Live Or VOD? That Is The Question

I’ve produced or streamed thousands of corporate events since 1998.  Since then, I’ve seen the different use cases of live video change.  It went from an “add on” to a business or marketing event, to a core strategy and advanced way to connect with consumers around the world.

But when marketers, brands and publishers that I speak are considering live video,  their first question isn’t about the benefits of live. Instead, they ask when they should use live video -- and when VOD is more important to reach a broader audience.

First, let me disclose that I love live video. There’s a certain level of excitement when you tune into something as it’s happening.  Live video is also a powerful tool for execs to make internal and external announcements within the company or with shareholders. Live video is also the best way to broadcast an awards show or sports event.

Anything that is live-streamed can be made available on-demand for consumers to listen in or watch when, where and on what device they want to.  VOD is more than binge-watching "Orange is the New Black on Netflix. The beauty of VOD is the convenience of watching your content from virtually anywhere on any device. 

Here are some thoughts on when and why you should use live video versus pushing out the VOD.

Benefits of Live Video

1.     It’s instant -- you’re getting the content streamed while it’s happening, and that is powerful.

2.     It’s interactive. When you do a live-streamed OTT event you have the ability to poll, take questions and engage with your audience. Your audience can participate at the same time.

3.     By live-streaming an event you can expand your audience to interested parties who couldn’t attend physically.

Benefits of VOD

1.     It’s always accessible. Consumers, corporate leaders or press can watch the content whenever and wherever.

2.     It’s content that you can perfect. The content can be edited before it’s distributed.

3.     It’s vast. Large amounts of content can be distributed instantly on a site or through a link.

4.     It’s easy.  Simply put, it is easier to go viral with VOD than it is with live video. If your product launch feels like it might be a rocky one, don’t launch it live on-air.  Do a well-produced video and push it out after the product has had time to stabilize.

And, here are four examples of how video needs vary according to the type of event:

1.     Conferences: It’s common for event producers to worry that live stream will cannibalize physical attendance numbers, but the reality is that it’s a valuable tool to encourage people who can’t make it to engage with your content in another way.  You can reach executives, new business leads and press this way. You also have national or global reach potential and can build a new online audience.

You don’t have to stream every session.  Consider just the keynote or breakout sessions with the most important content. You can also live-stream the conference and deliver it on-demand via an OTT channel or on the Web.

2.     Educational events: This type of content is ideal for VOD, so anyone can watch a lecture, webinar, etc. when and where they need to.  College professors can schedule a live lecture or exam during scheduled class time and deliver the content on-demand for students to review.  VOD can also be used to teach online courses and for SAT or other testing prep.

3.     Concerts, sports or awards shows: Most people want to tune in live to a big game or important awards show. If not, they’ll catch all the spoilers on Twitter as it’s happening. 

Engage with your virtual audience in real time by showing them something they wouldn’t see if they had attended.  Shoot behind-the-scenes footage, ask viewers to engage on social media, or live-stream an interview with someone notable during the event.

You should syndicate the content for on-demand as well so you can include highlights of the event.  Most OTT channels let consumers watch on-demand concerts and award shows.

4.     Press events: You have tremendous opportunity to build up the hype before the event and offer a live-stream link for anyone who can’t attend.  It’s crucial to the timeliness of your news that viewers can listen or watch in real time. You can also take questions in real time from reporters and consumers.

If you’re going to produce content and make it available to watch virtually, deciding between live or on-demand is ultimately going to depend on the type of content as well as the audience you want to reach.  Keep in mind the timeliness of the content and the breadth of consumers you want to engage with.  Not all parts of the content need to be live-streamed, and not all parts of the content need to be available on-demand.  You can pull the most important segments for viewers to tune in to or syndicate on-demand.

You can also monetize your content by charging a fee for viewers to tune in.  Just make sure the content is something people would be willing to pay for.

Whether you decided to live-stream the content or distribute it on-demand, keep in mind that your goal is to engage the audience in the best way possible.   Remember that the content should be exciting or influential, so you can build momentum and discourse around it.
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