it Works on Technical Level

There are multiple steps in the livestreaming process, starting from video shooting and ending with video playback. 

Here's an in-depth look into the behind-the-scenes technical functioning of livestreams.

Video Capture

The first step is to start shooting using an audio-visual setup like a camera and microphone. This audio and video must be transmitted over the Internet in real time for the livestream.

Compression 

Once you start shooting the video, it needs to be compressed to ensure only the essential components of the video are transmitted. This is done to cut the redundant flab from the footage to transfer only the relevant parts. It makes the video file lighter and easier to download at the viewer's end. 

Encoding

The compressed video data must be converted into a format many devices can recognize. This process of converting the video format is called encoding. Some popular encoding formats are:

Segmentation 

Time is of the essence in livestreaming to ensure viewers get a near-real-time viewing experience. So, the video file is broken down into segments that are a few seconds long to ensure they're downloaded quickly.

Content Delivery Network (CDN) Distribution 

Your video stream must be made available to your viewers as quickly as possible with minimal latency. This can be a challenge when your viewers are situated at far-flung locations all over the globe. A CDN can help speed things up. 

It's a network of globally-distributed servers that serve content to the viewers on behalf of the origin server. So, instead of connecting to the origin server located far away, a viewer would have to connect to a CDN server closest to them, speeding up the content delivery.

CDN Caching 

Caching is a process in which the CDN server temporarily stores a small segment of the livestream to deliver it to viewers. So, instead of fetching the segment from the origin server and serving it to the viewers, the CDN can provide the cached segment to the viewers while fetching the next one. This ensures a break-free livestream-watching experience. 

Decoding

Once the CDN sends the encoded video file to the viewer, it must be decoded for the video player to play it.

Video Playback

The final step involves a video player (usually HTML5) or app on the viewer's device that interprets the decompressed and decoded video data and plays the video for the viewer.

Why People Use Livestreaming

There are numerous reasons why people and businesses leverage livestreaming.

Personal Use Cases

29.7% of global Internet users watched livestreamed content weekly in Q3 2022.

Here are some reasons people watch (and host) livestreams for personal use.

Showcasing Hobbies

People can host livestreams to show their hobbies to their social circles. For instance, gamers can stream their gameplay in real-time for their friends and followers on platforms like Twitch and Facebook Gaming. Similarly, people can share their favorite make-up tutorials with their friends through Instagram Live.

Connecting with Friends and Followers

Livestreams can be an excellent way to connect with friends and followers on social media. Social media livestreams allow viewers to ask questions to the host, and the host can even let viewers become a part of the stream. 

This fosters a deeper connection between the host and their friends and followers. It's particularly great for social media influencers who want to build a loyal following.

Streaming Events

Those who can't attend an event but would still like to witness it live opt for livestreaming to watch it virtually in real-time. These events could include product launches, sports events, live concerts, and more. In this case, however, the users are involved in watching the livestream and not hosting it. 

Business Use Cases

While individuals mainly use livestreaming for recreation or connecting with their followers, businesses can use them to promote their products and tap into new revenue streams.

Boosting Brand Awareness

Livestreams are a great way to grow your brand awareness online. You can use them to announce new products, make company announcements, partner with influencers, and more. 

Many of these livestreams happen on social media platforms where you can build a loyal following. For instance, you could host a livestream giving a behind-the-scenes look into how your products are manufactured. 

You could also sponsor specific livestreams from influencers and increase your brand awareness on dedicated livestreaming platforms.

Increasing Reach

If you're hosting a sports event or a live concert, your audience would typically be limited to the in-person attendees. You can expand the reach of these events through livestreams. It enables you to reach audiences all around the globe. 

It's a win-win situation as you get a higher reach, and the viewers get to watch the event in real time. You can also generate revenue by putting the livestream behind a paywall or through ads. 

For instance, the English Premier League is available on fuboTV and requires a subscription.

Image via fuboTV

Growing Engagement

Livestreams can also be instrumental in developing a solid connection with your audience through social media. Unlike regular posts where your audience can engage with your brand passively, livestreams allow you to connect with them in real time. You could host Q&A sessions and how-to livestreams and respond to your followers right away to build a loyal audience.

Increasing Revenue

As mentioned earlier, livestreams enable you to tap into new revenue streams. For instance, you could ask viewers to upgrade their subscriptions to access a particular livestream on your OTT platform.

Similarly, you could host live shopping events on platforms like Instagram to sell your products to viewers in real time, much like QVC.

For instance, STARZPLAY requires its subscribers to purchase a special subscription to watch cricket. 

Image via STARZPLAY

Tips for Successful Livestreaming

Now that you understand how livestreaming works and how to use it to market your business and monetize your content, let's see how you can get it right.

Planning and Preparation

Unlike social media videos and on-demand content, where you can plan your content beforehand, things are tricky in livestreaming. You've got a tiny margin for error, as any issue that crops up will instantly reflect in the stream and spoil the user experience. That's why planning your livestream and ensuring everything is watertight is critical. Here's what your preparation should entail:

  • Make sure your setup is simple, and always ensure you have a backup plan that can kick in if there's any malfunction. 
  • Take care of the lighting. Make sure the light source is in front of the host so they're visible well in the livestream.
  • Consider a high-quality lapel microphone to reduce unwanted background and ambient noise.
  • If you're mixing the livestream with some background music, plan out how you'll mix it up with the vocals or speech.
  • Check your network signals or WiFi. It must be fast and offer great bandwidth for the best streaming quality. A simple speed test can help determine whether your network's up to the task. 

Once you're done planning, it's crucial to put your plans to the test. Go over the strategy with your team and get everyone on the same page. It's equally important to do a test rehearsal to see if everything's working fine. This can help you iron out any last-minute hiccups.

Engaging with the Audience

If you're livestreaming on social media or have a chat option with your stream, you must also start planning your engagement strategy.

Getting it right could make your audience feel more involved in the event, leading to a better overall experience. Here are some things you should consider in terms of audience engagement during your livestream:

  • Before the event starts, carefully plan the rules for the chat and questions and communicate them with your audience. This will help in getting them on the same page. 
  • Clearly communicate your agenda for the livestream with your audience, especially if it's a long session. This will help them understand if they need to tune into the entire stream or for the relevant bits.
  • Encourage your audience to ask questions during the livestream. It helps engage them and also makes them feel heard.
  • Don't shy away from answering questions that your audience has asked. A great idea is to mention the question and the name of the person who asked it before answering it. The friendly shoutout will encourage others to ask questions. 
  • Keep a filter for the questions you choose to answer. Make sure you only answer the most relevant ones. You could also pick up a few off-topic questions to keep the stream fun if you choose to.

Handling Technical Difficulties

Even after all that planning, it's possible that some technical issues may creep in. Video lag, poor buffering, network issues, and equipment failures — you name it — can all affect the livestream viewing experience. 

And that's why a backup plan is essential. 

While you might have a second set of equipment to replace the ones you're using, it's also important to ensure you've got appropriate backups for network and software issues. 

And even if there's a disruption in the livestream, you should have a plan of action to engage your audience while the technical issues are resolved. You can have an overlay saying, "We'll be back soon, sorry!" to hold your audience's attention.

If all else fails, you should be honest with your audience. Let them know you're facing technical difficulties and will do everything to remedy them. 

Netflix recently faced problems while livestreaming "Love Is Blind: The Reunion" and was forced to push it back. But they made amends by apologizing for the inconvenience and made the episode available in the next few hours.

Image via Twitter

Common Livestreaming Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Even with all that planning, livestreams can still go wrong and lead to a poor user experience if you commit some common mistakes. Identifying these is crucial so you can avoid them at all costs.

Poor Lighting and Sound Quality

Before the camera starts rolling for your livestream, it's necessary to check the video and sound quality. 

You must ensure enough natural or artificial lighting falls on the host. The background lighting must be darker for better contrast. The last thing you want is for the host to appear as a silhouette during the livestream.

Similarly, the idea of using a smartphone to host the livestream may be alluring given that it's got everything rolled into one — camera, microphone, and WiFi. 

But you should avoid using the built-in microphone if you're hosting a professional livestream, as it may not produce the best results. To cut out ambient noise, you should opt for a professional microphone. 

You can connect it to your smartphone or camera before starting the stream. This is crucial, considering many viewers might not watch the video throughout the duration but may continue listening to the audio. If the audio's not up to the mark, it'll hurt their viewing experience.

Not Interacting with the Audience 

People want to hear from brands. In fact, 64% of consumers say they want brands to connect with them. And livestreams present an excellent opportunity for you to build that connection.

So, when you launch a livestream, especially on a social media platform, it's important to be as interactive as possible with your audience. If you don't respond to their questions or involve them enough in your livestream, they'll likely get disengaged and drop off. To avoid such a situation, you can try a variety of audience engagement tactics, including:

  • Create audience polls.
  • Have a dedicated person overlooking the chat to spot the best questions. Answer those during the stream.
  • Get the host to directly address the camera to make the audience feel more involved.
  • Add an element of gamification. For instance, you can get the viewers to vote on who would be the best player in the match.

Limited Marketing of Livestreams

The last thing you want is to plan out a great livestream only to have a handful of viewers turning up for it. This could be the case if you don't market it in advance or in real time. 

If no one knows about your livestreams, how will they turn up for them?

To avoid such a situation, you should promote your livestreams well in advance. Use various marketing channels to communicate what your audience stands to gain from the livestream and when it's scheduled. 

If you've got an email list, send multiple reminders to your users to ensure they don't miss the event.

Even once the livestream begins, you can continue promoting it by creating and sharing snippets from your livestream. These clips could potentially attract viewers to your stream after it has started.

Overpromising and Underdelivering

One of the greatest mistakes you could make for your livestreams would be to hype them up and deliver a lackluster result. 

If you don't deliver a livestream of the quality you've promised, it'll dilute your credibility and push your audience to consider other alternatives. And winning this credibility back would be difficult.

At the same time, disgruntled viewers may take to social media platforms to express their displeasure, leading to poor word-of-mouth and bad PR. And that, in turn, could potentially affect your bottom line.

That's why it's critical to get your marketing right. Don't promise what you can't deliver while promoting your livestreams. If you keep your viewer expectations down and deliver on those, they'll still be satisfied at the end of the stream, leading to positive word-of-mouth.

Distributing Your Livestream

As mentioned above, it's crucial to market your livestream to give it ample visibility. But promoting your livestream alone isn't enough. You must also distribute it well to various endpoints to increase its reach and gain a larger viewership.

Livestream Distribution Channels

You can distribute your livestreams to numerous owned and third-party channels.

Social Media Platforms

Social media is undoubtedly a great place to distribute your content. With over 4.76 billion active users, these platforms present an opportunity to drive views and boost your reach. 

But if your livestream requires a subscription, it might not be the best destination for distribution, as livestreams on social media can only be monetized with ads.

That said, you can create near-live content from your livestream and share it on social media to attract viewers. It's particularly helpful to drive up awareness and engagement.

FAST (Free Ad-Supported TV) Channels

The Roku Channel, Pluto TV, and Xumo are some of the most popular FAST channels. These channels offer a viewing experience similar to linear TV channels but over the Internet.

This makes them an excellent destination for distributing your livestream, just as you would otherwise do over traditional linear TV channels. That said, the only way to monetize your livestream, in this case, would be through advertisements that play during the stream.

CTV (Connected TV)

You could also distribute your livestreams to CTV devices, such as smart TVs, gaming consoles, and others like Amazon Fire TV Stick and Apple TV. 

It's expected that the average adult in the US will spend nearly two hours watching videos on CTV devices daily, making it a great way to reach a broad audience.

And considering that CTV ad spending is expected to hit $8pro.14 billion this year in the US, it's a great channel to monetize your livestream.

Image via Insider Intelligence

OTT Platforms

If you have an owned and operated (O&O) OTT platform, you can easily distribute your livestream to your users with it. This distribution method enables you to dictate the overall viewing experience for the viewers. Additionally, you can determine how you want to monetize your livestream, whether through ads, subscriptions, or pay-per-view.

Livestream Distribution Made Easy with Zype Playout and Wildmoka's Clip Studio

To make the most of your livestream, you should consider distributing it to as many relevant endpoints as possible. And you can enable that by using two of Backlight Streaming's finest distribution products — Zype Playout and Wildmoka's Live Studio.

Zype Playout

Using Zype Playout, you can easily drag and drop videos (live and on-demand) into a single stream to create linear channels. It's an end-to-end solution for linear livestreams that enables you to:

  • Ingest content from the video library
  • Plan out your linear programming 
  • Connect ad server to insert ad breaks at designated spots
  • Distribute your content to multiple channels

It supports all major livestreaming protocols — HLS, RTP, Zixi, RTMP, SRT, and more. The best part is that you can mix up on-demand content with livestreams by adding them to the linear programming layout. It's also possible to prioritize your livestreams by overriding existing pre-programmed content.

Content Distribution

Playout has integrations with multiple FAST channels, OTT platforms, CTVs, and vMVPDs. These include the likes of YouTube, Twitch, Sling TV, Samsung TV Plus, and Hulu + Live TV.

You only need to set up your Playout channel and can then distribute it to multiple endpoints by following these steps:

  • Choose the destination platform
  • Copy the destination URL
  • Share with the platform

It's also possible to publish to your O&O OTT platform using Playout.

Wildmoka Clip Studio

A platform specifically created for broadcasters in the sports and news industries, Wildmoka's Clip Studio enables you to create content for social media and OTT platforms from livestreams. You can use it to:

  • Clip out essential parts of a livestream and stitch them
  • Create responsive videos from the clips (landscape videos turned into Instagram Reels)
  • Automate content clipping, editing, and distribution with AI/ML

This way, you can easily promote your livestream while it's taking place. At the same time, you can beat your competitors by automating and speeding up the content creation process. It's especially helpful for news broadcasters, as you can be the first one to publish the breaking news.

Content Distribution

The best part about Wildmoka is that you can distribute your content to social media, OTT platforms, and your CMS — all with a single click. 

If you automate the publishing, the platform will do it all for you too.

Get Livestreaming Right

By now, you might have a good understanding of what livestreaming is all about and how it works at a technical level. We've also explored the various use cases of livestreams.

Now the ball is in your court. Consider all the tips and mistakes covered in this post to understand what you need to do to get your livestreams the visibility they deserve.

Finally, choose a platform that enables you to distribute your livestreams effectively to multiple endpoints to increase their reach, monetize them better, and drive your business growth.

A mix of Zype Playout and Wildmoka's Live Studio is the perfect option here. They enable you to distribute your livestreams and also promote them while they're happening. Get in touch with us for a demo of Playout and Clip Studio

 

 

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