Live video streaming has come a long way from the old times when transferring video over the Internet was not even possible. Today, individuals and businesses across the world use live streaming as a tool for communication and marketing, as well as modern means of offering entertaining content to the audience. 

The advancements in cloud computing have revolutionized live streaming and brought in the emergence of massive corporations and popular live streaming platforms. When you analyze in-depth, live streaming and the cloud network share a symbiotic relationship. One will not expand without the other growing. The increasing demand for live streaming has grown rapidly and the cloud business has also experienced a stable growth curve.

In the past live streaming was limited to traditional TV broadcast networks. However, today with the expansion of cloud networks, anyone can stream a quality video that is close to the broadcast networks. The increasing demand for live streaming will require cloud technology to expand at a rapid rate to meet this rising demand.

Benefits of Live Streaming For Your Business

Undoubtedly live streaming presents a brand new way of digital communication, content consumption, and promotion. Beyond the growth of the audience hooked to live content, live streaming presents a great way to drive revenue for businesses. Streaming live videos to your customer base may sound like a fun and easy thing to do. However, implementing a live streaming strategy requires careful planning to achieve your business goals. Before learning how to start a live streaming business, it is important to understand the benefits of live streaming. 

Here are some of the benefits of live streaming for your business. 

Low Barriers to Entry

Most of the time, all that is needed to live stream is a smartphone, an internet connection, and a social media profile. This ease of entry to leverage the potential of live streaming makes it the most effective marketing tool.

Real-Time Communication

When you conduct a live streaming event of your business, you are engaging with your audience in real-time. This gives your viewers a sense of belonging to the moment as people love being part of stories as they happen. They actively understand more about your business in a personal way and are likely to share it with their friends.

Interaction

Live streaming evokes a sense of excitement among your audience. During your live streaming, you can ask questions and connect with your audience, offer to poll, or get creative to any extent to engage them. The live streaming itself is inherently about building a community to make your customers feel inclusive and exclusive at the same time. 

Cost Reduction

Some brands use live streaming as a part of their training programs, webinars, employee onboarding, or even seminars. Everyone who is physically and virtually present receives the same training simultaneously, thereby saving the company’s budget. Implementing live streaming in your business strategy can save a lot of money in the long run. 

Why Is Live Streaming More Popular Than Video Streaming?

Compared to pre-recorded videos, live videos are in high demand with the younger audience. It is mainly because they feel more engaged with live content than pre-recorded content, Further, live videos are more engaging to users due to its “real” element as it is exciting to witness something that is not scripted. Statistics show that people tend to watch live videos 3 times longer than other types of videos on Facebook.

Video on demand content in many aspects is the exact opposite of live streaming content. Video on demand is a traditional system of creating and sharing content. Create a video, upload it on video sharing platforms like YouTube for the viewers to watch it, and you are good to go. 

While there are some obvious benefits to video on demand like the ability to have more control over video creation and publishing, live streaming is a modern approach to the traditional way of creating video content and hence, the most preferable choice these days. But, it doesn’t mean that live streaming alone can satisfy your marketing needs. A combination of live streaming and video on demand is what your business needs. 

Both have their own benefits and there is a lot you can achieve from embracing the best of both. For example, you can repurpose live content for on-demand viewing. Once the live stream is over, you can upload the videos to video-sharing platforms and make it on-demand content. 

That’s not to say that live streaming doesn’t have its drawbacks. Live streaming can be more technically demanding than traditional methods when you want to add a professional edge to your live videos. It might require you to buy additional gears, capture cards, multiple card setups, and a professional live video streaming software for high-end streaming.

That’s without even mentioning the importance of upload speeds and cloud technology for live streaming. So yes, it can get demanding if you want to create a high-quality live streaming experience. However, the engagement factor is so popular today that it alone would make worthwhile to explore live streaming for your business.

Benefits of Cloud Technology For Live Streaming 

The age of domestic servers has been surpassed by a quiet revolution of cloud technology. When you create a live streaming website, you have to deliver live content to a range of devices in a matter of seconds. To get things in place, you need to choose a technology to support your services. There is no one size fits all approach as every scenario comes with a unique set of requirements. 

Handles Compatibility Issues and Encoding

A major advantage of using cloud technology for your live streaming service is that both encoding and device compatibility issues will be taken care of. For example, cloud services like Microsoft Azure offer a multiple platform player for displaying studio-grade encoding that is dynamically encrypted with 28 bit AES. There are no server upgrades to worry about which can free up resources as well.

Scalability

The scalability of cloud-hosted solutions for live streaming represents another major advantage of eliminating the startup costs associated with physical servers. This ensures that customers only pay for the services they are using at a given time. As the number of users increases, greater bandwidth can be allocated to offer multiple streaming simultaneously and offer buffer-free viewing on a number of output devices.

Current and Future Trends in Live Streaming

Keeping aside the ease of access, live streaming is loved by people. Live streaming is an excellent opportunity for two-way interaction with your target audience. The popularity of live streaming apps like snap chat, Periscope, Facebook live, etc. supports this idea. Here are some of the current trends in live streaming.

Social Media Dominion

We have witnessed the demand for live streaming on social media capturing significant events across the world. We are also seeing eSports live streaming constantly breaking viewership records. Live streaming services like Periscope, Snapchat, Facebook Live, YouTube Live, and IGTV has skyrocketed its popularity, especially among the younger audience. Sending live videos as a method of communication with peers seems to be natural for the young generation. 

Marketing Media of Choice

Live streaming video is reinventing the way brands plan their marketing strategies. Live streaming has already become an essential marketing tool that can help businesses grow. Brands are becoming more willing to invest in live streaming than ever. Reports show that 95% of businesses say that live video will be an important part of their 2020 marketing mix, with 25% stating that “live content will be a top priority, edging out the scope of pre-recorded videos. We also see businesses going live regularly on social media and their websites. Companies are getting better and better at using live video to bring down those unapproachable corporate walls, adding an authentic human interaction to the mix. 

Internal Corporate Communications Booster

In business relations, brands are using live videos to strengthen their corporate culture and build solid relationships internally. Internal team meetings, employee training, etc. can be done through live videos which increases productivity and engagement. This is why Cisco acquired a video conference startup WebEx back in 2007. They successfully foresaw a future where live streaming is helping people to communicate better.

Education Empowerment

Live streaming is enhancing the way we learn. Conferences, talks, and events are being live-streamed on a regular basis. Universities like Harvard and Stanford are taking advantage of live lecture streaming. This gives their students access to knowledge anytime, anywhere, taking down barriers to education. Consequently, students who may not otherwise be present at the lecture are now able to partake.

Machine Learning In Live Streaming

Machine learning is the latest digital transformation that helps streamline and personalize the user experience for all kinds of technology. This algorithm essentially “learns” what yields a positive result and what doesn’t, and continuously improves itself based on this collected data. There are many opportunities for machine learning applications in live streaming scenarios of all sizes, including large multi-camera events, smaller single-camera live streams, and even lectures at educational institutions.

Computers will be able to learn certain cues like lighting, face and speech recognition, etc. in order to automate live switching, recording, and even adding lower thirds. For example, “smart” live video will be able to automatically start the stream when it recognizes a specific voice or person has appeared on stage. This technology can even track the presenter across the stage, keeping the focus on them. Once the stream is over, the technology can automatically generate and upload a highlight reel of the event based on cues like audience applause and lighting. The potential for AI and machine learning is huge, and there are many specific examples of how it can be applied. 

Further Marketing and E-Commerce Involvement

Just like video ads before normal videos, we will also see the live video start to ingrain deeper into marketing, becoming its major tool. We will see more brands going live with their own shows, introducing their own brand ambassadors and trusted experts like the following example.

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More live events will be used as “see-now-buy-now” eCommerce platforms for a live online shopping experience. As a result of frequent and intentional use in marketing, live video production will become a regular part of the marketing education curriculum. New and better tools for measuring ROI of live streaming campaigns will become available.

Purchasing Power

The revenue impact of live video cannot be ignored. Nearly half of the users say they would pay for live, exclusive on-demand video from a favorite speaker, performer, or sports team. In general, video boosts sales, as well as recognition of a brand. 64% of customers are likely to make a purchase after watching a branded social video. 

Getting the Timing Right

Like with written content, length matters. Live videos up to two minutes long hold viewer’s attention, after which time there’s a drop-off. Many videos in that one-to-two-minute-long duration are explainer videos, which tell about a product or service and helps consumers understand the company better. The zone where you don’t want to be is between two to six minutes long. Attention span and time spent on videos picks back up again for those that are between six and 12 minutes long.

Of course, this timing is for video in general. The rules change a little when it comes to live videos, streaming videos which are often sporting games, events, television shows, movies and the like. With this type of watching, viewers will often spend up to several hours watching their favorite team play or binge-watching a favorite show.

For social videos, the rules are a bit different. Here’s the breakdown by the platform. 

Facebook– While there is no minimum time for the length of a Facebook Live video, but it’s best if your stream is at least 10-15 minutes long. Facebook itself states that longer broadcasts attract more viewers, as more people have a chance to learn about the broadcast and tell their friends. Engagement on Facebook Live streams keeps increasing until about the 15-minute mark, then remains fairly stable through the maximum length of four hours.

Instagram– The ideal length is under 30 seconds for a regular video post and 15 seconds for a Story. For IG Live, it can go up to one hour.

YouTube– The average length of the top 100 most-watched videos on the platform is between five and seven minutes.

Video customer support

Live Q&A sessions as a way to receive help immediately and from real, knowledgeable people will become more and more widespread. Similarly, to current over-the-phone customer support, live video customer support centers will emerge. Receiving support with real-time visual aids will help solve issues faster.

Live streaming and cloud

Live streaming solutions have adopted cloud scaling to enable larger bandwidth and better speeds. As live streaming happens in real-time, it can’t be repeated. Hence it needs to get right the first time itself. The factors like speed and bandwidth are necessary to handle heavier video requirements and offer a better viewing experience to the audience. 

One of the greatest examples of a video platform that scales massively on the cloud to offer a better video viewing experience is YouTube. Thanks to advancements in cloud technology, YouTube emerged as the second largest search engine online. Not just video streaming, the cloud powers its live streaming solutions as well. 

These days, even small businesses leverage live streaming o bring their customers close to their brand and make them feel more connected. These interactions help in taking their marketing strategies to the next level. 

However, it also comes with the transmission of large data that results in latency issues. By scaling on the cloud, live streaming platforms can increase their bandwidth to offer better streaming performance and viewing experience. While CDNs handle that part efficiently, many businesses don’t have access to it to handle the heavy traffic and hence cloud scaling is very important.

Cloud technology also offers live streaming platforms a cost-effective, flexible, and secure solution for setting up their workflow. This serves to meet the requirements for both live streaming and video on demand services. 

Let’s understand this with an example. During a live broadcast of a sports event, the traffic is easily 10 times or even more than on normal days. Provisioning for servers and other infrastructure will end up creating a large up-front cost for infrastructure which otherwise won’t be utilized in normal scenarios. The cloud technology with its pay-per-use strategy serves as an ideal solution for live streaming platforms with an effective costing method at a very high rate of security, scalability, and reliability. 

A typical End-To-End functional workflow for cloud-based live streaming looks like the following. 

Production

The production process begins with the acquisition of the camera feed. In the case of live streaming, the camera feed may be backhauled to a central production faculty via a dedicated Internet connection.

Ingestion

In live streaming, the camera feed is directly connected to the cloud-based live streaming solution. As opposed to video on demand content where the content is uploaded via a CMS. 

Monitoring

Any disruption in the ingestion process during live streaming will directly impact the viewing experience. For the automated workflow running in the cloud, you need a way to identify any failure and report it. This is where monitoring will help to ensure that everything is running as expected. 

Encoding

If you are looking for different ways on how to create a live streaming website, you have to be mindful of the various different platforms and devices on which your content will be played. The streams uploaded to the cloud will be of one format and specification. For your live videos to be played across different devices like smartphones, tablets, desktops, and smart-TV’s, the video must be converted to different formats and specifications. This process of conversion is called encoding and is an intense concept. 

Ad-Insertion

To make money out of your live streams, it is important to insert monetization channels to your live streams. You can either offer your live content to your audience for a fee or offer it without any fee, but insert ads in between the broadcast. If you are using an advertisement based monetization method for your live streams, you need to insert it along with the process of encoding to serve as a reference point to display ads during playback. 

Protection

The major challenge with live streaming or any digital video playback is content protection, especially if you follow a pay-per-view or subscription-based business model. If your business involves the scenario of piracy prevention and revenue generation, it is highly important to protect your content. Some aspects of content protection are authentication and authorization. Choose a secure cloud technology that adheres to digital rights management to encrypt the content. These security measures restrict viewing or copying of content by unauthorized parties. 

Delivery

Besides understanding how to start a live streaming business, you must also learn in-depth about how to deliver content without any potential delays. This is where CDN’s come into play. Content delivery networks with their vast networks of servers spread across several locations offer web acceleration by serving users with a cached version of the live stream requested. Hence, it is highly important to choose live streaming solutions with in-built CDN’S to optimize the delivery of live videos with low latency, high speed, and low packet loss. 

This is how a sample cloud-based workflow based on Microsoft Azure’s media service looks like. 

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Conclusion

Live streaming offers a great opportunity to reach out to a broader audience and is spurred to be on a positive growth trajectory with improving mobile broadband connectivity and increased Internet penetration. Demand for live videos is expected to rise along with cloud technology. Ensuring a smooth and swift playback experience across different platforms under different network conditions is a challenging task bringing some of the best cloud technologies to work together. A cloud-based workflow for live streaming is proving to be the core of building a scalable, reliable, extensible and robust live streaming platform.