Things have changed for churches in the recent weeks, and while many have scrambled to establish live streaming workflows, others are comfortable in their long-standing processes. The reality of it is, both are likely to experience trouble.
Many church specific streaming services have been overwhelmed by the onslaught of churches joining their platform all at once. This leads to a frustrating experience for both the churches (and their viewers) who have been on the platform prior to recent weeks, and the churches trying it out for the first time.
This article will discuss some key factors in evaluating live streaming services including bandwidth, the market the service targets, and cost.
Bandwidth is required on all fronts when talking about live streams. The origination point needs bandwidth to send the stream up to the streaming server/service, the streaming server needs bandwidth to receive the stream, and then to distribute the stream to the viewers. The per viewer bandwidth requirements can be very high depending on stream resolution, bit rate, and number of viewers.
It is important that a streaming service has enough bandwidth to accommodate all the viewers across the platform. Lack of bandwidth can lead to failed attempts to see the stream, excessive buffering or lag, and choppy video.
Another important consideration is stream origination bandwidth; that, is bandwidth from the church or location you are streaming from. Each stream requires upload bandwidth, so streaming to multiple providers (Like YouTube and Facebook) together will take more bandwidth than just streaming to Facebook. As a troubleshooting step, limiting destinations can be useful to pinpoint a problem.
Further, consumer internet connections do not necessarily guarantee all the bandwidth on a given plan. For example, a 40 mb down /5 mb up plan may not be able to get the entire 5MB upload. A business grade plan with a service level agreement (SLA) can solve this issue. Adjusting the streaming resolution or bitrate can help overcome limited upload bandwidth from the origination point as well.
Good providers will leverage a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to aggregate the stream across multiple distribution points, geographically diversified, to reduce load on any one server and decrease latency. While the amount of bandwidth needed by the provider to publish a stream does not go down, it can be distributed.
There are many streaming services out there, some of which cater to specific markets. One example is twitch, which hosts mostly gaming live streams. Twitch supports more than 15 million daily active users. There are several big names in the market as well, such as Facebook and YouTube. One consideration in evaluating a streaming service should be their primary market, and what kind of infrastructure they have to support their customers. Facebook for example has 2.45 billion monthly active users. Facebook has the infrastructure to support a heavy load, while a small niche streaming service may not.
Another consideration in selecting a provider is cost. While there are many free services out there, consider how the system gets funded. The major media platforms like Facebook and YouTube use ad revenue as part of their business model. Some may find the social media experience to be distracting, and that it may be better to pay for a streaming service. Other free services may be more suited to your needs but may not have the funding for a robust infrastructure to support the load on their platform. Again, a paid service may be a better option. One good paid option is Wowza Streaming Cloud.
These are just a few points that should be evaluated when looking for a live streaming option.
The ACTS Group is equipped to help guide churches through this process and aid in configuring high quality and robust streaming solutions. ACTS has experienced engineers ready to partner with churches of all sizes to deliver the good news of Christ utilizing technology.