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Should We Be Streaming?

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Live streaming is the latest video marketing strategy and is getting lots of hype. But, would live streaming be a good investment for your organization?

As a video producer, I decided to use my background to try and develop some helpful guidelines for those who are thinking about adding live streaming to their video marketing strategy.

  • The most‐watched live streamed videos are of breaking news, concerts and festivals, and video games. If you are involved in any of these, you should be live streaming.
  • If your target market prefers live streamed videos, you should be producing them. Do some demographic research to find out.
  • If your marketing strategy is heavy on social media, live streaming may be less expensive and at least as effective as traditional, edited video.
  • Don’t make the mistake of assuming that live streamed video is always superior to or less expensive than traditional video.
    • Scripting, producing and editing traditional video offers lots of opportunity for increasing its quality and value to audiences, which will extend its usable life.
    • Streaming an important live event can be costly, especially if viewers are paying to watch. It requires professionals who can assure it will be top quality, that the stream will not fail, and that the streaming does not interfere with the in-house audience experience.


According to Wikipedia, “Streaming media is multimedia that is constantly received by and presented to an end-user while being delivered by a provider.” “Live streaming is the delivery of Internet content in real-time, as events happen…” However, an internet search on “live streaming services” brings up Hulu, Netflix, and other “cord-cutting” streaming media services on the first page. Technically those are streamed, but they’re examples of on demand streaming, not live streaming. So, there's a lot of confusion on what live streaming really is.

The concept of streaming dates back to television, which was invented in the 1920’s, and became widely available in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. The early shows were live performances, often news, but technology also developed quickly for the recording and rebroadcasting of programs — the kinescope in the 1940s, followed by videotape in 1956. As TV became popular, cable systems were created to serve geographically remote areas and those with poor reception.

As television was becoming popularized, electronic computers began being developed in the 1950’s. The World Wide Web was developed in the 1980’s and web browsers developed the ability to display images and text on the same page in the 1990’s. As data transfer rates increased and computer technologies like hard drives developed, video also became available. At first, users were able to download files before viewing them. Later they were able to “stream” the video in a practice called “video on demand”.

Today, media viewership is migrating from static delivery of video via television and cable to services like Hulu, Netflix and YouTube that can stream it on demand to any device. Internet media streams can be either “live” (simultaneously recorded and broadcast in real time) or preexisting media offered “on demand”. Live streams can be created by everything from a simple cell phone to complex productions involving multiple professionally-operated cameras requiring paid access.

Why should you consider live streaming?

  • Some viewers reject traditional media and prefer live streams.
They feel this natural, unedited format is more authentic and trustworthy.
  • Viewers can give immediate feedback and interact with the broadcaster.
  • Live streamed video can be monetized by charging viewers, performing paid product reviews and inserting advertisements, sponsorships, promoting your own products and services, syndicating live to other publishers, and selling completed broadcasts to other publishers.
  • Live streamed video is fresh, unique and unpredictable. By one estimate, breaking news makes up 56% of the most-watched live content. Conferences and speakers tied with concerts and festivals are in second place at 43%.
  • A whole industry is developing around live-streaming events to expand their audience. Behind-the-scenes access is a draw for much of this audience.
  • Large corporations are live streaming many forms of communications to better connect with remote team members, onboard new employees, keep employees engaged, reduce travel costs, and share public-facing events with social media followers.

Many videos that are live streamed are also available afterward, merging it with on‐demand video. It may still feel fresh and authentic, but the opportunity for instantaneous interaction is gone. In its place is the opportunity for further reach via social shares. For example, according to Salesforce, “one company hosted a small live-streamed event: Twenty people watched. Then they posted the video to their page and asked viewers to share the video, and 16 did. Thanks to the shares, ‘the live stream had a total reach of over 3,000 people and over 800 views.’"

Do you need to live stream?

Video has proven to be a very helpful marketing tool, but traditional video offers many of the same benefits as live streamed video. Since both use video, it is easier to consume and typically delivers much more information. For example, a demonstrative video allows the audience to see a person’s face and more easily connect with their emotions. Most videos include voice, sound and music, which enriches the experience.

One of the downsides to live streamed video is that it is by definition unedited. The editing process improves the quality of video by making it more polished and interesting, thus adding to its longevity.

  • Editing can condense a longer video, removing stumbles and dead time.
  • Editing can incorporate additional visual material, sound effects and music.
  • Editing allows for review so the viewer receives a consistent experience and message.
  • Almost all dramatic productions are produced and edited in advance because they require script-writing; pre-production planning and location-scouting; production, requiring actors, directors, crew, and equipment; and post-production, including editing.

The down‐side of editing is that it requires time, expertise, and expensive software and equipment. If a live‐streamed video meets your needs, why edit? Ultimately, the choice depends on the type of video, its value, and its desired longevity.

Costs to consider

There are a growing number of platforms which allow free live streaming, notably Facebook and YouTube. Today’s smart phones have everything built in that you need to do it. So, what are the costs?

Costs come in the form of extra effort, equipment, people and services needed, depending on your situation.

  • Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites come with a built-in audience that can make it easier to get views and shares. But what if you want to stream to several of these sites at once? Your cell phone can’t do that.
  • Social media is great if you want to share with the world. But, if you need to restrict your audience or charge them to view your content, you’ll need a more expensive service.
  • A single camera or cell phone may be fine for a single person or angle but live‐streaming an important event may require much more: switching between several cameras, some of them remotely operated; strategically‐placed microphones; and switching to existing video, slides or remote cameras.
  • Especially for live events, having an experienced producer is important. That person can
    • Help ensure your content is consistent with your brand voice and speaks to your target audience
    • Help keep the video interesting so that there are no dead periods or lulls in the action
    • Help choose the right streaming platform for your content and your audience
    • Help ensure that the activity and equipment related to the streaming does not detract from the experience of the in-house audience
    • Help ensure the necessary testing and set-up is done in advance and that any needed disaster plans have been considered.
    • Help avoid legal issues, such as privacy, publicity and intellectual property/copyright issues.