Free and Low-Cost Streaming Options for Associations
According to Business Insider, this year marks the point when live streaming really takes off. A recent BI Intelligence Report examined the eruption of online video from the perspective of both consumers and companies and assesses how live streaming is emerging as the medium’s next catalyst for growth. If these trends impact businesses in general, they are likely even more pronounced for the association industry where there is such a compelling need for effective training and communications of geographically-dispersed associations. Following are a few key findings of the report:
- Live streaming video will further accelerate streaming video’s overall share of internet traffic. Streaming video accounts for over two-thirds of all internet traffic, and this share is expected to jump to 82% by 2020.
- Live video’s value comes from its unique ability to add an authentic human element to digital communications
Further, a study of 1,007 business executives by Wainhouse Research which preceded the BI Intelligence Report, showed that 78% describe online video as an effective tool for conducting business communications. Of those, 72% stated a preference for live online video versus on-demand.
Given these trends, associations would be wise to consider the ways live streaming can be an effective organizational tool. As you will see from this article, there are many options for live streaming. Some of them can be utilized for no cost and those that do charge are relatively inexpensive. Using multiple options could actually make a lot of sense depending on your needs and applications.
Streaming platforms that are free
The following platforms are free, but have limited features and functionality.
The live streaming offerings from Facebook and Twitter are relatively new, but, with the size of their user bases, have really taken off. Since these are consumer platforms, none of these options feel like a business solution. However, when connected to and promoted from your organization’s Facebook, Twitter or Google accounts, they can be a workable alternative – and the price is right.
“Just because the live webcast may be free or low-cost, doesn’t mean you should cut corners on video production.”
One word of caution (and this applies to the above platforms as well all those listed below): Just because the live webcast may be free or low-cost, doesn’t mean you should cut corners on video production. To produce a quality live webcast requires unique skills and experience. While you can send a live stream from a smart phone, it’s not likely to be a good user experience. You may end up doing more harm than good to your personal and organizational reputation.
The above free platforms are good options when you want to live stream to a large audience. You won’t be able to incorporate slides along with the video of the presenter(s) and your options for interactivity are limited. These wouldn’t be a good solution for training because you won’t be able to track or test participants, control access, provide credits/certificates upon completion or feature your courses in an online catalog. Also, none of the free platforms offer any kind of technical or user support.
Live streaming platforms available with variable monthly/annual fees
The platforms below specialize in live streaming and offer more functionality than the free options. They are available at various pricing levels.
- Ustream offers a free trial which converts to an ad-supported option if none of the other pricing plans are selected. Unless you are comfortable having no control over the type of ads that accompany your webcast, you’re probably better off going with a paid plan. Their Pro plans range from $99 to $999 per month and allow you to stream from 100 to 5,000 viewer hours. Enterprise plans are available for a higher cost.
- Livestream offers a Basic plan for $42/month, a Premium plan for $199/month, Enterprise plan for $799/month, and a Custom plan for $1,199+/month. These rates require an upfront annual payment. Month-to-month pricing is available, but the cost is at least double. Pricing levels are based on usage.
These platforms make sense if you are ready to make an ongoing commitment to doing live streams and your needs are limited. Like the free platforms, you won’t be able to sync up slides to your presentation or use them for training. They don’t provide certification, or don’t support an online course catalog. Higher priced plans offer limited user support.
Comprehensive online video platforms which also support live streaming.
The following are referred to generally as online video platforms (OVPs). They are designed to support a wide range of online video applications, including live streaming.
- Kaltura (No pricing information available)
- Brightcove (No pricing information available)
- Ooyala (No pricing information available)
All three of these OVPs tend to focus of large enterprises, media companies and educational institutions. You can safely assume that their fee structure will be higher than for Ustream and Livestream, but they also offer a greater breadth of services. You can also assume that a longer term commitment will be required and that you can’t engage them on a month-to-month basis. All three OVPs offer the capability to create an online course catalog. Their players are customizable so you can also show slides that are in sync with the video of a presenter. However, they don’t offer certification. They also don’t offer support for end-users.
Kaltura, Brightcove and Ooyala could be good solutions if you need a reliable place to host a lot of on-demand video content and you want to do live streaming as well.
Online training platforms which support live streaming and on-demand viewing.
If training is an important application, a platform which specializes in online learning may be your best bet. Look for providers who can:
- Work with free streaming platforms when appropriate.
- Host and deliver both live and on-demand video.
- Take registrations/control access.
- Offer a customized online course catalog, SCORM-compliant LMS, and analytics.
- Support testing and certification.
- Offer a custom-branded mobile-friendly player.
- Facilitate various means of participant/presenter interactivity.
- Integrate with your existing LMS or other backend systems.
Also make sure your provider offers business-friendly terms that don’t require you to make long-term commitments or excessive upfront payments. Plus, you should avoid paying minimum monthly fees that penalize you when your usage is light.
Finally, select a platform partner who can not only offer all of the features and terms mentioned above, but can provide all of the essential services that will ensure your success with minimal impact on your team – particularly 24/7 support for your members, administrative support, and video production services wherever and whenever they are needed.
As you consider these solutions to help you take advantage of the growing popularity of live streaming, we hope this article provides a good place to start.
BizVision specializes in providing solutions and services to associations for video-powered training and communications. The IFA utilizes BizVision’s platform and services to host and deliver the Fran-Guard course and other online video content. In addition to its comprehensive webcasting platform, BizVision also operates a vast network of proven, local videographers who are available on demand in all 50 states and beyond. Since its founding in 2008, BizVision has managed thousands of projects for hundreds of multi-location organizations using a variety of streaming platforms (including free), as well as its own.