Live-streaming has been part of the events industry since hybrid events were the new game in town, and after some initial wariness and predictions of the “death of face-to-face meetings” today we see streaming regularly boosting meeting participation.
Sam Lay, senior director, CWT Meetings & Events, says: “Live-streaming
is certainly a trend we’re watching closely, as we see the potential it has in helping our clients achieve their M&E objectives.
“For starters, live-streaming is increasingly being used to further enable virtual attendance. Corporate planners are less wary than they were about live-streaming diluting attendance. They’re now recognising that these tools can actually help them reach a wider audience, improve participation and increase the overall ROI of their events.”
In markets like Japan – which has strong tech infrastructure, high travel costs and often scattered participants – it has become stock standard and now represents an estimated 20-25% of all meetings activity.
“We are seeing an increase in requests to explore the inclusion of live-streaming, virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) streaming options to provide a more immersive event experience,” says Lay.
“Although some upfront virtual technology costs overall may outweigh T&E [travel and expense] savings, engagement and participation of remote attendees can contribute dramatically to
an organisation’s goals.
“At the same time, hotels and venues are upgrading their infrastructure such as the stability and speed of internet connections, making it more feasible to implement these sorts of technologies at events.”
Breaking new ground
One of the most memorable images from the recent Winter Olympics in PyeongChang was the sight of 1,218 illuminated drones forming the Olympic rings in the night sky. Though a pre-recorded version was subbed in for the live version at the last minute, it was an incredible sight and one of many technology firsts throughout the Games.
The entire Olympics was available to stream online thanks to 5G technology, which enables 360-degree streaming video. Such feats are becoming more common as the technology becomes more accessible and the scale benefits are undeniable.
Auditoire saw its effects with its Republic of Sports pop-up for Adidas last year. “Our task was to do a sports pop-up in four cities in China where people can sign-up for activities like basketball, yoga and cycling on the spot,” says Carol Loo, business director, Asia at Auditoire.
“We live-streamed the event, brought in celebrities and created a lot of PR around it. Our viewership was 97 million for four cities.”
Loo says brands often don’t expect this level of engagement, but warns they should be prepared. “We had to plan our event not just around the physical experience of on-site customers, but also for the cameraman who was recording the live-stream, and think about the angle for the people viewing it online,” she adds.
“There are no breaks with a live feed. You can’t show people walking off stage or us figuring out what needs to go next. It’s planning ahead so people who are watching it via live-stream get a nice experience as well.”
Plug and stream
Some suppliers are also offering more user-friendly methods. TFI Digital Media in Hong Kong has patented plug-and-stream hardware that can provide a global broadcast-level stream for as little as US$3,000. This is of course not including video production costs.
“With the Hermes Live Encoder you just plug in three cables – power, internet and the video feed, then press one button to begin,” says Charles Tse, executive assistant to TFI founder and CEO Wilson Yuen, who designed the platform based on his frustrations as a CIO at a radio station paying for a team of 20 to be on call during the streaming of an annual awards night.
What’s inside the box is also very clever. TFI’s patented software shaves hours off the time it takes to prepare a single video feed for viewing on different devices and resolutions. Previously it was a 1:1 ratio, meaning a 60-minute video would take 60 minutes to transcode for each version. This has been reduced to just 5-10 minutes for all versions simultaneously.
TFI began streaming events in 2011 for Microsoft when it launched its Asia cloud in Hong Kong. Since then it has built several OTT streaming platforms, mastering geo-blocking and end-to-end encryption of the feed along the way.
The true possibilities for events are only just becoming visible. TFI recently streamed a competition that saw teams give “elevator pitches” inside an actual elevator. “It was hosted inside the tallest building in Hong Kong, 108 floors high,” says Tse. “That was quite challenging in terms of how you get the video content to have a steady stream from a moving elevator.”
Tse says TFI overcomes these challenges by using a 4G bonding device that receives signal from multiple operators. “We can also work with local telcos to have a dedicated line for the feed,” he adds. The same goes for working with multiple clouds simultaneously.
At the moment TFI is focused on delivering a better viewing experience. It has recently figured out how to stream High Dynamic Range (HDR) video content, which will allow the viewer to see more than twice as many colours as at present. The next step is streaming 120 frames per second content, which would represent a significant difference in fluidity.
We can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s event professionals do with it.