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Old January 26th, 2021, 02:36 PM   #1
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Managing customer expectations when livestreaming

I am just starting to offer live streaming service for my video clients. Most of my clients will be theaters, hotels, studios, and public rental halls. I am a solo operator now, so I am limiting my live streaming services to what I can handle alone.

I am currently prepared to use either the venue supplied Ethernet access or supply my own via a 4G wireless router, and if demand is great enough, I may add a bonding service option in the future (via LiveU Solo). I am recording each camera output and recording the stream at the hardware encoder output.

My concern is how I will set customer expectations regarding the quality of Internet service and the resultant impact on the live viewers’ experience. I can’t guarantee the quality of the Internet service. I can only offer to use the best one after testing, but if conditions change during the event the streaming may degrade and possibly stop completely.

So, I have two questions about how others are addressing these issues with clients:
1. Do you contractually set customer expectations that conditions beyond your control may cause the live stream to degrade or stop during the event?
2. Do you charge extra when the venue’s Internet access appears marginal and you must bring a router and incur additional costs for data plans?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
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Old January 28th, 2021, 06:34 AM   #2
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Re: Managing customer expectations when livestreaming

Most important is to asses the venue logistics so you can then present the expectations.

Do a venue Speedtest connecting by the means you anticipate offering. That will give you upload speed and also potential packet loss issues.Otherwise instruct them to do this and give you that information.

Ask about connection isolation. Is the internet shared with guests or staff? If so then the live conditions (with pre covid crowds especially) may be a recipe for disaster even if the empty venue tests looked good.

If they can guarantee you the conditions you need and or willing to accept the consequences otherwise then you're good to go with their acceptances of responsibility.

Keep in mind that CDN/Servers can fail as well. Even ISPs can have sudden unanticipated issues. Make it clear you're absolved of any such issues unless it's part of the budget.

In short, express all risks and responsibilities in the contract. Always charge more if they need more assurances.

When there's known potential problems you can go with LTE but, given how even a phone hot spot can work, you should always have that option as a backup.

Non bonded LTE has another set of potential problems. Again venue saturation (people using phones) but even area saturation outside the venue can have an impact.

If bonded is outside the budget, very clearly present the risks and do all the appropriate testing to get the best possible outcome. Make it clear that they bear the ultimate responsibility for their own internet and that even LTE has risks. They'd have to assure no one is using your internet connection (isolation) and, to the best of their ability, assure no on location LTE use.

Given all this, most of my on location live streams of limited budget use their provided internet. If they have the budget, go bonded but even bonded can fail.

On a related story some years back I had a paid gig at a hotel holding a major even in below ground theater. Two major news outlets were streaming live with bonded devices. Both were failing given the location and the LTE providers being saturated.

The client was relative low budget and the on location internet wasn't reliable enough. I had them rend and test a WiMax device. The WiMax provider had nearby towers. No one used WiMax so I knew there was no likelihood of saturation. Once I confirmed they were able to get a good location in the room before hand (I didn't have to worry about the crowds or local saturation because no one used WiMax) we were good to go. As the major broadcasters failed, their audience moved to my live stream.

BTW always do a local recording (you know that of course) and make clear to the client that that is fallback and that's your ultimate responsibility should the internet, ISP, LTE (even bonded), CDN/Server fails.

Also keep in mind the risks with ethernet cable runs (cables get pulled, they can fail as well), camera cables, AC Power (otherwise batteries are another expense and risk as well) are all points of failure and if it's a populated event and you can't have all that safely isolated, they too are points of failure.
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Old January 28th, 2021, 08:15 AM   #3
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Re: Managing customer expectations when livestreaming

Let the customer know that whilst unlikely, it's possible for a live stream to fail due to the varied circumstances beyond your control. For this reason, you will also have a ISO recording as a backup (and also as a high quality event master recording), and this can be uploaded later in the case of stream failure. It's not a perfect guarantee, but it's the best that can be done.

Andrew
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Old January 28th, 2021, 03:20 PM   #4
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Re: Managing customer expectations when livestreaming

Craig,

Thank you for your insightful reply! You highlighted several causes of Internet access problems that I have been concerned about and hearing it from others provided some needed clarity.

I like your comment about charging more if they want more "assurances". That is good language to help clients take ownership in contract costs and in the final user experience.

Your comments encourage me to provide the basic service that includes Internet access provided by the client (Ethernet) and include an LTE service I provide as a backup.

I anticipate that using bonding service will exceed many budgets. Yet, I have to be prepared to offer a premium service or allow prospects to establish a relationship with a competitor.

I’ll have to work on wording that clearly identifies the client-owned risks associated with the contracted live experience. The client should take solace that the fallback will always be the on-location recordings that can be uploaded for “on demand” views.
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Old January 28th, 2021, 03:33 PM   #5
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Re: Managing customer expectations when livestreaming

Offering the premium even if they can't afford makes it clear that if they want to put the onus on you there's cost involved.

BTW I had a job once where we confirmed a very robust and isolated ethernet connection that would be available to me.

I walk into the event and they inform me that their IT department decided to take down their entire network for maintenance. I explain that ends any chance of a live stream and would record the event. This was a live online fundraiser in an auditorium with about 500 onsite attendees which would now limit their fundraising reach.

The use of my phone as a hot spot alternative would be entirely unreliable given the likelihood that many of the 500 people in attendance would likewise be using their phones (along with anyone else in the area using the same towers).

I told them that had they informed me with reasonable notice I could have gotten a bonded device (and charged them for it of course).

They immediately called their IT and had them reboot the network which considerably shortened the time I had to do internet tech checks but, nonetheless, we started on time with everything working.
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Old January 28th, 2021, 03:39 PM   #6
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Re: Managing customer expectations when livestreaming

Andrew,

Your advice is well taken. Restrictions caused by the pandemic have brought live streaming video into the mainstream of everyone's private and business lives. Now, many people feel that if they can live stream video from a cell phone or a laptop then how difficult can it be?

If they pay a professional for that service, they expect to get something really good - whatever that could mean.

I fear many people have little idea of how much control we don’t have over the viewer’s experience.

I will begin working on how I can clearly and succinctly educate prospects on that very issue. Meeting clients’ expectations makes them happy, and exceeding expectations delights them. And I want delighted customers!
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Old January 28th, 2021, 03:47 PM   #7
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Re: Managing customer expectations when livestreaming

Craig,

Interesting and frightening story! A good example how the best laid plans...

I noticed you said that you could have provided a bonded service with enough notice. How were you going to get the bonded service? Do you have gear and a service or were you going to rent it?
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Old January 28th, 2021, 04:32 PM   #8
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Re: Managing customer expectations when livestreaming

I have stories I could tell with streaming and checking hotel premises earlier to verify that the internet connections so much as worked. Lots of fun when you consider that it's not within the events rep role and their IT management is usually outsourced to an external company. It takes quite a while for those cogs to turn.

Now I usually just go in with a 4GX cellular connection and don't even worry about it. It's just not worth it for the futzing around with one or more site visits prior to an event.

Andrew
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Old January 28th, 2021, 05:21 PM   #9
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Re: Managing customer expectations when livestreaming

Andrew,

I think that's a good idea for venues such as hotels. It is often a hassle to scout a hotel conference room for audio, lighting, and setup location. I didn't think about the added issue of finding out about Internet connections. Ugh!

I have found that some hotels in areas popular with conference organizers may have a knowledgeable IT person, but most use outside services. I'll have to do some testing to see what kind of 4G is available in the most popular areas I get to.

I have read elsewhere on this forum about having to locate the 4G LTE modem near a window and run an Ethernet cable into the room. Sometimes just elevating the modem on a tall light stand is reported to have worked.

Sounds like my box of "what-if" gear is getting larger!
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