Livestream, Ustream, We all stream: A practical guide to streaming platforms

So many options...
With so many choices when it comes to streaming video, what's an arts organization to do?

A few weeks ago, I highlighted some emerging trends in arts marketing for 2011.  One of the trends was “changing media consumption”, part of which includes arts organizations streaming performances live, whether to ballparks or online.

So let’s say that your organization is interested in streaming a performance live as it is happening or streaming a pre-recorded performance at a scheduled time. What are your options as far as platforms for streaming that video? And which organizations are out there using these platforms?

YouTube: The Non-option for Live Streaming

YouTube is the big name for online video, but livestreaming on YouTube will only be available for content partners. YouTube has not announced when livestreaming capabilities will go live. Approved by YouTube, content partners are people and companies that post regularly to the site and so that they can monetize their content with ads and rentals, obtain better digital quality for their uploads, and use YouTube’s Insight analytics tools.

You can apply to become a YouTube content partner to gain the above benefits. They have a special program specifically for nonprofits that currently includes arts organizations like Anaheim Ballet, MOMA, and Pilobolus Dance.

So when should you use YouTube? As of now, it’s the most mainstream choice for video, and therefore the easiest platform on which to build a community. YouTube has also streamed major events involving the arts community, like the Guggenheim’s YouTube Play Event. You might use it to post clips of the streaming event after the event is over and to host videos long-term; but right now, don’t depend on YouTube to release streaming capability any time soon.

Brightcove/Ooyala: The Gold Standard

Brightcove is the high-end gold standard for streaming. Many major corporations use it, as well as arts organizations like San Francisco Ballet and the Royal Opera House. It’s best for larger companies with highly valuable and highly demanded content as well as companies who want to fully integrate their streaming efforts with other components of their technology portfolio, via APIs, SDKs and other programming tools. Ooyala has a similar high-end set up used by companies like TicketMaster and ElectronicArts. Brightcove and Ooyala are great for larger companies with a lot of resources at their disposal. However, the price may not be affordable for organizations likely to use livestreaming once a year and only intend to stream to computers or existing mobile platforms—as opposed to a projector that would require higher quality video or a customized mobile platform that would require extensive development.

Livestream, Ustream, and The mainstream for livestreaming

You may be thinking, “Okay, Brightcove sounds great, but my organization is not nearly as big as the Royal Opera House.” The most popular choices for streaming video amongst American arts organizations are and Both platforms offer mobile integration, easy interfaces and most any other feature you would want. Livestream even offers monetization opportunities. appears to be gaining market share, but fewer arts organizations are on it, and its audience tends to skew younger and more male than the other platforms. Organizations like Wolf Trap have streamed pre-recorded events on livestream, a necessity when subtitles must be entered. Last summer the organization’s opera company streamed a cabaret performance of two world premiere operas Bastianello by John Musto and Lucrezia by William Bolcom.

Lee Anne Myslewski, Administrative Director, described the opera’s choice to use Livestream. “We chose Livestream because the interface was the most intuitive and it seemed to work the most consistently on all platforms/browsers. (Intuitive is important!) We were also specifically looking for an integrated chat function so that the audience and the artists could interact in real time during the broadcast. The process was smooth – easy for even a non-video person to create. We did have some viewers struggle with the speed of the file and intermittent pauses, but that could have been due to any number of causes - file size, their connection speed, or traffic on the site. If we go forward with the project we’ll likely use them again.”

One of the most notable successes on Livestream was Misnomer Dance Theatre’s stream of a performance in April 2010, which reached 2,000 viewers in 19 countries. Organizations are not only using LiveStream and Ustream to broadcast perform footage, though. They are also using it for production diaries like Second Wind Productions, press conferences like the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and educational initiatives like the Orange County Public Schools Orchestra Programs.

DaCast: No fuss monetization

Increasingly, companies want to monetize online content, and a recent Pew study (good summary here by ReelSEO) shows that people will pay for it.  Monetizing content can basically be done in two ways: generating revenue through advertising, or having the consumer directly pay for online content (pay per view), which can be on a one-off or subscription basis.

LiveStream requires $350 a month for their premium service, which includes opportunities for monetization. However, if you want to monetize your content with less financial commitment up front, DaCast is a sensible option.

DaCast describes itself as self-service model. In a way, all streaming services are self-service, but DaCast allows companies to monetize their content in the same self-service way that you can upload a video to YouTube. The only fees that you pay are for bandwidth, with a minimum $5 commitment. (The first 10GB are free, too.) Most excitingly, DaCast has developed a plug-in for Flash which allows users to pay directly on their video screens, rather than clicking through to another page.

The question is: could a paid model be right for your organization? As DaCast CEO Stephane Roulland said, “This is an excellent question.” Aggregated sites like and Ovation are already monetizing content. Classicaltv uses the pay-per-view model while Ovation uses the ad-based revenue model. The Metropolitan Opera’s Met Player might be one of the one of the only single-organization streaming sites. The key is figuring out if your organization will break even on the fees to secure the rights and the fees to stream.

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