High-speed internet has completely defined the concept of “watching TV” and entertainment in general. Nowadays, watching shows, sports events, and even movies in OTT (Over-The-Top) platforms we access over the internet from on-demand services like Netflix to Hulu TV and live linear services like Sling TV and fuboTV, among others. Nowadays, we have various means to streamline content preparation, production, and distribution from anywhere in the world. So, running a live linear streaming channel is now more accessible and affordable than ever. 24/7 live linear TV is now not only for big enterprises and broadcasting stations, but literally, anyone can now start their linear channel in a relatively short time. In this guide, we will discuss all you need to know about starting an online linear live TV channel, but let us begin by discussing the very basic: what is live linear streaming?
What Is Live Linear Streaming?
Live linear streaming is, in a nutshell, a live streaming program that is aired 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So, it’s quite similar to a traditional TV station, with the only difference being the distribution where the linear live streaming is distributed OTT over the internet.
So, live linear streaming is a passive activity for the viewer compared to when we search and click for a YouTube or Netflix content, where we actively have a choice about what we are going to watch and especially when we are going to watch it.
In live linear streaming, we are tied to a broadcast schedule: if a show is scheduled for 7 PM, for example, then we have to tune in to the linear channel at 7 PM, or we are going to miss it.
Obviously, there are ways to download and/or record a specific show on a live linear channel, but it is tied to a schedule. The viewers can switch between different channels available, but we can’t perform fast forward or reverse.
Why Live Linear Streaming Over VOD?
We all know how on-demand content is the preferred medium nowadays, especially for younger audiences. However, live streaming and live linear streaming are rapidly gaining momentum in the past few years.
Live linear streaming and VOD can offer different experiences for the viewers and can engage audiences in a different way. A live linear experience can provide the following advantage:
- Dwell time: in live linear streaming, the audience will tune in to a channel if they like what they are currently watching and/or when they are waiting for the next show. 24/7 live streaming can be more effective in capturing our audience’s attention.
- Advertising: In the monetization aspect, there are also more chances to show advertising in live linear streaming when compared to on-demand content. In VOD content, we can only present ads when the audience clicks on a specific show, while linear provides us with a more reliable way to generate ad revenue.
- People demands live content: The demands for live content are still increasing. With a live-streaming content, you are giving users the opportunity to interact with your content immediately. At the same time, live content provides a sense of surprise that is otherwise unavailable in on-demand content.
How To Start a Live Linear Channel
1. Planning Your Channel
Before anything else, you should start by planning your channel: what kinds of content will you broadcast? What kind of schedule? Start by considering the following factors:
- The type of channel this will be, whether it’s a sports channel, entertainment, religious, or a mix of everything. In general focusing on a single niche is the better approach so you can better target a specific audience.
- The distribution of the live linear channel, whether it’s going to be OTT only or if you are also going to distribute them over cable/satellite
- Content development. Remember that in a live streaming channel, you can stream a prerecorded content (including content you purchase from third-party sources). Figure out how much budget is available for content production.
- Whether you will also include on-demand content or whether this is going to be a 100% live linear channel
Arguably the most important part here is to determine the niche you are going to focus on. Begin by conducting proper market research to figure out your target audience. The idea here is that your channel should provide value for this target audience.
Here are some of the common niches you might want to consider:
- Sports niche: while broadcasting sports events can be expensive with license fees, you can cover other things like discussions, commentaries, and so on.
- Children niche: a huge niche with various topics to discuss and a massive market.
- Education: you can cover various things from documentaries, science content, and so on
- Entertainment: arguably the most popular niche but also the most competitive. You can cover various things from gaming, movies, music, and so on.
- Religion/spirituality: a relatively small niche but has the potential to grow a loyal audience.
After you’ve figured out your niche, you can start planning what kind of content you are going to develop, your streaming schedule, and so on.
2. Preparing Your Equipment
Once you’ve figured out at least a basic plan for your channel, you can start planning for what kind of equipment you’d need based on the content you are going to produce.
In general, however, here are the important equipment pieces you should consider:
You can’t have video content without a video source.
The video source here can be your camera or prerecorded video file, but most likely you are going to need at least one decent camera.
Nowadays, cameras come in various different price ranges and types, and even your laptop’s built-in webcam and smartphone cameras are now pretty decent in quality. There are pretty decent camcorders between $400 to $800, and there are also professional-grade cameras ranging from above $1,500 to $25,000.
While it’s possible to stream your video content without any audio at all, obviously it’s not ideal, you’ll need at least a background music to accompany your video content, which is a type of audio source.
The audio source can be a microphone, music file, prerecorded audio file, and so on. Various studies have shown that sound quality is just as, if not even more important than video quality in video content. When, for example, a live stream video stutters for a few seconds, most of our audience would be okay. However, low sound quality will cause a high bounce rate.
Fortunately, nowadays we have a lot of affordable options for microphones and other audio equipment. Also, most decent-quality cameras now have usable built-in microphones, and there are various microphones under $1,000 and even under $500 that are broadcast-ready.
Obviously there are also more expensive, professional-quality microphones you can get, and if you are serious about your investment, you might as well get at least one high-end XLR microphone.
If you are using standard cameras (not broadcast-ready internet cameras), you don’t really get a video file after shooting your videos, but instead, you get a stream of image files. The thing is, we can’t use these image files right away in live streaming. This is where an encoder comes in.
A video encoder will convert and compress your files so they are not saved as individual images but as a single, seamless video file. Why do we need to encode our video? Here are some key benefits:
- Compress the video file into a smaller size, which is very important to ensure a smooth streaming experience without buffering
- Change resolution or aspect ratio of multiple video files
- Enhance audio/video quality
- Change audio/video format when required
- Change streaming bitrate
- Ensuring the video/audio file compatible with specific devices and specific software
With that being said, we can choose between two different types of encoders: software or hardware.
Software encoders are programs running on your computer or even smartphone. OBS Studio is a common and popular software encoder option, and it is also free. There are also other popular options like Wirecast or vMix, among others.
While software encoders are now pretty decent, hardware encoders are typically more reliable and durable. Considering the burden of a 24/7 live linear streaming, you might want to invest in a decent-quality hardware encoder to ensure quality. Also, being a dedicated device, a hardware encoder typically offers better overall latency, which is very important for a live stream.
Live Linear Streaming Video Hosting
Another important thing to consider here is to choose a video hosting platform that offers live linear streaming capabilities. Free platforms like YouTube and Facebook Live, for example, aren’t sufficient for live linear streaming purposes. They are pretty decent at hosting on-demand video content, but a non-stop 24/7 live linear streaming is another story altogether.
Using a professional-grade live streaming platform like Viloud is recommended. Not only Viloud will give you a more reliable live streaming video platform for your 24/7 linear streaming needs, but you also get more control over your content, schedule, and video placement.
Different platforms will provide different features in creating your live linear channel. Also, make sure your video hosting platform is compatible with your encoding system (whether it’s software or hardware). Different hosting platforms offer different streaming protocols. Viloud, for example, uses HLS (.m3u8) where you can stream your content on your website (via embedded player), apps (native smart TV and mobile apps), and on third-party platforms like Apple TV or Roku.
Make sure to choose the most reliable video hosting platform according to your budget that also supports the rest of your linear channel system.
Starting a linear TV channel is now more affordable and accessible than ever, but at the same time it’s now more competitive and the demands for proper quality audio and video in your stream are increasing.
So, make sure to choose a proper streaming platform that offers consistent streaming quality and overall reliability. Also, choose the right live streaming equipment that can support you in producing high-quality content.
Interested in giving Viloud a try? You can sign up today here for our free trial (no credit card required).