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What Is Hybrid Event Streaming in 2023?

As streaming has moved through the pandemic years into a new normal that isn't exactly what anyone expected, the meaning of hybrid event streaming production and delivery that has emerged over the last few years continues to evolve. So what does it mean in 2023, for producers, organizations, and audiences, both onsite and remote? And what can streamers do to level the playing field for those participating from near and far? In this clip from their recent panel at Streaming Media Connect 2023, Andy Howard, Founder & Managing Director, Howard & Associates discusses discuss best definitions and best practices for hybrid event video with Derrick Freeman, Program Manager, Webcast Producer, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Anna Cowdery, Producer, Independent, Happily, LiveX, Anthony Burokas, CEO, Stream4us, and Ben Ratner, Director of News Technology, Boston 25 News.

Howard begins the discussion by saying, “What are your definitions of hybrid? They could very well be different from mine.” He asks Derrick Freeman to start off by explaining how he defines hybrid.

Freeman says, “In terms of our webcast series, it's having viewers that watch in a group setting, but also having viewers that watch remotely.” He says that while his organization has primarily used Zoom for their presenters, they are considering using Microsoft Teams for remote and hybrid events going forward.

Howard asks Anna Cowdery for her thoughts on what defines hybrid streaming events.  

Cowdery emphasizes that the way she perceived live events with a webcast audience changed after Covid. “I always thought, you stream a live event and then you've got your webcast audience,” she says. “It wasn't until after Covid, we all started [feeling like] this is actually different than if [we’re] just streaming from a studio. And it's also different than if everything's remote. There was full remote, and then there's on-prem with the streaming audience, then there’s on-prem with remote talent, with decentralized production…it’s all hybrid on some level.” She says that at this point, no matter the event, there is, “No element of crisscrossing between locations in any way. Even if I'm doing everything on-prem, I'm probably sending it back to a distribution center that is then doing all the encoding to multiple platforms and all of the streaming pieces of it. It's all hybrid in some way.”

Howard then asks Anthony Burokas for his take on hybrid streaming.

Burokas says that essentially the term “hybrid” is now meaningless. For a similar example, he says, “When HD came out, everything was HD. You get HD glasses, you get an HD toothbrush, and I think hybrid is a buzzword now.” However, he underscores that there are still challenges in seamlessly presenting a live stream with participants in multiple locations, as in, “When a remote audience member needs to ask a question of somebody who's on stage, then you're crossing those lines and that's when it becomes, for me, the hybrid challenge, in managing dual bi-directional communications between all four corners.”

“That's a great point,” Howard says, “because now you're sort of mixing the audiences instead of you just having the in-person audience and just having the remote audience.”

“I've done events where a remote audience member needed to ask a question,” Burokas says. “Well, the local audience needs to hear the remote audience member when they come to their virtual microphone, and we have someone switching the cloud environment, and I'm switching the local environment, going into the cloud, but then when that person's in the cloud environment, I have to switch that into the local environment for everybody to see and hear. Then that's where hybrid really starts to get nasty.”

Howard asks Ben Ratner to say his piece on what “hybrid” means today.

“Yeah, hybrid is when you have a vehicle that runs off of both gas and sometimes electricity,” Ratner jokes. “I don't have much to expand on what they all said. It's basically how do you have the best experience for everyone involved? From the people talking at the event to the people watching the event. Nothing that everyone else hasn't said isn't true.”

Howard uses a live sporting event as an example of how little crossover there can be in “hybrid” events, since the experiences for on-prem versus remote can differ quite a bit. “If you go to a [big] sporting event, like Michigan beating Ohio State in the game, you've got a group of people that are in the stadium and there's entertainment going on for them. There's music, the scoreboard, there's all sorts of stuff going on, and then you have the crowd that's watching on TV and there's a whole variety of different information and entertainment that they're getting that are different from the people in person. But I think the difference is there isn't really that overlap, like Anthony was talking about.”

Learn more about a wide range of streaming industry topics at the next Streaming Media Connect in November 2023.

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