3 Reasons to Cancel Your Cable Service for Online TV Streaming

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Many of us can relate to coming home after school when we were younger, having a little snack and plopping down in front of a screen, waiting for our favorite shows to come on. This was the original method of viewing television, and very soon, it may be a thing of the past. Cord cutting is the act of swapping traditional TV subscriptions (or “cutting” the cable cord) for online streaming services, with what is presumably much to the dismay of TV executives. The trend of saying goodbye to cable services only continues to grow, and it has for some time now.

Households have been slashing subscriptions in droves for the last few years and more people have stopped paying for TV service in the last quarter of 2016 than in any previous quarter, ever. According to studies by Leichtman Research and Convergence Consulting, one in five American households did not subscribe to pay-TV at the end of 2015, with 1.1 million cutting cords that same year. This figure is estimated to be roughly 22%, or 26.7 million households in 2016.

But enough about statistics. It is clear that attitudes are changing along with viewing habits. David Tice, senior vice president of GfK’s media and entertainment practice, brings to light the fact that some millennials are the first true generation of “cord-nevers”, or those who have always used streaming services in lieu of traditional TV. According to Tice, what seems to be concerning TV bigshots is the fact that older households who are able to, and have in the past, pay for cable subscriptions are choosing not to. Tice believes this marks cord cutting as a lifestyle choice rather than just an economic one.

Paying only for what you watch.

On average, cable costs around $99 per month, with premium packages ranging up to $300 a month. If that seems like an exorbitant amount to pay for TV, that’s because it is. Exclusive channels such as HBO or ESPN, should you choose to subscribe to them, can add up to $6.04 per channel to your bill. While adding these channels is up to consumers, they are also continually paying for ones they do not watch or even want, as they come pre-packaged in subscription bundles without much in terms of leeway.

Say, for example, that you’re a fan of The Walking Dead who does not care for the weather, the news, or cooking shows because you only care about zombies. Adding a Showtime package to a Time Warner subscription costs an extra $15 per month, with a basic TV package starting at $29.99 per month when bundled with other services. In comparison, Showtime’s streaming service with up-to-date episodes costs $11 per month with no other commitments. A basic Netflix subscription with all previous episodes of The Walking Dead excluding those currently airing costs $8 per month.

In essence, while the TV aspect of online TV streaming may initially cost a little extra, it’s nothing compared to the cost of cable. Hardware that connects streaming services to your television is a one-time purchase comparable to the price of one month of cable. There’s Roku ($50), Apple TV ($129), Chromecast ($35), and Fire TV ($40 – $100), with the Roku streaming stick standing out as the best bang for your buck in terms of quality and affordability.

Watching what you want, when and where you want.

Unlike in days long past when screens were black and white, programming was limited to a handful of channels, and restrictions on TV would never, ever allow for Game of Thrones to air, there are options now—perhaps to a fault. While some people like the idea of having hundreds of channels to choose from, others realize that many of these channels go unwatched. In this culture of excess, being able to pick and choose the content you want (and then binge watching it until four in the morning) can be a blessing.

In January 2014, Netflix had 6,494 movies and 1,609 TV shows. While it is difficult to quantify exactly how much you can access on a traditional subscription service on any given day (presumably a lot), you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting. On-demand services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video are up front about exactly what they offer, so you can stream what you like, when you like without the unwanted sensory overload. With cable and satellite, on-demand and pay-per-view is often either limited in selection or an extra expenditure. The image of one’s younger self waiting for a show to air at a specific time comes to mind.

Of course, there are some drawbacks. As previously mentioned, some services like Netflix do not offer episodes of shows which are currently airing. For this kind of service, there are streaming packages for premium TV channels such as HBO and Showtime, which can be standalone subscriptions or added onto more integrative platforms such as Hulu Plus.

Mobility and flexibility.

You can’t take it with you. This, of course is in reference to terrestrial cable and satellite. Ideally, paying an exorbitant amount for an entertainment platform in 2016 would guarantee that you can fit it on your smartphone and in your pocket. While this cannot be said of traditional TV packages (considering the clunky cable box or satellite dish), essentially all on-demand streaming services have a mobile app, and can be accessed almost anywhere with an internet connection.

Brow-raising prices on cable subscriptions also come with contracts, and those contracts come with fees for cancellation, late payments and the like. For those of you with commitment issues, online TV streaming just makes sense; starting at $8 a pop, you have instant access to an entertainment library that you can cancel at any time you like.

So, binge watchers, sports addicts, and film buffs, don’t despair—there are plenty of flavors of streaming platform to choose between for when you part with your current cable provider.

Alternatives to YouTube: Battle of the Video Platform

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You’re browsing the web, and you want to watch a funny video of a baby and cat or look up the Pen Pineapple Apple Pen video for the hundredth time. (Go ahead, look it up). Which site comes to mind first? If anyone were to take a guess, it would probably be YouTube. YouTube is considered the world’s top video sharing platform. Roughly 500 hours of content is uploaded every minute and the Google-owned site acquires more than 1 billion unique visitors each month. It is definitely the video platform users are most familiar with, and that familiarity comes with its advantages.

It is important to remember, however, that its primary function is for entertainment and sharing content, not hosting—so hold back on the cat videos for now. Aside from YouTube’s popularity and ease of use, one of its main appeals seems to be the one users see reflected in their wallets: it’s free. The downsides? Well…

  • Pre-roll video ads
  • Limited ad revenue through AdWords
  • Users must give up distribution rights to content
  • YouTube bot detects and shuts down videos and streams with copyrighted music
  • Limited customization and branding: videos contain the YouTube logo and lack design features which are essential to many businesses to maintain brand equity
  • Users lack control over ads and other content: spam, offensive content, and negative social engagement can reflect poorly on businesses
  • Limited embedding functionality
  • No technical support

For organizations and small businesses with an array of hosting and streaming needs, this means it may be time to look elsewhere. Thankfully, there are options.

Vimeo

Vimeo is a video hosting platform for creative content, and has a shining reputation for just that. It is recognized for being a community built on professional, high quality videos. Because there are higher quality contributors, there is less poorly made content to wade through. With its integrity and aesthetically pleasing cinematography that is frankly just nicer to watch, Vimeo is a great contender among platforms of its kind. Major aspects that set Vimeo and similar professional-level platforms apart from YouTube are its lack of third party advertisements, bandwith caps, or time limits on video content for Plus, Pro, and Business users. On the other hand, Vimeo users have to deal with upload limits regardless of plan. It also touts just over 170 million viewers per month, which is far less traffic than on YouTube—about 20% less, in fact.

Quality vs. quantity is the question that comes to mind, especially when considering the higher bitrates and high quality 4K video that Vimeo supports. Other features include advanced analytics and a range of privacy settings, including password protection. While both YouTube and Vimeo have free plans with limited options, Vimeo’s paid plans are cost effective. Also similarly to YouTube, it is not ideal for technical support, especially when it comes to live streaming—responses take between 4 hours on business days and 24 hours on weekends. Of course, the difference here is that there is still tangible customer support.  All in all, Vimeo is a wonderful and viable alternative for video hosting and streaming.

ServerRoom 

For a dedicated hosting and streaming service, ServerRoom might be considered the complete package. It is a feature-rich, higher end video platform that is definitive of what higher end services have to offer, and like other services with paid plans, it leaves advertisements as well as time and bandwidth limits at the doorstep. Going one step further, it offers unlimited storage and unlimited plays which, surprisingly enough, YouTube also offers (but Vimeo does not). Unlike YouTube, all aspects of what the viewer sees is controlled by the host. For professional organizations, having control over what your viewers see before, during, and after your video content is not just preferable, but necessary. This is significantly easier to do with the addition of white label players offered by ServerRoom, which allows for complete customization.

Despite being a dedicated service with all the bells and whistles, ServerRoom is still just that—dedicated. All paid plans come with 24/7 phone and chat support without sacrificing quality, which cannot be said of other contenders. Advanced include user analytics, adaptive multi-bitrate streaming, and VAST Ads integration for easy monetization, On the other hand, it is also on the higher end in terms of cost, but makes up for it in substance—substantive content leads to more substantive user engagement, which makes ServerRoom a worthy investment for your business or organization.

How to Grow Your Audience with Live Streaming

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If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Likewise, if one streams live content to no audience, did they stream anything at all?

By now, it shouldn’t come as a surprise—online video is a powerful tool that is loved by consumers around the world, and its popularity and usefulness are only going to continue to grow. But the ‘live’ aspect of live video is an element that taps into the fear of missing out that people tend to have. It is a form of video marketing that is time-sensitive and entices consumers with the illusion of exclusivity. In this way, it makes them want to engage with live video content here and now (or whenever your stream begins).

The statistics can confirm this. Live video generates ten times as many comments as on-demand video. There’s more of an incentive to tune in, and that generates the kind of positive buzz that is needed to build a brand. A good way to think of live streaming is FaceTime between you or your event and your specific audience. Jim Toben, the president of Ignite Social Media, describes live streaming as “trust content”, because it allows brands to have face-to-face time with their audience. This allows viewers to connect to your content in a personal way, which makes it an extremely effective way of communicating to consumers.

So the question to ask is, how does one get an audience to tune in and stay tuned in?

Generating Buzz.

Getting people talking is the best way to ensure that your stream picks up momentum and maximizes its potential viewership before it even begins. Create event pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, and the like. This is free to do and grants exposure on social media, which draws in new viewers. If you are streaming a live event, announce it well in advance. In general, large scale events should be announced six to eight weeks prior, and can be followed up with reminders on social media. Hashtag blessed, anyone? Generate a relevant, catchy, and memorable hashtag, add it to all of your event content, and encourage your viewers to to share on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. It’s a simple way to create brand recognition and spread the message.

Providing Value.

Perhaps the most important thing is to provide an experience that makes viewers feel that their time spent on a stream is time well spent. Familiarize yourself with your audience enough to know what they want, and make sure that they know that they are on the receiving end of valuable video content. For example, a live stream for a business may give viewers a first look at exclusive new products. Apple does this all the time, and one might say that they’re pretty successful. Similarly, a musician may give his or her viewers a sneak peek at a new song or a church may drop a hot new sermon for their respective audiences. Essentially, ask yourself why the viewer should tune in and be able to answer accordingly.

Engagement.

Engaging with your audience is not just suggested, but critical. One cannot participate in FaceTime if there is nobody on the other end. Keeping viewers interested in a live stream calls for interaction. This can be done by using platforms that enable commenting and live chat. Facebook Live is a good example of live stream chats done right, as it allows the streamer to view comments as they are made and respond accordingly, which facilitates two-way conversation. Of course, any successful streaming platform has a recording feature that saves your live content as on-demand video for later viewing. It is important to continue the conversation beyond the stream and respond to questions and comments.

Timing.

According to Adobe, attendees of leadership webinars watched for an average of 54 minutes. Audiences in gaming live stream communities such as Twitch have been known to watch as many as six hours of gaming streams. User engagement is dependent on the users themselves in tandem with the content being presented, which is why a streaming platform that comes with user analytics is so important. This way, it is easy to track who watches what and for how long. On a larger scale, however, webinars held on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday are recorded to have the best attendance in a survey of over 7000 events conducted by ON24. It is best to have work or business related events mid-week, but of course, this should be taken with a pinch of salt—again, it depends on your specific audience. As a general rule of thumb, keep it concise and engage viewers early. A study by Wistia exhibits that the more viewers you can hook for, say, the first two minutes of a sixty minute stream, the longer they are likely to stay.

Feedback.

The fun shouldn’t end when the stream ends. Data from the same study suggests that the best way to keep users engaged is with interactive activity and feedback. Afterwards, ask viewers about their experience. What did they like? Dislike? Feel ‘meh’ about? What was the best part? What did they gain from the stream, and what can you do to improve the next one? This is only one way to extend engagement past the live stream, although it can also be done livethat’s encouraged! Polls are a useful tool for both receiving feedback and getting people involved. In fact, the highest participation among interactive activities during live video streams (when offered) is with polls. Always keep in mind that the audience, who in this case happens to be the person your video content is FaceTiming, is an integral aspect of the live stream.

The Top 7 Live Streaming Platforms You Need To Know

comaprisonMark Zuckerburg referred to our current era of tech as the “golden age for live video”. In fact, he predicted that soon, most of the content people will be seeing and sharing (on Facebook) on a daily basis will be video. Speaking generally, he’s not wrong—roughly 86% of internet users around the world are watching and sharing videos online. Recently, the tide has turned considerably in favor of live streams, and the sheer number of streaming platforms popping up on the web prove it.

When it comes to choosing a live streaming platform, it’s not about choosing the “best” in any one category, whether it’s popularity or affordability. Choosing a platform is about determining which is best suited to you, the publisher. The questions to keep in mind are; which features do you require of a streaming service at what budget, and which platform best conforms to those?

The services you are likely already familiar with are YouTube and Facebook. These are undoubtedly the most widely recognized, although they are definitely not designed exclusively around live streaming and are extremely limited in that capacity. They are, however, free, popular, and accessible by pretty much anyone with an internet connection and the need for online validation in the form of likes.

YouTube Live

Pros:

  • Free!
  • Viewers can pause, rewind, and resume while streaming
  • Accessible – starting a live stream is a breeze, as users are most likely already familiar with the on-demand platform

Cons:

  • No paywall
  • Must give up distribution rights to your content
  • YouTube bot detects and shuts down streams with copyrighted music

Facebook Live

Pros:

  • Free!
  • Easy setup in seconds for anybody with a Facebook page
  • Broadcast remains on the feed as on-demand video
  • Reach – people who have already liked a page receive notifications about live streams as well as seeing the stream on their news feed

 

Cons:

  • No support
  • No paywall
  • No geo-restriction
  • Time limits – longer streams may require Facebook verification

So, if your low-budget is really no-budget, YouTube Live and Facebook Live are still decent platforms to stream your content.  They are directly integrated into the largest media and social media platforms in the world, respectively, but are lacking in advanced features.

If you demand more of your live streaming platform, don’t worry—there are many customizable and feature-rich services to choose from, and we have taken the liberty of compiling them below. The top paid platforms combine hosting, broadcasting, embedding, monetizing, and user analytics into all-inclusive packages. Some of the essential factors taken into consideration are listed in the table below.

Platforms ServerRoom.net Livestream Wowza Ustream DaCast
Price FREE or $39/mo – $499 mo $40/mo – $200/mo $49/mo – $799/mo $99/mo – $999/mo $19/mo – $390/mo
Storage Unlimited Unlimited 50GB 50GB 20GB
24/7 Support √ (phone) X From $500/mo X √ (email)
Ad Free Viewer Hours Unlimited Unlimited 10 100 300
White Label From $799/mo From $999/mo
Analytics From $199/mo From $499/mo
Paywall X From $1199/mo From $999/mo X

 

 

ServerRoom

Pros

  • Free plan available
  • Unlimited storage and unlimited plays
  • VR and 360 enabled
  • Simulcast to Youtube and Facebook
  • Adaptive bitrate, DVR, and nDVR options
  • Free encoding software, compatible with any H.264 encoder
  • Integrates with DRM
  • 24/7 phone support for all paid plans

Cons

  • No proprietary Paywall, although it can be integrated with Cleeng.

Livestream

Pros:

  • Unlimited storage
  • Integrated streaming to Facebook Live
  • Possess their own camera systems, encoders, and free encoding software

Cons:

  • Live stream support only available with pricey custom plans
  • Limited customization of embedded player
  • Limited to one channel

Wowza

Pros

  • nDVR
  • VR and 360 enabled
  • Integrated streaming to Facebook Live
  • Live support during live events w premium packages

Cons

  • Limited customer support
  • Limited to one channel
  • No paywall

Ustream

Pros

  • Free 30-day trial
  • Password protection
  • Simple interface – start streaming as soon as five minutes after purchase
  • Works with every hardware and software encoder on the market

Cons

  • Limited to one channel
  • No 24/7 support
  • No paywall

DaCast

Pros

  • Password protection
  • Digital rights management
  • Custom paywalls and pay-per-view
  • Integrated streaming to Facebook Live

Cons

  • Minimum 3 – 12 month commitment
  • Slow customer support response

Got something that just has to be seen by an audience in real time, right now? Whether you’re spreading team spirit for the big game or preaching to the choir at church service, you can rest assured that, each of these paid live streaming platforms deliver high quality content securely at lightning fast speeds, provide APIs that make integration with distribution channels effortless, and in most cases, provide tangible customer support.

 

JW Video Streaming Alternatives: Dacast and ServerRoom.net

winnerEverybody on social media nowadays—and that’s most people—is familiar with live streaming in one form or another. It’s everywhere, and people and businesses are quickly adapting and taking advantage of the streaming boom. As more and more live streaming platforms become available, deciding on the best option for your specific needs can be a hassle. To make the task easier, below is a side-by-side comparison of three different but uniquely advantageous platforms.

 

  1. JW Player

Since its inception in 2005, JW Player has made a name for itself as one of the most commonly used video players in the game.  JW Player was the chosen platform for YouTube before it was acquired by YouTube. At the moment, the JWPLayer HTML5 video player is installed on more than 2 million websites. That’s a whole lot.

JW Live is one of the most recent additions to this video platform giant. This new live streaming service, while comprehensive, is only available to Enterprise customers. Its main selling point? JW Live promises to be easy to use. The most promising aspect of the streaming service is that it is a step above the original JWPlayer, which is already recognized for its wealth of features. The advanced features supported by JW Live’s HTML5 player include MPEG-DASH playback, CSS skinning, and DRM among others. It also boasts real-time audience analytics and Facebook Live simulcasting. Adaptive HLS automatically adjusts video quality to connection speeds on any given device.

While it is a good big-budget streaming option, JW Live does not come without drawbacks. It is not ideal as a long-term live streaming solution. According to the JW Player site, it is strictly for event-based live streams and cannot support 24/7 broadcasts. These event streams only last for up to six hours. It also lacks the ability to support a paywall for monetizing videos or provide video playback on a Facebook news feed. Customer support also leaves something to be desired—it is limited to email support regardless of which plan one chooses, with premium support offering responses within two business hours at the least. For a service that runs on the expensive side, these are major drawbacks.

 

  • Free Plan
    • 25 GB of monthly bandwidth
    • 10,000 video plays per month
  • Premium Plan – $299 per year
    • 250 GB of bandwidth per month
    • 100,000 video plays per month
    • HLS adaptive streaming
    • Multi-bitrate HD encoding
    • Airplay/Chromecast
  • Platinum Plan– $999 per year:
    • 500 GB of monthly bandwidth
  • 200,000 video plays per month,
  • Support for HTML5 and mobile advertising via VAST or VPAID
  • Google IMA integration
  • Mobile SDKs

 

 

  1. DaCast

DaCast, on the other hand, is mainly dedicated to live video streaming and is known for just that. It was founded in 2010 and is based in San Francisco. It promises fast, simple, no-frills service.

This platform deploys content using Akamai CDN, which is considered a leading CDN. In other words, content is delivered at lightning fast speeds. It has custom features for monetizing content, such as an integrated payment system with a payment option directly in the video window, which is not found on platforms like JW Player. Like with a number of other services, it includes HTML5 and Flash functionality and defaults to whichever is supported on the device being used. DaCast is a white label service, meaning that one has the ability to customize and brand video content, free of company logos like with Facebook and YouTube. Its advanced features also include geographic fencing, social integration, and digital rights management.

DaCast offers around the clock support, however, 24/7 phone support is only available to Pro and Premier users. This may be a huge inconvenience to users who are just starting out. Users must also commit to a three month minimum when paying month-to-month, and there are additional storage fees of $0.15 per GB over plan bandwidth limits. Encoders for DaCast depend on selected stream configurations, and setup is not as quick and easy as claimed. While DaCast is a decent competitor in the parabolic ring of live streaming platforms, its limited tech support and lack of user friendliness sets it back.

  • Basic Plan – $19 per month:
    • 100 GB of bandwidth
  • Pro Plan – $165 per month:
    • 2 TB of bandwidth
    • 125 GB of storage
    • Phone support
  • Premier Plan– $390 per month:
    • 5 TB of bandwidth
    • 250 GB of storage
    • Phone support
  1. ServerRoom.net

ServerRoom has been around since 2004, establishing itself as the longest running video platform in comparison to DaCast and JW Player. It is similar to DaCast in the sense that its entire premise is an online management platform with which you can upload and manage content and set up live streams, and is an excellent candidate for all live streaming purposes. The aspects that make the ServerRoom platform stand out are ease of access, consistent quality, and superior customer support.

This platform offers customizable, fully managed streaming services designed for small or large scale broadcasters to any size audience, with the ability to broadcast live or pre-recorded video on any device and support up to 1,000,000 simultaneous connections; setting up and tuning in are, in fact, as fast and simple as promised. There are no bandwidth limits and plans are commitment-free.

ServerRoom includes an array of advanced features, including adaptive multi-bitrate streaming and feature-rich transcoding options. The user possesses the ability to record broadcasts, either on its servers or on the user’s device.  Not to be outdone by its competitors, ServerRoom also has MPEG-Dash, RTMP and HLS protocols for rich media delivery, DRM integration, white label players, and geo-fencing. It can provide distribution across all platforms (free of charge) and VAST ads integration for easy monetization of video content.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of ServerRoom, however, is its unparalleled technical and customer support. For all paid plans, there is 24/7 telephone support. Whichever service you decide on, dedication to the customer sets ServerRoom apart in the vast, puzzling sea of live streaming platforms.

 

  • Free Plan
    • 25GB monthly streaming
    • Unlimited plays
    • HTML5/Flash player
  • Simple Plan – $39/mo
    • 1 TB monthly streaming
    • Unlimited plays and storage
    • 24/7 support
  • Premium Plan – $99/mo
    • 5 TB monthly streaming
    • Unlimited plays and storage
    • White label players
    • 24/7 priority support
  • Enterprise – $499/mo
    • 25TB monthly streaming
    • Unlimited plays and storage
    • White label players
    • VAST Ads Integration
    • DRM integration
    • Dedicated account manager
    • Free mobile app
    • 24/7 priority support