videostreamFinding an internet video streaming service can be a little daunting.  There are a few questions you should ask yourself before you make your decision on which service to use. 

First, and most important, what is your budget?  Next, how many events do you plan on streaming?  Is this only going to be used for special events or for a daily newscast?  Do you want to stream through your own channel or a channel provided to you by a service?  Do you need a service that will archive your broadcasts?  Answers to these questions will influence your decision on what service you want to use.

Free Services

If your answer to the first question was, “I have no budget,” you might think that it will limit you.  It may, but at least you still have some very good options to choose from.  After contacting a few services and going back through some old emails on the RTNDF email lists, the most popular free services seem to be GrandStadium, iHigh and Ustream.  All of these services offer free streaming, but the similarities end there. 

GrandStadium has a couple of interesting approaches to providing a streaming service to High School broadcasters.  With one model there are no upfront costs to the school, but the way they make it profitable for themselves and for the school is they use a pay-per-view model.  Another feature of GrandStadium is that after your broadcast, viewers are able to purchase DVD’s of the completed events and the broadcasts are archived for on-demand viewing.  The only equipment you need to provide is a firewire equipped PC or Mac laptop or desktop to run the GrandStadium Eduvision software and you’re on the air! 

With GrandStadium’s second model, there is an upfront cost of $3,000 but the live content is free to the viewers and archived content is free for seven days then available on a pay-per-view basis.  With this fee, and also the free model, you are provided with live channel through GrandStadium.  According to GrandStadium’s  Thomas Lapping, they are currently delivering their content in H.264 Flash but in the near future they should have solutions to stream live content to mobile devices. 

Now here’s the most interesting feature to GrandStadium, and it has nothing to do with the quality of their broadcasts.  They offer a comprehensive curriculum to schools in their program for FREE.  GrandStadium calls it the “KSPN” or Knowledge Sports Production Network.  According to their website the curriculum provides educational rigor and is a proven project based learning experience for middle and high school students.  Lapping says that besides offering the students the hands on experience of live broadcasts, they are really excited about helping kids learn in the classroom.

iHigh is the budget-conscience High School broadcasters dream.  They provide you a free branded channel, which gives you a dedicated link to send to viewers and a place to archive your broadcasts.  The only downside for some is that they are advertiser supported so you will see ads on your page.  Some may see this as a deal breaker, or they may have a school district policy against this, but others see it as “If it’s free, it’s for me!”

If you use iHigh you will need a Windows computer or Mac running Boot Camp to run the iHigh LiveStream Software.  Another feature is the ability to stream to mobile devices such as an iPod, Blackberry or Android phone.

Many people on the RTNDF email list commented on their excellent support and the quality of the free branded channel that they provide to your school.  I have a few links to some school’s custom channels that I have found. As you can see from the links at the bottom of this article, they look great.

The other free service is Ustream.  Many are very successful with this service, but there are a few things you need to watch out for.  Ustream will popup ads during your broadcast that viewers have to constantly click out of in order to see the entire screen. Also, you are bunched in with live streams from all over the world, some with possibly “questionable” material which may not be suitable for a school setting.  There is an embed code that you can add to your own website.  Ustream also offers a paid service which can be ad-free or pay-per-view events, but since they don’t focus on the educational client I won’t go into details here.  More information is available on their website.

Paid Services

If your answer to the first question was, “yes I have a budget, but I want some value for my money,” then this section is for you.  As a High School Broadcaster, budget is always going to be a concern, but you shouldn’t be scared off by the services that charge.  The two services that seem to be the most popular and geared toward a High School program are SchoolTube and PlayOn! Sports.  While both of these are paid services, they do offer different options to the broadcaster.  Another service is Audio Sports Online.  Despite their name and not specifically geared toward the High School Market they do offer video streaming service. 

PlayOn! Sports is currently operating in ten states where they have an agreement with the High School Athletic Association to be the sole source streaming platform that they recommend to their schools.  For a list of the States that currently have agreements with PlayOn! Sports please refer to their website at the link below. 

Mark Rothberg, Director of the School Broadcast Program says, “We offer schools an educational tool that allows them to produce events for Broadcast over the internet.  Our software allows the school to produce high quality, “TV-like” events by providing the technology to insert graphics into the video and commercials while the event is being produced live. Because of the portability of the product, you are able to take the technology anywhere on campus to produce live or On Demand events. The benefits for the school include providing students real life job skills in production, the ability to showcase sports, activities, and school news to students, parents, alumni, and the community, and create an additional revenue stream by selling ads on the school’s video portal page or within their broadcasts.”

Rothberg goes on to say that schools get to keep revenue from ads they generate and split 50/50 with any ads that PlayOn! Sports puts on the site.  If your district has a policy against advertising on school sponsored events, schools are also allowed to have no advertising on their site.

PlayOn! Sports charges a $3,000 per year license fee for their software, a laptop, and a video interface device to convert your video signal.  Rothberg also mentions that the fee includes comprehensive training, unlimited customer support, and free software upgrades.  Another benefit according to Rothberg is that if there is a rights fee for playoff games, in most states these can be waived or charged a reduced rate.  This could potentially cover the yearly license fee.

Another paid service I will cover is SchoolTube.  Many schools use and are familiar with SchoolTube’s free video service that is similar to YouTube, but with benefits of teacher moderation of the videos and that it’s not blocked in most school districts.  In the interest of full disclosure, this is the service we have been using for a couple of years in our district, and I am also on SchoolTube’s Teacher Advisory Board. 

SchoolTube’s fee is $1,000 per year, which includes a “branded channel” and unlimited streaming using either your SchoolTube Channel or an embed code that allows you to stream on your own schools website or any site you create for an event.  To me, that is a big selling point allowing us to partner with our web design classes making the events more than a project for a broadcasting class.

We have been using SchoolTube’s service with a Tricaster for years with very few problems.  Usually the problem has been with our district’s internet and once we had these issues worked through with our tech people it’s been flawless.   Also, we haven’t had to use them lately, but when we were getting started SchoolTube’s technical support was second to none, and I’m sure it’s even better now.

Another service, Audio Sports Online, provides both audio and video streaming.  While they are not geared toward the High School broadcaster, they do provide services for sports broadcasting on a per event basis or at a bulk rate.  

According to Robby Kendall of Audio Sports Online, clients have two options.  They can either create a broadcast page for you or give you a generic streaming link, however if you use their broadcast page Audio Sports Online will maintain an archive for you.  Audio Sports Online also offers unlimited viewers or listeners.  Kendall says, “We do not believe a client should be punished for having a successfully marketed product.”

These are by no means the only services available to the High School broadcaster wishing to show off their work to the world.  I am sure there are new ones every day.  I have tried to highlight some of the more popular options that are both free and those that charge.  In my opinion, the services I have mentioned here have a track record, good customer service record and understand the obstacles a High School broadcaster are up against.

Ed. Note:  Watch for Mr. Duponts follow-up article in the October issue where he examines some of the equipment available to do live streaming.

Dupont-HeadshotAlbert Dupont has been the Advanced TV Broadcasting Facilitator (Teacher) at the Satellite Center in Luling, Louisiana since its opening in 2005.  The Satellite Center is a “satellite” facility of Hahnville and Destrehan High Schools.  The schools are a part of the St. Charles Parish Public School System located near New Orleans.

Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Dupont was a news and sports videographer for WVUE-TV in New Orleans for twelve years and news producer at WAFB in Baton Rouge and KATC in Lafayette for five years.  As a sports photographer, Mr. Dupont was a field videographer at the New Orleans Saints games from 1994 to 2009.  He also was a videographer at two Superbowls and numerous college national championship games in a variety of sports. He is an Avid Certified Instructor in Media Composer 5.