A one-time live streaming event is pretty normal nowadays, whether it’s a sports/esports event, concert, business meeting and conference, a product announcement, and even QnA. All of these live streaming sessions have one thing in common: they all have a beginning and an end.
However, a 24/7 live stream without any start and end is a totally different beast. Also known as live linear streaming, this streaming method is more similar to live TV broadcast than, for example, a YouTube live streaming session. Just like a traditional live TV broadcast, a 24/7 live stream broadcasts content live 24/7 and if possible, 365 days/year.
With 5G internet, WiFi6, and other technological advancements surrounding the consumer internet, it is expected that 24/7 live linear streaming would increase in popularity and would become more popular than traditional TV in 2022.
This is why many traditional TV networks like CBS, ABC, and others have launched their own 24/7 linear stream options, while top OTT platforms like Amazon Prime are planning to add live linear channels pretty soon. We can expect more players, big and small, to enter the 24/7 live stream market in the near future.
So, how can we start our own 24/7 live streaming service? Let us begin.
Common Challenges to 24/7 Live Streaming
Above, we have mentioned how 24/7 live linear streaming is a totally different beast compared to regular live streaming. Why? Because as you might have guessed, ensuring a 24/7 stream without interruptions while maintaining consistency in quality is very difficult, and in general there are four key challenges surrounding this issue:
1. Computer-related issues
No matter how you are going to run your live streams, most likely it will involve at least one computer—whether it’s a laptop, desktop, or a full-blown server. The thing is, computers aren’t designed to run continuously 24/7, 365 days a year. While most modern computers can run 24 hours straight without any problem, you’d need to reboot it sooner or later.
Also, to ensure the longevity of your devices, it’s best to let your computers break regularly. Don’t forget that computers are also not a perfect machine and they might need to reboot by themselves due to software/hardware error and even hardware failure.
Ideally, it’s best to have at least two computers that can kick in automatically when the other is turned off for one reason or another. Obviously, this would translate into an extra expense.
If due to budget limitations or other reasons you can only go with one computer, you can schedule this computer to reboot regularly, and cut down your rebooting time by ensuring your encoder can automatically re-engage after the reboot. If you use a hardware encoder, then the rebooting process can be shortened, but the hardware encoders would also require reboots from time to time.
- Have a backup computer when possible and schedule them to run in shifts
- Have a hardware encoder instead of a software encoder
- It’s okay to have one or two hours of break every few days or so
2. Audio/video-sources related issues
While interrupted feed from cameras and/or microphones and other audio/video sources are fairly rare, they are still possible. However, it is still a possible issue.
For example, if you use your camera continuously, mechanical parts of the camera (i.e. zoomable lenses) might break down. For microphones, issues like these are rarer, but again, still possible.
- Redundancy is key. Have backup cameras and microphones as many as your budget allows.
3. Internet access
Since your content is streamed continuously over the internet, then it’s obvious that the reliability of your internet access is very important. Remember that we should avoid interruptions as flawlessly as possible, and it’s extremely difficult to achieve even with the most expensive, most reliable internet service.
As a general rule of thumb, a hardwire cable connection is always preferred over Wi-Fi connections. While Wi-Fi connections nowadays can be pretty fast and reliable especially with the recent introduction of the Wi-Fi6, cable connections will always be more stable.
As usual, redundancy would help, and it’s always a good idea to have a backup connection available. If you use two or more different internet connections, you’d want to set up your system to automatically switch between these connections automatically. While switching between connections would still result in a gap (or a brief break during your stream), it’s still better than having your stream cut off for hours when your internet connection simply isn’t available.
- Wired connection is always better than wireless connections
- Make sure to invest in the fastest, most reliable internet connection according to your budget
- Have more than one connections when available
4. Human-related issues
Obviously, humans need sleep and can’t operate for 24 hours, much less if it’s done 7 days a week. So, it’s best to set up a system that can run automatically on its own with as few human interventions as possible.
However, no matter how perfect your system is, we still need human supervision. For example, we’d always need to adjust something about the live linear stream while it’s in progress.
So, you’d need at least two people to constantly monitor the live stream around the clock, working in shifts. Make sure to create a proper schedule and that they can get enough health to ensure their health and well-being.
- Human supervision is still necessary even for the best live streaming system
- Again, redundancy is key, and you’d need to have at least two people working in shifts
Launching a 24/7 Live Streaming
Based on the key challenges above, we’ll need to create a 24/7 live streaming system that can tackle these issues, ensuring reliable and stable live linear streaming with as few interruptions as possible. Here are the key areas to focus on:
1. Choosing a Streaming Platform That Supports 24/7 Live Stream
You’d need a proper platform to stream your content that can reliably stream 24/7 content. Viloud offers online 24/7 TV channel software, scheduler, branded player, the ability to support multiple video sources, and more to support your 24/7 live linear streaming needs.
Here are some key areas you should consider in choosing between your streaming platforms for 24/7 streaming
- Supports linear streaming: pretty obvious, not all video streaming platforms offer 24/7 live streaming support. Also, some services only offer live linear streaming on high-end, so review your options carefully.
- Tech support: it’s very important to choose a streaming platform with 24/7 reliable support considering you are going to stream continuously. You can experience issues at any hour of the day, so this is extremely important
- Reliable/downtime: pretty obvious. Choose a streaming platform with a great track record.
- Budget: depending on the objective of your linear live streaming, obviously you’d need to consider your budget.
2. Prepare Your Equipment
Obviously, equipment is a very important part of any live stream, and for a 24/7 linear live stream, we’d have to also consider reliability, durability, and redundancy.
In general, here are the core equipment we’d need:
This can be a camera, a video file, or even a video running on other platforms (i.e. from YouTube). You can either use an internet-ready camera (your smartphone’s camera, a webcam, etc.) with a built-in encoder, or you can use a professional camera/camcorder with an encoder.
It’s very important to note that for most people, audio quality of a live stream is more important than video quality. So, don’t neglect the importance of your audio equipment.
Your audio source can be a microphone or an audio file (i.e. background music). Microphones come in various different price points from various different brands, from built-in microphones from your camera to really expensive XLR mics.
If you use more than one audio and/or video source, you’d need a mixer or switcher equipment to mix the different signals and switch between different sources during a live streaming. A hardware switcher, for example, can help you to easily switch between camera sources.
A video encoder technically translates your video/audio source into an internet-friendly format, mainly by compressing the video files into one seamless video instead of saving them as individual images.
There are two different types of encoders: software encoders, and hardware (mainly RTMP) encoders. In general, hardware encoders are more expensive but are more reliable with better latency speed. However, there are many decent software encoder options available in the market today.
Other accessories and equipment
Depending on your setup, you might need other accessories and equipment like tripods to ensure your video stream remains still, a mic stand, stabilizers to ensure smooth image transitions, and so on.
Remember that due to the uptime requirements of the 24/7 live streaming, you will need to ensure that all your equipment is professional quality and you might need more than one for each piece to ensure redundancy.
3. Internet Bandwidth
Since you are going to stream your video over the internet, you’d need a reliable internet connection. Also, linear 24/7 live streaming can use up a massive amount of bandwidth quickly, so you might need to consider your bandwidth cost upfront.
Also, your streaming platform might charge by bandwidth, and your bandwidth cost can be very expensive. Viloud charges its users by minutes viewed by the audience, (and each plan includes a number of minutes viewed for free), so the pricing is more versatile according to your needs.
Don’t focus too much on the technical aspect of your live streaming and neglect the importance of your content. The quality and consistency of your content are very important if you want to achieve success in engagement.
Plan your content ahead including its schedule, and it should be based on a proper understanding of your target audience.
Also, we generally have two possible approaches in delivering our content for 24/7 live streaming:
- Broadcasting live video from your video source (camera)
- Broadcasting pre-recorded video
Both approaches can work just as well, but in general live content should be paired with intractability (i.e. live phone calls) to encourage more engagements. You can mix and match between these two types of content to allow your talent/host some break time.
It’s also pretty obvious that pre-recorded content is much easier to broadcast, and with a platform like Viloud, you can simply insert your pre-recorded content in playlists to queue up content and schedule them as needed.
Launching a 24/7 live streaming channel does have its challenges, but the various advancements in technologies have allowed linear live streaming to be easier than ever before. With modern streaming techniques and versatile live streaming platforms like Viloud, it’s now much easier and affordable to launch 24/7 streaming with a fairly limited budget. Also, the demand for online live streaming is obviously getting bigger, so the opportunities are huge.
In short, there has never been a better time to launch your own 24/7 live streaming show than today.