Where to Livestream Events? Facebook & YouTube vs Your Own Site.

There is a big debate going on right now about whether it makes more sense to stream your sporting events to Facebook Live or YouTube vs hosting them on your own site and having more control.

There are pros and cons to both approaches so hopefully this breakdown will help you evaluate what is the right approach for you.

Cost.

Streaming video gets more expensive as the number of people watching it increases. Even if you have only 50 or 100 people watching, its certainly not free. The underlying driver of this cost is the large amount of data that need to be sent around the internet in order for people to watch your live video. So more people = more data transfer. To provide specific numbers, Amazon CloudFront costs $0.085 per GB for data transfer. If we assume an average sporting event is between 2 and 5GB of data that means it costs roughly between $0.17 and $0.45 per viewer! So if you have 1000 viewers, thats a cost of $170-$450 just to get the video feed to their device. On the revenue side, if we assume your inventory is in demand and generates a high CPM of say~$20, that would equate to about $.02 of revenue per view per person. If each person sees an average of 3 ads per event, that is $.06 of revenue per user. This revenue number is much lower than the $.17 of cost you must incur along the way (and this isn’t even including the cost of ad sales and ad delivery).

If you stream your event on Facebook or YouTube, they cover this cost for you and its free. The downside of this is they might show some ads (but in the case where you don’t have a ton of viewers, there probably won’t be any ads). So the math is simple…if you can’t cover your streaming costs with ads or sponsorships (which 99% of people cannot), Facebook or YouTube is probably a better option.

Control.

Using your own site, video player and distribution method will certainly give you more control of your content and how people engage with it than on Facebook and YouTube. On the flip side, Facebook is the world’s largest social network and has built in tools for social engagement. So again, barring any big vision or really unique features you care about in your video tools, I don’t see the point in adding to the complexity and cost of your technology stack for nothing. Additionally, you can embed the YouTube or Facebook player on your own site…so the only real downside is possibly an ad overlay or two (which you may also get paid for if your audience is big enough).

Customizing your own site and distribution platform can be a good idea if you think it offers tremendous marketing value or if you are interested in features like paywalls or OTT delivery.

Visibility.

If you have a live event, it’s likely you want to get as many people to watch it as possible. Attract new fans, engage existing fans, etc. When it takes place on your own site, there are a few methods you can use to remind people to tune in (ie email blasts, ads). When it takes place on Facebook, if even 1 person “likes” it, it becomes visible to hundreds or thousands of others in their news feed. So this is another potential advantage of “not going at it alone” if you don’t have huge reach organically.

OTT.

I alluded to this briefly in the cost section. As cord cutting becomes more common and people increasingly adopt devices like AppleTV, Roku, etc there is certainly something to be said for making your content easily discoverable on these silo-ed digital tv channels. There are solutions out there which can provide really nice templates if you’d like an OTT application (to lower the technology hurdle and guarantee compatibility across all the different boxes). The question to ask yourself is how much does this add for your fans? Is it a question of just “keeping up with the Jones” or is there some tangible value to your viewers (and how many of your viewers)? And if you believe there is enough value to merit an OTT distribution channel for your content, is it worth increasing data transfer costs in web and mobile to have a unified delivery method across all your channels.

Conclusion.

Facebook and YouTube offer great solutions. Increasingly, even professionally produced content is moving to these platforms. As a rule of thumb, I would suggest considering Facebook and YouTube as the best vehicles for distributing your stream unless you can think of a REALLY great reason not to (ie paywall, really high advertising CPMS and number of ads per viewer vs video duration, etc). Keep in mind, that even if you stream to Facebook or YouTube, it doesn’t stop you from having control of your content after the fact and creating clips, highlights or other footage to share.

I realized as I was writing this that it sounds pretty one sided even as I was trying to keep it balanced. Maybe that should tell us something.

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