Adrenaline Garage Blog

Amazing FREE Custom Motion Graphics Solution for Live Streams

Posted by Jeff Harper on Thu, Aug 29, 2013 @ 13:08 PM

For most livestreams, the biggest single element that visually separates them from live TV broadcasts is the graphics.  At this stage, the majority of prosumer grade equipment being used for online broadcasts is pretty good.  Once compressed, a $5,000 camera is virtually indistinguishable from a $50,000 broadcast camera in most situations.  Livestream-grade broadcast gear (e.g. TriCaster and 3Play) has reached the point where the people using it have more of an effect on the end result than the equipment itself.  Frankly, I've seen control rooms in major league facilities (I'm talking about you, Qualcomm Stadium) that required a larger crew and more money to achleive far less than what's possible from a TriCaster 455.

Street League Skateboarding has badass graphics
Graphics systems have not kept pace with the rest of webcast gear

There is one very significant exception.  Live streams rarely have graphics that stack up to what you would see on ESPN.    In fact, many webcasts still suffer from graphics packages that scream low-budget.  Since the quality of a graphics package dictates the perceived value of the production, sponsors don't always take live streaming as seriously as they should. While fans of our events lose it when their events are tape-delayed, especially when Supercross is delayed 12 hours to air on CBS, sponsors still see value in TV and all the fluff surrounding it.  Why does this still happen?  Why don't sponsors see the full value of live streaming?  To paraphrase one of my friends who sells old media, "Why buy old media?  Because anyone who's a badass buys old media."

No doubt, unless you are the marketing director for a discount brand, you want your sponsorship to say, "Hey look at us, we're a badass.  Just look at the badasses we associate with."  And lets face it, those generic static graphics that ship with your TriCaster are not badass.  Once you've nailed the fundementals and have a solid product, nothing states you're a badass production like great graphics.

Bad Options for Aspiring Badasses

Have you experienced LiveText?  Let me rephrase that.  Have you found yourself in tears in the midst of a production because every graphic you created just disappeared when this cheap poorly built piece of crap called LiveText crashed just when you were trying to go live?

You're not alone.  LiveText hates everyone's production equally.

The problem is, the available alternatives to LiveText are pretty pricey--a ChyronIP or Compix system costs almost as much as what you paid for that beloved TriCaster.  And that doesn't include the cost of programming a custom graphics package.

At Adrenaline Garage, we tried a number of different options, but never expected the best one we found would be free. Yep. FREE.

FREE, as in Beer

CasparCG is an open source broadcast graphics platform.  It was developed by the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation (“SVT”) which is the license-fee funded public service television broadcaster in Sweden.  And while in the US, when we hear public television, we think stodgy minimalist graphics that haven't been updated since the Clinton Administration, the fact is, SVT is really quite slick.  SVT is more like the Ikea of public television than C-SPAN.

CasparCG Example

While you might not expect FREE software to be awesome, it's good enough for SVT to use on each of their six national channels.  In our minds, we have not seen a competive product with such a complete, powerful and flexible feature set.  And did we mention, it's free?

Feature Breakdown

Once we got over the free thing, we thought it was time to see how it stacked up against the competition.  What we found was that CasparCG, due to it's open source nature, was powerful enough to handle any situation we could think of.  In our case, we discovered needs we never knew we had, now that we weren't limited to one channel. And thanks to the powerful API, we had the tools to create custom graphics and graphic control clients for any situation we could imagine.  For our needs, CasparCG destroyed its much more expensive competition.

  LiveText ChyronIP Compix CasparCG
Channels 1 2 1 Unlimited
Network Input Yes Yes Linx Only Yes
SDI Output No No Yes Yes*
Animated Graphics No Yes Yes Yes
Dynamic Data Yes Yes Yes Yes
Supports Alpha Yes Yes Yes Yes
Layers 1 Unlimited 6 Unlimited
Audio No USB Embedded Embedded
Internal DSK No No No Yes
Customizable Client No No No Yes

*Optional

But how does it look?

As we were in the middle of Formula Drift season, we didn't have an opportunity to build a graphics package that would take advantage of all of the features of CasparCG.  Since the FD graphics package is pretty complex as it was, we thought converting it to Caspar would be a good test.  Here are the results:

Not only could CasparCG easily handle all of our dynamic graphics, it looks better, played smoother, was more reliable and easier to use than all of the options we've tried in the past. We quickly converted another event's graphics package to CasparCG with the same results.  I don't think we'll be going back.

Getting a Turn Key Solution

The primary limitation of CasparCG is that while it is free, you still need hardware to run it, graphics designed and your graphics package programmed.  Converting old graphics or building new packages is incredibly easy for any one who uses Adobe Creative Suite.  However, most computers that come off the shelf at Best Buy would not make great CasparCG machines and definitely wouldn't have all the hardware necessary to take advantage of all of its great features.  Moreover, while there are tutorials available for how to write the code for your own graphics, it's not for beginners, especially if you're hoping to incorporate dynamic data.  In this way, CasparCG's power and flexibility is also its curse.

Fortunately, if designing graphics, building computers or coding is not among your strong suits, we at Adrenaline Garage can help.  Let us build a custom turn key CasparCG setup for you... and save you $10,000 over another system.   If you want custom badass graphics for a fraction of the cost, contact us for a quote.   

Topics: Webcast Tips, Live Webcast Solutions, TV Production, HD Webcast Production

How to resolve internet connection problems for live webcasts

Posted by Jeff Harper on Mon, Aug 12, 2013 @ 15:08 PM

Sometimes having enough bandwidth isn't enough.  There are numerous issues related to the way data flows on the internet that may affect the quality of your live stream.  Here is how to diagnose and correct those problems so that you obtain the best possible connection for your live event.

Always test your connection before your event

Testing your internet connection before your event gives you a much better idea of what you're getting into before it's too late. You'll have more options to correct issues before your setup day than once you go live.  Here is more information on how to find out if your internet connection is suitable for a webcast.  

Bad internet connection?

To summarize, the most obvious identifiable cause of connection issues is that the infrastructure of your internet connection may not be up to the task of streaming.  As a rule of thumb, DSL connections only provide--at best--1.5 Mbps upload capacity, which may be enough for a low quality, single bitrate stream of 750 kbps.  If you plan on streaming in Adaptive Bit Rate (ABR) HD or to multiple devices, you will need a bonded cable or fiber connection.

Detecting Throttling  

While not a problem for most business accounts, cable ISPs (especially Comcast) sometimes throttle consumer connections down when they observe significant amounts of bandwidth transfer, e.g. a webcast.  This means that while a speed test will show much more available bandwidth, the ISP will reduce the effective bandwidth significantly after a short time in order to reduce your usage.  Obviously, this severely affects your stream.  Throttling does not appear immediately.  It usually occurs within 20-45 minutes of starting the stream.

If you suspect that your ISP may be throttling your connection, perform the following test:

  1. Do a "control" measurement of the location's bandwidth using speedtest.net.  Note the results.
  2. Conduct a stream with the same bandwidth that you'll use during the event for a minimum of an hour.
  3. Stop the stream and conduct a test with Glasnost--a web application that detects ISP throttling--selecting the Flash video option.
  4. Note the results.

If you suspect throttling, contact your ISP about ways to possibly resolve the issue. Unfortunately, in our experience, most ISP representatives will firmly deny throttling. Your best option may be upgrading the account or finding another ISP.  

How to troubleshoot and improve existing connections

While your infrastructure may be up to the task of handling a live stream, it's possible to still experience problems when streaming.  Sometimes a connection doesn't perform up to its full potential. You'll notice this when your stream experiences problems in spite of tests showing you have enough bandwidth or when bandwidth tests show large fluctuations.  In these cases, to resolve this issue, you'll need to determine whether an issue is occurring on your local area network (LAN) or on the wide area network (WAN).

Detecting the location of the problem

Most often, when you are experiencing streaming issues and you know that you should have enough bandwidth, there could be a bad link in the chain of devices providing the connection to your publishing point.  This cause of the problem is typically either a malfunctioning piece of hardware or network congestion clogging the route.  In order to narrow down the problem, it's best to do a ping test to detect packet loss and then determine where the packet loss is occurring.

How to do a ping test

Ping is a little command that sends a "return me" message to another IP address and measures how long it took for the round trip.  Doing numerous ping tests in a row can detect how much packet loss is occurring if you observe that a number of messages aren't being returned.  To ping your publishing point open your terminal on a Mac or your command prompt on a Windows machine.  In your terminal or command prompt window, type:

ping xxx

where xxx is either the IP address or the URL of your publishing point and press Enter.  The result should look like this:

Request timeout reveal packet loss for live streams

During the test, if you see a message that states "Request timeout" that means a packet was lost.   

Determining Packet Loss

At the end of the test, you should see a series of lines telling how packets were sent to that site and how much was returned. The number next to the "ms" is the time in milliseconds. Less than 10% packet loss is acceptable and to be expected.  If you are seeing more than 10% packet loss, you are experiencing enough loss to affect your live stream.

Running a traceroute 

The next step is to isolate where that loss is occurring by running a traceroute to identify each hop in your stream's path to the publishing point.  To do this, type:

traceroute xxx 

where xxx is is the ip address or url of the publishing point.  You should then see a list of servers, like this:

Example of traceroute

From there, starting with the first server on the list, ping each hop (ip address) individually. Moving out from your location, if you suddenly observe a large number of packets being lost, then you know the problem occurs before or at that address.

Possible causes of packet loss

Once you've narrowed down the possible locations it's easier to determine what the source of the problem may be.  

Malfunctioning Equipment

If a piece of equipment is malfunctioning or improperly configured, it could easily be contributing to packet loss.  If that piece of gear is located before your gateway, in other words is within your LAN, you may have a chance to fix, replace or bypass it.  If bypassing the gear does not resolve the issue, congestion could be causing the problem.  

Causes of congestion

The classic case of LAN congestion happens when you stream live video perfectly right up until the moment when your event starts.  Then all hell breaks loose.   This is typically caused by event related usage eating up bandwidth.  While upload and download bandwidth is usually allocated independently, and viewers downloading your stream should not affect your upload bandwidth, the start of an event often initiates other bandwidth usage, such as POS systems and members of the media uploading photos and on-demand videos.  Of course, if you are monitoring your stream on site, sudden increased traffic on your network would affect that experience while not affecting viewers outside of your network.  However, due to background internet usage that's not readily apparent when any device is connected to the internet, it's best to limit usage to only essential users.

WAN congestion is caused by traffic outside of your network.  In North America, Internet usage peaks between 9PM and 12AM EST.  If your broadcast occurs during that window, your stream may be competing with users watching Netflix, Hulu, etc. elsewhere on the web. WAN congestion may occur at any time, which is why it's essential to test your connection at the same time of day, and ideally the same day of the week.  Hopefully, these tests will indicate if your streaming path is subject to congestion.

If you're using a cellular connection to broadcast your stream, your ISP may throttle your bandwidth to handle more connected devices seeking service from the local cell tower.  The drop in quality may be caused by the growing crowd attending your event.

Solving congestion

If you do have LAN congestion, you have two options, either kick users off your network until the your stream improves or use a dedicated connection where you don't have to share bandwidth with other users.  In either case, the goal is to obtain a connection with sufficient overhead that won't fluctuate during your event.

Alleviating WAN congestion is a little more tricky.  Your best option is to choose a different publishing point, which you can obtain from your streaming provider.  Ideally, you should choose a publishing point closer to your location.  However, if the bottleneck is occurring between between you and the closest location, your next best option is to choose a publishing point that avoids the troubled area.  For example if you are in Chicago and your publishing point is in New York City, you may want to change your publishing point to Los Angeles.  You can check that you've avoided the bottleneck by running another traceroute and seeing if you've avoided the troubled hop.

Lastly, engineers working for the owner of the troubled infrastructure may be able to route traffic differently so that the bottleneck becomes less congested.

The Last Resort

Finally your best option might be bypassing your internet connection altogether.  We'll include options for doing that as well as how to get an internet connection to remote locations in a future article.  In the meantime, if you have a challenging streaming situation, feel free to contact us about a solution.  We have years of experience bringing livestream ready connections to some of the most difficult and remote locations on earth.

Other articles that may be of interest:

Topics: Webcast Tips, Live Webcast Solutions, HD Webcast Production

How to enhance your sports webcast production with a pre-show

Posted by Jeff Harper on Tue, Aug 14, 2012 @ 15:08 PM

Too often during a live webcast, the production needs to take a break.  Instead of keeping the show going, the viewers see a graphic with the annoying phrase, "Up Next..." or loop of commercials.  Inevitably, viewers drop like flies.  When the program resumes, the webcast needs to rebuild its audience.  Rarely is a production able to recapture all the viewers it lost, as many viewers moved on to more engaging entertainment. As a result, your production throws away valuable minutes.

We recently had a situation where, due to weather, the event needed to start late.  It's an all-too-frequent problem in live webcasts.  And, as always, the viewers were tuning in right on schedule.  Whenever there is no streaming content, (or just the ambiguous "Coming Up!" graphic), viewers become immediately frustrated when they wonder when the event will start.  Many click on something else.  Others begin pursuing their literary careers as hateful little trolls.  In any case, whatever your treasured viewers are up to, it won't be lending a hand to make things run more smoothly.  Fortunately, we were already streaming a pre-show and merely utilized our "Plan B" to seamlessly cover the time until the event could get underway. Throughout the pre-show, we continued to pick up viewers, encourage social engagement and build the audience for the main event.  

Captain Awesome makes an appearance on the Colorado Freeride Festival live webcastThe pre-show literally saved the overall production.  Without it, we would have been broadcasting to a much smaller, much angrier audience.

Pre-, post- and/or halftime shows are some of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to improve your return from a live sports webcast production.  Typically, all the elements to produce a framing show are in place: equipment, talent and infrastructure.  All you need to do is script it and produce it.

While filling time is essential, there are a number of additional benefits from framing shows. Here are some goals to help you maximize the results you get from your live production.

Pre-show

Build an Audience:  Live streaming has a unique problem.  In television, if you begin watching before the start of your program, there is already content on the channel.  Your audience is entertained until the program starts.  In live streaming, there isn't usually another program leading in to your event.  Rather, most webcasts are preceded by placeholder or clock.  Your audience doesn't want to sit around for that.  Streaming content before your primary show allows you to capture early viewers and build an audience before your event begins.  

Educate your audience:  The more a viewer understands a sport, the athletes and their stories, the more engaged they will become.  That is the reason NBC produces so many bios of olympic athletes for their Olympic broadcasts.  In webcasts, hopefully new viewers are constantly tuning in.  When they do, it should be the goal of every live stream to advance neophytes from casual observers to passionate enthusiasts.  If we're successful, we'll build an audience for future webcasts as well as increase their engagement during the current broadcast.  Since there is a limit to the extent that a webcast can delve into the athletes' stories during the events, the ideal time is to do this within the framing shows.

Interact with your audience:  It's a proven psychological phenomenon that "people have a greater tendency to continue an endeavor once an investment in money, effort, or time has been made."  It's called the sunk cost effect.  One way to increase one's investment in your production is to encourage them to interact.  By interacting, they are investing in your production, becoming more engaged and, inevitably, watching for a longer period of time.   Pre-shows are an ideal time to get your audience to interact with your hosts and athletes. 

Get the word out:  If you channel audience interaction through social media, it has the added bonus of broadcasting your viewer's activities to all of their friends.  We've seen that on average, each comment, share or like attracts two additional viewers.  Thus, through interaction via social media, your viewers are advertising your production and growing your audience.

Half-time Show

Don't lose your audience.  About the only thing more destructive to your audience than a lock down shot, placeholder graphic or commercial loop is to simply unplug your encoder and go to lunch for an extended period of time.  In either case, as soon as you stop your organized content, you'll begin hemorrhaging viewers.  The first rule of any half-time of mid-event programming should be DON'T LOSE YOUR AUDIENCE.  Keep the program running with analysis, insight, highlights, interviews, vignettes and giveaways and you'll have a much larger audience when you resume.

Keep them entertained.  Better yet, make half-time something to look forward to.  What will appeal to your audience is unique.  For the Tampa Pro, which serves a young group of skate enthusiasts, it's watching teens slog through a slimy moat while being pelted with eggs. While watching your audience members risk hepatitis infections might not be the right solution for your event, it's highlight of each of their broadcasts and actually causes a spike in their engagement.

Do a complete reset: Many of your viewers will begin watching your webcast sometime after it began.  It's frustrating and confusing (and less engaging) for them to not know what has happened.  A half-time show affords you the ability to completely reset your show by playing highlights and recapping story lines in order to orient any viewers who may have missed the most important moments.  It will not only make for more satisfying viewing, it will also improve engagement.

Reward your audience for involvement:  One of the easiest ways to ensure people will continue a behavior is to simply reward them for it.  If social media has demonstrated nothing else, it has shown that people crave recognition.  Recognizing viewers for quality interaction affirms constructive behavior and encourages other viewers to do the same.

Post-Show

Capture eyeballs you missed: At first, it may seem counter intuitive to put much effort into a post show.  The event is over, checks have been handed out, the athletes have gone home. How many more minutes are people willing to watch?

On the other hand, there are always a large number of interested viewers that missed your production.  A post-show enables you to quickly create content that will capture eyeballs after the event.  After all, highlight videos always make great content.  Since you have already recorded the best moments in your DVR, why not put together a show to capture those viewers that missed your event and capitalize on the investment you've already made.  All you need to do once the show is complete is export it and upload it to YouTube.

Set-up the story for next time:  Typically, a sporting event is not isolated happening.  A post show allows you to reframe the story and prime the viewer for the next broadcast.  As long as you have their attention, you may as well construct an advertisement for your next event.

What do you think?  What are some other effective uses of pre-, post- and halftime shows? 

Topics: Webcast Tips, Webcast Promotion, Live Webcast Solutions, Webcast Marketing

11 Ways to Create More Value for Sponsors with Your Webcast

Posted by Jeff Harper on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 @ 13:02 PM

Why are live streams great for events?  They take an on-site audience of several hundred or a couple thousand and grow that audience to tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions.  Why is that awesome?  If what sponsors want is access to your audience, then live streams make your event exponentially more valuable.

And yet, many events with live webcasts are leaving sponsorship dollars on the table.  This is happening because events spend the money to produce a broadcast, but for whatever reason, don’t understand all the possible ways they can use it to create value.  Live online broadcasts are a new frontier.  As connected devices emerge and evolve, there is an ever growing number of ways for your audience to interact with your sponsors and create value in the process.  We thought it was time to put together a list for event organizers so that they can get a handle on the current possibilities as well as a small glimpse of the future.

 That said, all sponsors are different.  One sponsor may care more about impressions while another cares more about messaging.  The key to maximizing value is not simply using the latest technology, but customizing a package that precisely fulfills the sponsors needs.  Choosing the solutions that best suit your sponsors and integrating that into your overall package will ensure that you maximize the event’s potential. 

This is only a start.  A good producer will be able to generate even more ideas to suit specific sponsors while maintaining an engaging experience for your audience.  Getting a producer involved before you’ve signed contracts will ensure that your event isn’t leaving money on the table.

This segment, produced by Adrenaline Garage for ESPN's Winter XGames and Texas Pete shows how it's possible to combine many of the elements discussed here. 

 

1.  Branded Graphics

Graphics are the easiest way to incorporate a sponsor into a broadcast.  Placement opportunities for sponsor logos include leaderboards and replay wipes.  As these graphics are used frequently throughout your broadcast, you will generate a ton of impressions.

2.  Interviews

Every event has downtime.  Whether it’s between rounds or before the event begins, there is always time when no athletes are on the course.  This is the perfect opportunity to interview a sponsor’s representative about their product or why they are involved with the event.  Unlike banners, graphics and bugs, this allows a sponsor to really communicate their message to your viewers.

Shaun White does an interview on ESPN's live webcast Inside X at the Winter X Games

 

3. Branding the Video Player or Inserting a Video Bug

Every viewer sees the webcast player.  It is your webcast’s most valuable real estate.  For sponsors that are more concerned with impressions than messaging, this is the best way to maximize their exposure.

4.  Branded Video Segments

By creating entertaining video content for sponsors, you create more depth than placing a logo.  We once shot a cooking segment with a couple athletes and included it between heats on behalf of an organic baking supplier.  Be creative, make it entertaining and appropriate for your audience and you’ll create a lot of value.

5.  Branded Special Awards

Sponsors derive value every time their brand is associated with your event.  To ensure that your sponsors are included in earned media before and after the event, include their name in the title of an award.  My personal favorite is creating an Audience Choice award.  When viewers vote for their favorite athletes they will inevitably interact with the brand, creating even more impressions.

6.  Branded Applications

There are numerous ways to involve sponsors through emerging technology.  Possible examples include branding a custom mobile application or fantasy league.  Not only will it generate a lot of impressions, it will also encourage your audience to interact with the brand.  For further engagement with the sponsor, promote the sponsor by exclusively hosting the application on their website.

7.  Interactive Offers

Some brands will want to see proof that their sponsorship generated results.  We’ve created a way for viewers to download coupons or vouchers directly through the player.  If you can’t afford that, have your announcers encourage your viewers to “like” your sponsor’s Facebook page or go to a web site to sign up for a special offer.

8.  Logo Loop

One of the most common ways to include sponsors in your production is simply including their logos onscreen while an announcer reads a scripted announcement.  This associates your sponsors directly with your event.

9. Giveaways

Giveaways are a classic option for live events.  In a properly executed giveaway, the event’s host will have the time to go over the product’s features, benefits and give a personal endorsement while heightening viewer interest through the promise of possibly winning.  A giveaway can communicate the same information as a commercial while engaging more viewers and increasing the brand’s credibility.   

10.  Including the sponsor logo in pre and post event content

At some events, we see as many combined hits on the related content as the live webcast itself.  Including a sponsor’s logo or 5-10 second commercial at the beginning of on-demand content creates a lot of value.  (In case you’re wondering why you should do a live webcast when on-demand content can get as many hits, the answer is engagement.  We’re seeing events where the average viewers watches for over an hour, generating 50-60x the number of impressions per hit for your sponsors in the process.  If you loaded on-demand content with that much sponsor messaging, no one would watch it.)

11.  Commercials

Commercials are incredibly popular with sponsors because a commercial’s value is readily understood and measured.  That said, we’re working to make commercials even more effective by allowing sponsors to measure the exact number of people that watched each commercial.  In addition, we are enhancing commercials to allow viewers to “like” a brand’s Facebook page or take another action without leaving the webcast.  In the future, we’ll allow sponsors to target their commercials according a wide range of metrics.

To find other ideas about how to make your event more appealing to sponsors, download our FREE 20-page webcast strategy guide.

Please share with our community.  What are some other ideas that you have to generate value for sponsors with live webcasts?
 

Topics: Webcast Tips, Webcast Sponsorship, Live Webcast Solutions

Do I need an iPhone strategy for my webcast?

Posted by Jeff Harper on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 @ 00:10 AM

In case you haven't noticed, the iPhone is hot.  Almost as hot are other mobile devices like Android phones and tablets, iPads and iPods, which begs a good question:

Since everyone (or 35% of us, but who's counting?) now has a mobile device, do I need to invest in a mobile device strategy for my live webcast?

Technology is a tool, not a solution

Before I answer that question, I want to take a step back.  I believe that technology is a tool. Tools are not always universally suitable.  A hammer isn't very useful when you need a saw. Likewise, some technologies might be required in one situation, but are useless in another. Before one considers whether they need to include a technology in their live online broadcast strategy, they should first ask, what am I trying to achieve?

iPhones can do live streaming, but is it worth it?

As I've stated before, we believe that in order to generate the most value from your webcast, you need to focus on maximizing the total number of minutes that viewers watch your live broadcast.  The more minutes viewers watch, the more impressions the webcast generates and the more value your broadcast has to advertisers and sponsors.  

Moreover, at Adrenaline Garage, we know that every event has a limited budget.  Therefore we recommend that events invest in strategies that will deliver the greatest ROI.  In this case, that means choosing options that generates the most minutes for the smallest investment.

So let's rephrase the question.  Will investing in a mobile device strategy increase the number of minutes that viewers watch my live online broadcast?  And secondly, with all the great things Adrenaline Garage is working on, does that strategy deliver the best ROI?

The answer to the first question is "Yes."  However, it might surprise you to discover that a mobile device strategy comes in dead last on our list of the Top Ten Things You Can Do Now to Get Better Results From Your Live Webcast.  Why?

The experience matters, not the technology

One of Steve Jobs' greatest insights, in my opinion, is that the end user cares more about the experience than they do about buzz words, technologies and specs.  When we talk about an iPhone strategy, what we really ought to be talking about is experiencing your event on a small screen vs. a mid-size (computer monitor) or large (TV) screen.  The fact is, watching a 3-hour event on a 3-inch screen is not a very good experience.  As a result, not a lot of people are willing to do it, no matter how much your viewers love their mobile devices.  And the numbers (and minutes watched) reflect this.

But don't take our word for it.  It turns out that other people have noticed that as content gets longer, the viewer prefers larger and larger screens.  Why?  I think it's because sitting on a couch is the most comfortable way to watch 45 minutes of video.

Take a look at this infographic.  Yes, yes, more and more people are watching video.  Yes, yes, they are using lots of different devices.  But let's consider the question at hand, does investing in the small screen experience deliver the best ROI?

People prefer larger screens for longer form content

Our numbers indicate that our viewers' behavior nicely parallels Netflix's viewers.  That is not surprising since live webcasts and Netflix are different types of long form content.  In fact, our average viewing time (AVT) is very similar.  The most interesting thing about this graphic is the consumption by device.  As we stated, the longer the video format, the larger the share for the larger screens.  In fact, while mobile phones and tablets represent relatively small share of YouTube viewers, they represent an even smaller share of longer form video viewers.  Like with Netflix, in our events, mobile devices represent only 2-3% of viewers.

[By the way, did you notice that longer form content represents more value than short form content in terms of traffic share (a close proxy for minutes) even while representing a smaller share of viewers?  But that's a topic for another blog post.]

Taking this one step further

This infographic hints at something else that we've noticed, which is the inverse of what we stated above.  Not only do viewers prefer larger screens for longer content, larger screens tend to encourage greater engagement on their own!  In fact, we've seen that the most engaged viewers of live webcasts tend to be the viewers watching the event on the largest screens.  While it's hard to make a direct cause and effect relationship, it would follow that you would create more value for your live broadcast by encouraging viewers to watch on larger screens rather than smaller ones.

Considering that such a small percentage of viewers use mobile devices to watch long form content, and large screen viewers are more valuable than small screen viewers, we conclude that while having a mobile device strategy would add value, it does not deliver the same ROI as investing in large screens.  

What can you do to enhance your large screen strategy?  That's a topic for another blog post. Or, if you can't wait, give us a call.

What do you think?  What's more valuable for your events, a small screen or large screen strategy?

Topics: Webcast Tips, Webcast Sponsorship, Live Webcast Solutions

Improve Your Webcast Results: Why Minutes matter more than Uniques

Posted by Jeff Harper on Mon, May 9, 2011 @ 17:05 PM

Webcast minutes = moneyPop Quiz:  Which broadcast would generate more revenue?  The one with 30,000 uniques or the one with 9,000 uniques?

The answer?  It’s a trick question.  In spite of the fact that unique views is the metric most in demand by event organizers, advertisers and producers, as a measurement of success it doesn’t reveal nearly enough information.

Advertisers and sponsors pay for impressions, the number of times their brand was exposed to a viewer.  The more impressions generated from a live broadcast, the more money they are willing to pay.

However, uniques alone doesn’t give nearly enough information about how many impressions occurred.  Unlike a webpage, uniques views is not indicative of the total impressions generated in a live broadcasts.  Throughout a viewing session, some viewers will see 3 ads, others 30 and others none.   Measuring uniques doesn’t capture any of this information.

Consider the above scenario.  It’s possible that 30,000 viewers watched for an average of 3 minutes while the 9,000 viewers watched on average for 30.  If this were the case, the second audience is actually 3 times more valuable to sponsors and advertisers because as a whole they had 3 times as long to be exposed. 

Adequately measuring the value of a live broadcast to sponsors requires a better, more comprehensive metric:  Minutes.

What is “MINUTES”?

Minutes is the total amount of time watched by all the viewers of a live broadcast.  For example, if a webcast has two viewers, John, who watches for 5 minutes, and Julie, who watches for 40 minutes, the total minutes for that webcast is 45.  In original example, we can calculate the in the first webcast to total minutes was 90,000 (30,000 viewers x 3 mins/viewer) while the second was 270,000 (9,000 viewers x 30 mins/viewer).

As you can see, the advantage of this metric is that it captures both the number of uniques and their engagement in one simple number.  Simply put, if you want to compare apples to apples, this is the metric you should be using.

MINUTES = MONEY

One of the challenges of monetizing live online broadcasts is that you have no idea exactly how many impressions your live stream’s commercials generated.  However, unlike with unique views, with minutes you can easily approximate the number of impressions that your live broadcast generates.  To do this, you need two other numbers:  Total Commercials and total broadcast running time.  If you recorded your event, simply sit down and watch it again to collect the necessary information.

Once you have those numbers, the formula is easy:

Minutes x Total Number of Ads / Total Program Running Time = Impressions

Remember, sponsors and advertisers pay for impressions.  The more impressions that your broadcast generates, them more value your live stream has.  That’s a powerful statistic that’s not available if you calculate uniques alone.

Using minutes to get more return

Growing minutes is pretty abstract, and hard to plan for.  Indeed, I think that is one of the appeals of using uniques to compare broadcasts: it’s easily understood, easy to plan for and easy to measure.  However, when you combine uniques with minutes, you can calculate another elusive but easily understood metric that will further empower you to grow your live stream:  Average Viewing Time (AVT).  While uniques tends to measure the success of your marketing and distribution strategies, AVT helps you measure the quality of your program.  The more successful your program, the longer people watch, the more ads they see and the more value you create.

You can easily calculate AVT by

 AVT = Total Minutes / Unique Viewers

Looking at all three individually, you can glean an enormous amount of information about your event.  If you have a ton of uniqes, but low engagement, then you know you need to work on creating more reasons to stay engaged.  If the opposite is true, high engagement, but low uniques, then you have an interesting event, but you need to pull in more viewers.

Since its relatively easy to create strategies focusing on either one of those goals, you can easily evaluate if your strategies are succeeding.  Overall, minutes captures both these metrics and lets you compare apples to apples.

Conclusion

Hopefully, now that you understand minutes and how you can use them to better monetize and grow your event.  If you’re interested in specific examples for how to monetize and increase minutes, check out our Live Webcast Strategy Guide.  It’s a free 20-page strategy guide filled with tips, insights, best practices and additional resources to attract the most viewers, create better engagement and get the most return from sponsorships.

 

Topics: Webcast Tips, Webcast Sponsorship, Webcast Promotion, Webcast Marketing

Download our Free Live Webcast Strategy Guide

Posted by Jeff Harper on Wed, Dec 15, 2010 @ 11:12 AM

Get results from your live webcastFor action sports events, reaching hundred of thousands of viewers around the world through a live webcast promises enormous potential. Most event organizers, however, currently lack sufficient understanding of live online broadcasts to optimize and fully monetize them for their event. Without that knowledge, the return on investment, both in terms of audience and sponsorship, is not yet close to what it could be.  Lower returns have a direct effect on the long-term success of the event.

Learn how to plan a live webcast with greater returns by delivering the results sponsors crave.


In working with our partners, Adrenaline Garage has taken an interest in seeing their event properties grow.  We’ve observed that there are ways to strategically increase the value of live broadcasts and increase an event’s attractiveness to sponsors.  We collected the best practices and explored new directions in order to create a comprehensive strategy guide to accelerate our partner’s success.

Download this free live webcast strategy guide and learn:

  • What sponsors want and how a live webcast best fulfills their needs.
  • What your audience wants and why that’s important to sponsors.
  • 7 criteria to identify a provider that can deliver results.
  • 17 essential tactics that add value and deliver results for live events

Adrenaline Garage has increased webcast audiences by almost 4000% and been recognized as the world-wide leader in webcast quality.  Find out how we did it and maximize the results for your live webcast.

Download 20 pages of tips, insights, best practices and additional resources to attract the most viewers and get the most return from sponsorships.

Topics: Webcast Tips, Webcast Sponsorship, Webcast Promotion, Live Webcast Solutions, HD Webcast Production, Webcast Marketing

5 Essential Tools to Promote Your Live Webcast with Facebook

Posted by Jeff Harper on Tue, Dec 7, 2010 @ 09:12 AM

How to use Facebook to promote your live webcastAside from distributing your webcast through relevant community sites, no other website has the ability to drive as much traffic as Facebook.  With 25% of all pageviews in the US and 500 million registered users, no other website comes close to providing the same reach.  In addition, with a mature set of social media tools, no other website is as well suited to target your potential viewers.

We've found that simply creating an event or page is not enough.  Just a like a webcast player, your Facebook page needs to be active, seeking out your potential viewers and drawing them in with quality, compelling content that is designed to be shared and interacted with.  We've compiled a few of the most successful techniques to get you started with promoting your event and live stream.

Create a Facebook Page

Facebook pages are Facebook's official means for a brand to connect with its fans.  The primary benefit of a page is that once it has been "liked" by a fan, any content the brand posts has a chance of appearing in the fan's feed--essentially the home page for each user in Facebook.  The advantage of this method compared to a traditional website is that a Facebook page doesn't require your fans to visit your site to discover new content.  It's content finds them.

The goal of an event's page should be to cultivate a large passionate fan following.  Like any good website, that means creating compelling content.  Doing so increases the likelihood that your fans will participate in your event and even assist with the marketing.  However, growing your fan base takes time.  To do this, ideally, an event should create a Facebook page months before and maintain it with quality content year round. As the event draws near, these fans will become your "street team" and share your content with other people likely to have an interest in your event.

Tip: Content that inspires interaction is more likely to be seen and shared.  Be creative with your content and find ways of involving your fan base.  For example, rather than having a first-come, first serve registration, ask athletes to upload videos of themselves.  Then, invite your users to comment.  Base (some) invitations to your open event on the posted videos. It's an easy way to create content and encourage interaction.

Create a Facebook Event

Create a facebook event for your live broadcastWhile Facebook provides you access to your fans' streams, it is sometimes challenging to rise above the noise. While there are ways to increase the likeliness of your content appearing in a user's feed (which we will get to), there is no guarantee.  Unfortunately, due to concerns about spam, Facebook does not give you access to your fans' email addresses.

However, there is one way to promote your event that does get attention and creates significant interaction.  Facebook has a built-in application called Facebook Events.  Due to the nature of your organization, this is a natural tool.  When you set this up, it can automatically send an email to each of your fans.  As you can customize the content of the invitation, this is a great way to reach them.  Unless a fan indicates that they won't be attending, they continue to get email updates as more content is posted on the event's page.  As a result, this method tends to create significant response and interaction.

Tip:  If you make your event "public" you allow other people to invite their friends to your event.  As a result, their network becomes included with yours and receives all the updates.  Encourage your athletes and fans to invite their friends to your event to expand your reach.

Create Quality Content

Facebook uses a secret algorithm to determine whether or not a piece of content will be displayed in the user's feed.  It attempts to measure relevance and quality and ranks each piece of content accordingly.  As the relevance and quality increases, the piece of content will appear in more feeds.

The primary way the algorithm determines this is by measuring clicks, comments and sharing.  Improving your content's rank requires creating content that inspires interaction.  If your content is of low quality, then it won't be seen by as many users.

Tip: The Facebook algorithm will increase the rank of a piece of content if it includes tags.  To maximize the rank of your content, be sure to tag any names or pages within your post.

Create a Welcome Page

One of the weaknesses of the default Facebook page is that it's hard to get the most important content from your event up front and center.  As you publish content on your wall, older content gets pushed lower and lower and the info page doesn't allow any custom fields.

A landing page is a great place to host your live webcast player

However, Facebook allows you to create a custom landing page.  It's a great way to tell potential viewers what your event is all about.  It also makes important information, such as times and locations, easily accessible.  Your webcast player is one piece of content that you'll want to make easily discoverable.  As such, this is a perfect location to post the player.

Tip:  As we've mentioned, it's important to get as many fans as possible.  Don't forget to include a call to action on your welcome page that encourages new users to "like" your page.

There are a lot of great sites to find inspiration for your Facebook landing page.

Use Facebook Social Plug-ins

As you can see, there are a lot of advantages to using Facebook.  However, Facebook functionality is not strictly limited within the confines of Facebook.com.  Facebook makes it easy to integrate their functionality on your website.  With just a few lines of HTML code, you can easily allow users on your website to share your content with their friends on Facebook.  It's a great way to broadcast your user's activities to their friends and drive more traffic to your site.

Try it out:

Tip: Make sure that you include a "Share" button next to your webcast player.  This is a great way for your viewers to alert their friends when the broadcast is live.

What ideas do you have to promote your live webcast through Facebook?

Topics: Webcast Tips, Webcast Promotion, Webcast Marketing

What Sponsors Want (from a Live Webcast)

Posted by Jeff Harper on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 @ 17:09 PM

I recently read an interesting post on Chris Brogan's blog entitled What Sponsors Want.  The post was pretty relevant, even if it was not all that specific, to live events and webcast productions.  The three main points are:

  1. Sponsors want your audience.
  2. Your audience wants good content.
  3. You have to make good on both.

Since his post was short on the specifics, I thought we would expand on how it's possible to incorporate these ideas into your next live event and increase your event's value for your audience and sponsors.

Live events shape the sport

Sponsors Want Your Audience

Live events shape the sport.  Nowhere else in sport does so much happen in such a short time, so conveniently, live, in front of so many people.  From elevating unknown athletes from the depths of obscurity to the pinnacle of fame or watching a veteran redeem themselves from an injury, illness or disappointing past, live events are where it happens.  A live broadcast enables your audience, your sponsors' customers, for whom these stories have the most meaning, to be a part of it, as it happens, irrespective of their location.

For advertisers wanting to reach that audience, live events are understandably irresistible.  Who wouldn't want to capitalize on their product being integral to the story?

While you don't have control over what the story will be, you do have control over how many people will see it.  Promoting your live broadcast is certainly one required element.  In webcasting, however, nothing seems to work better than an agnostic approach to webcast distribution.  Agnostic webcast distribution means not selling the exclusive distribution rights to one outlet, rather providing your content to as many relevant community websites as possible.  We've been able to increase audiences as much as 3000% using this approach. 

Although it is tempting to take up front money for exclusive distribution, we think providing greater value for all your sponsors through the largest possible audience is more rewarding in the end.  Hey, even Red Bull is doing it.

Your Audience Wants Good Content

"Content is King" and I refuse to believe anything else.  The problem with that statement is that creating good content is really really hard work.  The fact that the outcome of a live event is impossible to predict makes it that much more difficult.

How do you quantify good content?  That's a difficult, but important question.  After all, how can you determine value if you can't measure it?  In a marketplace with so many content options, we think one metric stands above all others, the length of time the event was watched.  Time is the valuable commodity your audience exchanges for your content.  The more time your viewers give, the more valuable your content.

While you can't control the outcome of your event, there are a number of things you do have control over to make your content more valuable.  In our experience, live chat, amazing visuals, insightful announcers, good storytelling, interaction between your viewers and the event and a number of other elements, all increase the time your viewers watch.  The key is making your audience so engaged, they'll watch all the way to the end.

However, in webcasting, nothing ruins the value of your content faster than buffering, stuttering and craptactular streaming.  No matter how awesome the riding, how incredible your camera work, how mind blowing your graphics, how insightful your commentary, it doesn't matter if no one can see it.

You have to make good on both

You need to give your sponsors access, but you need protect your audience from your sponsor's access ruining the quality of your content.

However we don't believe that advertising and content quality is necessarily mutually exclusive.  Our opinion is that the best way to serve both masters is by making your sponsors and audience engagement relevant.  Any ad campaign in which viewers have sought out advertising has been successful at this.

While this is certainly challenging, it is possible to enhance the experience for your audience while providing access.  The result is that you create a powerful connection between your viewers and your sponsors while enhancing the value of your content.

That sounds like a sponsor's dream to me.

What ways can you incorporate your sponsors so that they enhance the experience for your audience? 

Topics: Webcast Tips, Webcast Sponsorship

How to avoid disaster during a live webcast

Posted by Jeff Harper on Tue, Sep 14, 2010 @ 18:09 PM

This article is the fifth part of our series, 5 Things you need for a Stutter Free Webcast.

Have a backup plan

No matter what you do, occaisionally, all hell breaks loose during a live webcast.  It's just a fact of live productions.  It happens, even for the largest, most elaborate, best planned, most experienced event producers.

We believe that the right strategy is not to pretend that it won't, but assume that it will.  The ultimate goal is to walk away from an event where no one even suspected anything happened.  Failing that, just making sure people get to see the event, even at less than 100%, is far better than viewers not able to see anything at all or having the webcast be unwatchable.

Here are some of the strategies we've developed to make our webcasts as seamless as possible, even when the unexpected happens.

Have seamless backups for critical systems

In webcasting, there are two things you can't live without, power and the internet.  If your primary source for either fails, make sure you have a secondary source.  Ideally, you should be able to switch to your back up source seamlessly or nearly seamlessly with minimal interruption to the event.

In our case, we've developed players that can automatically switch to a back up stream should we lose the internet connection for the primary stream.

Don't forget about the tape delay relay

the tape delay relay is a good backup option for live webcast productionAt a major ski competition a few years ago, the snow was so heavy it knocked out the wireless internet connection.  The webcast provider (not us) skied tapes of the event down to the bottom of the mountain and streamed the competition from a hard wire connection.

In spite of the time it took to relay the tapes to the bottom (15 minutes or so), the audience barely noticed.  Even after viewers on the chat reported the winners, most of the viewers kept watching.  That's the benefit of taking the time to create a quality, compelling show. Without that suspense keeping their attention, the viewers were still so engaged, they wanted to see the content.  While a 15 minute delay is less than ideal, it's far better than nothing at all.

What ideas do you have to deal with the unexpected?

Topics: Webcast Tips