livestream ustream we all stream a practical guide to streaming platforms

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Published on February 9th, 2011 | by Amelia Northrup


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

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.

More resources:

  • Here’s a handy comparison chart from Streaming Media.
  • If you are interested in learning about your options when recording said performance, check out our Making a Video webinar.
  • You may also be interested in our Social Media, Video Footage & The Law white paper to read about clearing rights.

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About the Author

Amelia Northrup is the Strategic Communications Specialist at TRG Arts. She serves as a writer and editor for the firm's consulting projects, Data Lab research and analytics projects, and a contributor to TRG's knowledge center online. Formerly of the Center for Arts Management and Technology (CAMT), her responsibilities included writing for the Technology in the Arts blog, as well as authoring white papers and reports. She has presented at the NAMP, TCG, and Performing Arts Exchange. Additionally, she is a member of the Advisory Committee. Previously Amelia worked for two years in marketing at Kansas City Repertory Theatre before becoming a student in Carnegie Mellon's Master of Arts Management program, graduating in 2011. She also holds degrees in Vocal Music Performance and Communications from University of Missouri.

  • Hannah Rudman

    This is a great article. Thanks for describing the landscape so well!

    You might also like to read this guide to webcasting that I wrote for the AmbITion programme in the UK.

  • Jane Hogg2

    Agree brilliant summary of the options to consider and like the idea that there are options out there for not only the “Big Boys”.

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  • mobile website design

    Hi, would you please be so kind to show me how to add your rss feed to my feed reader, that would really help a lot, as i want to follow your blog, thanks so much. I like the way you think. Give me some more.

  • Jean

    depending on the size of your operation, and the number of live streaming programs you are producing, there are affordable and simple ways to implement such a service: nicecast, shoutcast, livecast are other options for mac,windows, linux OS that are worth investigating.

    The number of viewers you can handle is dependend on your bandwidth, but you can create a mesh network with a number of nodes relaying the stream to increase the number of viewers.

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  • Presenter’s Toolkit

    Great article and good foreword to a streamed debate on streaming of the performing arts Feb 14 I believe many organizations in my network would like more information on how to make a video, but the link is not sending to the right place

  • Amelia Northrup

    Sorry about that! The link is now corrected. You can access all previous webinars from Technology in the Arts here:

    The Making a Video webinar is the third one down on the page. Thanks for letting us know about the broken link.

  • Amelia Northrup

    Thanks for the heads-up on nicecast, shoutcast, etc.!

  • Dennis Kaeos Smith

    Great article! Our group has been using digital audio/video platforms for the past few years, there are 2 very notable options missing from the list. In the same “free” category as Livestream, and, all should consider and Both have very similar flash interfaces to that of Ustream along with the integrated chat room which is fast becoming a must for live streaming events.

    An important note on the “free” options. Many of them have moved to ad supported models whereby the host site chooses the video advertisement and inserts it at the entry point. When a viewer enters the event, they are treated to the ad before the can see your content.

    Livestream in particular lost a lot of ground as their ad support proved to be the most intrusive. Their ads are queued for 15 minute intervals and the viewer of your event is treated to the same extremely loud video advertisement every 15 minutes. Imagine using this platform to stream seminars to a live academic audience and every 15 minutes an advertisement for Windex or Desperate Housewives comes blaring right over the top of your presentation.

    Personally, I recommend at this point as the most stable and as the writer pointed out, free of the younger/male crowds.

    Again great article, thanks!

  • CLNe

    This is a great article and I am glad to see in here because it is the streaming platform that I use to stream my web design tutorials.
    There are 3 good things about them that I like a lot:
    1. They are cheaper than others. I pay only $29/mo for 140GB of bandwidth.
    2. The sale persons are on top of everything (I am don t have a lot of technical knowledge…).3. I can use their monetization system that is very easy to use, like that I can make extra money thanks to my tutorials ;-)

  • James S.

    Thanks for your tips, i’ll try Livestream and Ustream