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Ustream Offers Three Rules for Streaming Live Video
Keep your early birds entertained, advises Ustream, and they'll help spread the word about an upcoming live broadcast.
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Broadcasters are increasingly offering viewers live online video experiences, but what separates an average live event from a spectacular one? To find out, we sat down with Alden Fertig, senior product marketing manager for Ustream, at the recent Streaming Media West conference in Los Angeles. Fertig offered these three rules for live video success:

"First is make it interactive," Fertig said. "Traditional TV was sort of like, it happened somewhere else, there's no connection to viewers, but what you can do on the web is you can make it interactive. So, for example, we have a chat module that goes next to the video called social stream and you can bring in Twitter feeds there. And so, the on-camera talent can say, ‘Hey, tweet at us while we're talking on camera right now.' And then people can actually interact.

"The second thing is to realize that your time window is different. So, people are going to show up early, and they'll actually stay late. So, before your event make sure that you actually turn on the stream early with some sort of preshow content."

The idea here is that people will check in early to make sure they're set up correctly, and once they do they'll message their friends to get them watching, as well. Keep these early birds entertained so they'll stick around.

"The last thing is after the show," Fertig said. "There's a very important window of time where you can turn around the VOD very quickly."

For more on live video success, watch the full interview below.

Eric: Hi, I'm Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen, the editor for Streaming Media Magazine and StreamingMedia.com here at Streaming Media West 2012 with Alden Fertig from Ustream. And thank you for joining us.

Alden: Thanks for having me.

Eric: Ustream has emerged as one of the leading, if not the leading, live streaming platform, or service, in the last couple of years. And you've got some interesting new product announcements, things you're doing. What's new with Ustream these days?

Alden: So, the big thing we announced at the show is our Ustream certified program. So, what we wanted to do was, we've always worked with a variety of hardware and software manufacturers that make great encoding products. And we know there's a variety of people that use our platform, they have all sorts of different production workload and production needs. So we've always been talking to all these different partners and we said, "Hey, let's make a program where we can incorporate all these different choices for our broadcasters, whether they have a budget of zero to $200. And we just did a partnership with Logitech to come out with this great wireless HD webcam for the $200 budget, or whether you're a professional broadcaster, and so we have people using, for example, the Tricaster. So, we came out with a plug-in for Tricaster as well. So, we want to make sure there's options sort of at all ends of the market. We don't believe in a sort of one size fits all, hey, here's just one product to stream with.

Eric: Right. Now, it's been interesting to watch over the last year, 18 months, taking a look at the big picture in the online video industry, clearly streaming live has moved way up on the list of what content creators want to do and what they feel like they should be able to do thanks in part to companies like Ustream who've made it easy. In addition to the availability of the technology though, why do you think live streaming has become such a lightning rod for people's attention right now?

Alden: I think a big shift has happened, which is now HD is actually attainable and affordable for even at a consumer level. I think even just a few years ago HD was a little bit tough in a live streaming situation, and so people looked at it like, well, if I stream live it's going to have to be kind of degraded or whatever. And also I think that iPhones and iPads have really helped make that market bigger because, again, a few years ago maybe you couldn't watch everything on your mobile device, but now that people are using mobile devices it's really easy to get content, to watch content, people are getting familiar with it. So, that's sort of the technology side. Then on the content side, one thing we talked about earlier today is that from a news gathering perspective interesting stuff is happening with people being able to also broadcast on their phones. So, we saw two interesting examples recently. One with the hurricane on the east coast, and then in our hometown San Francisco, the Giants won. And so after the Giants won there was rioting and bonfires in the streets. And so what happened? Well, the local news affiliates were there with their cameras, but also people were there with cell phones. And so now all these interesting news events you're seeing these, like, professional feeds right next to what we would call citizen journalists, you know, from one of our mobile apps.

Eric: Obviously live streaming offers tremendous opportunities, but it also introduces new challenges into the ecosystem, one of which has been one of the big topics here at Streaming Media West which is the issue of search and discovery. With live events, especially on scheduled live events and live streams, how do you help people find this content. It's out there, it's available, but if people can't find it, it doesn't do anybody any good?

Alden: So, interesting story about that, one event we saw recently that-- and there's a lot of people on our platform looking for content, was when Apple made the iPhone 5 announcement. And so, Apple doesn't make it available streaming. There's no video feed from the actual event, but there was a lot of different people covering it. And so, we had people like CNET, for example, that were doing live coverage, sort of live video blogging, let's say, of it. We also had this other channel, these guys that they do a channel it's called "Live Tech Keynotes." But one of the things they did was they had the word Apple just in their channel description on Ustream. And people don't realize how important some of those things are to just make sure you actually put in that correct metadata and do that SEO stuff. And so because they had the word Apple in there, people were coming and they were searching for the word Apple, they found this channel of these guys, they've been covering these things for awhile, but this was a really big event for them and they saw huge viewership, so that type of stuff is really important.

Eric: Also, people who are used to doing live, particularly if they come from the broadcast world, they have to shift their mindset a little bit in terms of how to approach the events they're streaming live in terms of scheduled viewing and when to make a stream live. What do people need to keep in mind for live events to help better the audience experience, and therefore, hopefully encourage monetization?

Alden: So, we talked about this in the panel again earlier today, and I think there's three elements to it. First is make it interactive, because traditional TV was sort of like, it happened somewhere else, there's no connection to viewers, but what you can do on the web is you can make it interactive. So, for example, we have a chat module that goes next to the video called social stream and you can bring in Twitter feeds there. And so, the on-camera talent can say, "Hey, Tweet at us while we're talking on camera right now." And then people can actually interact. So, making it interactive is important. The second thing is to realize that your time window is different. So, people are going to show up early, and they'll actually stay late. So, before your event make sure that you actually turn on the stream early with some sort of preshow content, so that way people that show up and they see, okay, hey, I'm in the right place. It's live and they start telling their friends about it. And they start inviting people to come watch, because if you just have a blank player or a really boring slave that says the show will start soon, people will get bored and they'll leave the page, and maybe they won't remember to come back or they won't invite other people to come watch. So, sort of build the suspense and have that preshow content. The last thing is after the show, which is, there's a very important window of time where you can turn around the VOD very quickly. One thing we like on our platform is that we make the video available almost immediately. And so, getting that workflow so that you can have the video on demand available immediately after the live, because there's going to be a lot of people that show up late, and that's when you'll have the best opportunity for them to watch that VOD content.

Eric: Great stuff. Great tips from Alden Fertig from Ustream. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing both what's new with Ustream and your perspectives on live streaming in general.

Alden: Thanks a lot for having me.

Eric: Thanks.

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