The Real Cost of Free Live Streaming Platforms
When it comes to producing live content, free live streaming platforms may seem like the most enticing option. Between promises of innovative features, captivated audiences, and little to no money leaving your pocket, what’s not to like?
You work hard for that coin. And while you have every right to choose where to invest in your production, we thought it would be helpful to first have an honest look at the real differences between a “free” live streaming platform versus a paid one.
Now in full disclosure, Resi is a paid platform. However, we’re not going to try and convince you to use us—pinky swear. We’re simply examining the real (or hidden) costs of live streaming with a free platform and how their services will impact reaching your audience from a practical perspective. When all is said and done, we’ll leave choosing your streaming platform, whether free or paid, completely up to you.
How should we define free live streaming platforms?
Free Software: OBS, NVIDIA Broadcast, XSplit, etc.
Free Destination: Facebook Live, YouTube Live, LinkedIn Live, etc.
First and foremost, none of the options mentioned are inherently “bad” and not everything below applies to every platform. So if you’re currently using a free streaming platform and this article strikes a nerve, there is no need to freak out. Again, the aim here isn’t to get you to switch platforms. We simply want to widen perspectives and ask thoughtful questions.
The second disclaimer that’s important to note here is that “free” live streaming platforms aren’t always actually free. These platforms can take advantage of hardware encoders, which instantly makes the “free” aspect of their usage come at a cost. We’re talking about platforms here, not workflows.
What’s at stake?
Let’s talk about your live event. How long have you been planning this production? How much have you already invested in it? How many people have put their blood, sweat, and tears into bringing it to life? How much is at stake if something goes sideways with the broadcast?
These types of questions are exactly the kind that so many content producers skip over when choosing how to stream an event.
Example: If you’re streaming your latest attempt at shredding an AC/DC cover, then sure, maybe going the paid route makes no sense at all.
However, what if you’re a professional guitarist that has paying students from around the world tuning in for their latest lesson? You may want to consider opting for a platform that offers a bit more than a small FAQ section on their website. You need to make sure your content is delivered when and where it needs to be and so a streaming platform with accountability and some skin in the game is a must.
Speaking of support; does anyone remember the words from that classic Beatles song?
I need somebody
(Help!) not just anybody
(Help!) you know I need someone
Keep these lyrics in mind as we cover our next example.
Let’s say you’ve set up a live event and things are going swimmingly. You’re about 10 minutes from down-beat, when suddenly, those familiar production gremlins decide it’s time to muck things up!
Sure, your free live streaming platform got you online without a ton of hassle, but who do you call now? Reddit? Zuckerberg? A hardware manufacturer with a 72-hour response time?
Maybe your live event isn’t that important? Not every production is mission-critical, right? Right??? You can make the call on that, but wouldn’t you sleep a little better knowing you have someone in the trenches with you? Someone whose job it is to make sure you don’t have a mental breakdown by proactively monitoring potential issues?
It’s called ‘Support’ for a reason, folks.
You’re not the only one that wants to get paid.
As a completely non-scientific test, we scrolled through a personal Facebook feed to see how often we encountered an ad. The result? On average, every third post.
In terms of expanding your reach and getting maximum distribution for your production, social media can be a powerful tool. But just remember, social media is free because advertisements keep it that way. Or, as some have said, “If you’re not paying for It; you’re the product.” It’s safe to assume that Facebook probably isn’t too keen on your audience remaining engaged with your content when those eyeballs could be scrolling through a few hundred ads instead.
This distraction tactic is why using embed codes on a website you control is essential to professional live streaming. It gives your production the attention it undoubtedly deserves and encourages your audience to engage with your content in ways social media can only dream of.
Free isn’t bad. But free can also be risky. That’s really all this conversation comes down to.
Suppose you’re good with free? Then more power to you! Our hope is that by reading this blog, you’re more prepared than you were before.
In contrast, if while reading this you started feeling your heart rate increase as each issue was raised, then you could be one step closer to finding some relief.
After all, what’s that saying? You get what you pay for.