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Live Streaming

Mar 15, 2012 11:39 AM, By Jan Ozer

Choosing a live streaming service provider (LSSP).

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Figure 1. The UFC sells pay-per-view access to UFC fights.

Interested in broadcasting live over the Internet? Think you’d like to use a service for this, rather than develop this capability in house? Well, you’re in the right place; in this article, I’ll describe the live streaming process and identify factors to consider when choosing a live streaming service provider (LSSP).

Briefly, LSSPs are the simplest and cheapest way to start live broadcasting because the service provider pays all of the infrastructure costs and provides all of the necessary system components, from live encoding tool to embedded player. As your audiences get larger and your broadcasts more frequent, you may want to cut over to your own live streaming server with a totally custom player, or investigate other, less integrated services from content delivery networks or other third-party service providers, but LSSPs are a great place to start.

I just spent a lot of time working with service providers, Ustream, Livestream, and European-based Bambuser, so I’ll pull examples from these experiences to highlight key points in the discussion. Though the first three are among the largest LSSPs in the U.S., there are many other service providers out there, so use this discussion to identify the features important to you and to guide your evaluation, not to choose between the four service providers that I discuss.

As an overview, let’s discuss the broadcast process. Your first consideration is where the broadcast will play, which can either be the page the LSSP creates for your broadcasts on its site, called the channel page, or on a player embedded into your own and/or other websites. We’ll start by covering the types of features to consider when comparing the channel pages and embedded players offered by the various services.

Once you have the channel page and player set, it’s time to broadcast. You accomplish this by connecting your camera (or a webcam) to your computer and running a program that encodes your audio/video stream and transmits it over the Internet to your service provider. From there, streaming servers hosted by the service provider distribute the video to your viewers, whether they’re watching from the landing page or an embedded player.

Most service providers offer a browser-based encoder and/or traditional applications for encoding and transmitting your stream, or you can use third-party programs like Telestream Wirecast. Many service providers also allow you to broadcast from mobile devices; I’ll cover features such as these during the second half of this article.

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