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Challenges of Flipping Live Content to VOD Delivery

As he lived out his life's desultory second act as a Hollywood scriptdoctor, F. Scott Fitzgerald lamented that American lives didn't have second acts. It was a great line, but of course he was wrong (what Fitzgerald's own life was missing was a third act). Likewise, most successful streams have second (and considerably longer) runs as videos on-demand. Of course, most live-streamed productions are almost entirely focused delivering a great stream to a live audience, but if you're understandably not thinking about the flip to VOD when you're live, many producers would argue that it's one of the first things you should be thinking when the live show ends, as two industry experts discussed on a recent panel on Meeting the Live-to-VOD Challenge at Streaming Media East 2023.

The VOD/Live 60/40 Split

"I always tell my staff 60% of all our live content is viewed by the viewer as video on demand, " says Live X co-founder Corey Behnke. "It's not viewed live. About 40% of your main content is viewed live and then 60% is video on demand. So the sooner we can get that trimmed really nice thumbnail description file for the viewer, in certain specs, right after [the event, the better]."

For the last 10 years in the livestreaming industry, Behnke contends, this is one of the key challenges professional producers have faced: "How fast can I get it turned around? YouTube added the trimming aspect about four or five years ago," he continues, "where you can get it really fast. We're asked all the time, 'How fast can I get this for VOD?' Because VOD is so important for the viewer, we use a lot of different tools to do that depending on how fast the client wants it available to users."

"So you're actually taking the content and repackaging it for a provider?" asks 2G Digital Optimizations' President/CGA Allan McLennan.

"Yeah," Behnke confirms, for one or more platforms of the client's choice or Live X's own. "Increasingly, as we know, we have to go to all the platforms for New Year's Eve in Times Square, we probably go to 26 platforms. So what I find is it's a little bit easier to do your recording and trimming locally and then put it up. There are some cloud products that we use, but ultimately if you have to go to a lot of platforms, it's a lot easier to try to do that onsite and then get that trimmed VOD ready to go."

Live-to-VOD News

These same challenges apply for making news broadcasts available for VOD, according to Ben Ratner, Director of News Technology at Boston 25 News, albeit with some critical differences. The "big thing with live news," Ratner explains, is not just "being right, content-wise, but also being fast. You want the breaking story. We're in a market with a bunch of local and national news organizations, and we need to be the first ones to get it out so people come to us for the news. If a major fire that happens or other major event happens, we need to be the first one with our clip of that live broadcast on Twitter, on Instagram, or on our website so people can get it there first, so we can get through the Google machine and get into SEO, and if people are searching something like the Boston Marathon, you want us to come up and for our clip from that to come up. So it's about getting it done as fast as possible, and preparing those things that we know are gonna happen in advance so we can get them up quickly, even if the news broadcast is still going on.

McLennan chimes in, "That's a lot of work if you're trying to do it for all of those platforms to have them prepared."

Choosing the Right Tools

The key, Ratner concurs, is preparation. It's all about "being prepared in advance and knowing what's going where," he says. "There are some tools you can use where you can press one button that goes to a bunch of different places." For example, he says, a tool that he's used "a bunch" in the past (although he's not using it now) is "SnapStream, where you can take any kind of incoming video stream, trim it, and then send it to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, et cetera, or download video for any other platform."

With tools like SnapStream, Ratner adds, "we can get content out in real time without having to wait for the production to stop, or the records to stop. and in the news world, that's tremendously important."

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