[Case Study] How ISC Sports Network blends live streaming with video subscriptions

When Greg Maish, President of ISC Sports Network, began using Vimeo Livestream, his goal was to live stream sports from around Indiana into the homes of surrounding communities. “We had this vision of a single place where people can come and see local sports,” he said. “We wanted it to be accessible and readily available, for all of our sports fans.”

In just four years, ISC Sports has grown from strictly live streaming games into a full-fledged online channel, using Vimeo OTT to offer live and on-demand sports content. Learn more about how Maish used Vimeo to scale his local sports business, grow his audience, and monetize video content in our interview below.

Growing from live streams to on-demand video

Working in telecommunications for most of his career, Maish understood the trajectory of cord-cutting behavior, especially those who opt into OTT content, or services that go “over the top” of traditional cable providers. “At the end of the day, we all are TV consumers — but we are also very much OTT consumers, whether it’s Roku, Amazon, Chromecast, or even on our mobile devices,” he said.

After digging into his viewers’ behavior in Vimeo Livestream’s analytics, Maish made an interesting discovery. Despite the in-the-moment experience of live sports, there was a surge in broadcast views after the events ended. “It’s an interesting dynamic. We’ll get maybe the same number of views that we get during the game itself,” he said.

With this intel, Maish saw an opportunity to grow his audience with OTT. “Vimeo OTT was the piece that was missing,” he said. “We wanted a ready-to-go, fully developed solution. It’s been a real easy way in [to the OTT industry],” he said, referring to the simple content management tools and branded apps available in the platform.

Generating and growing ad revenue with Vimeo

For many broadcasters, advertising is a critical source of revenue. Admittedly, “local sports is not always that easy to sell,” Maish said (ISC Sports competes with 10 Division I NCAA colleges in the Hoosier state). Using Vimeo OTT’s analytics, Maish was able to pinpoint the number of viewers his productions brought in, where those views came from, their watch time, and more.

“[The analytics] give us great feedback on stuff we would normally guess on,” he said, and unlike other television measurement models, the data is precise. “It’s not a guess, it’s not an estimation — it’s really what’s happening.” Providing quantitative data to advertisers, and subsequently guaranteeing that their product or service will be seen, makes for a straightforward transaction.

Tips to live stream sports

ISC Sports is a prime example of starting scrappy and scaling quickly. How did they achieve their success with building a local sports network in just four years?

1. Know your vision. “You’ve really got to have a vision when you get started,” he said, while acknowledging that it can (and likely will) change. “Ours has evolved over time.

2. Top-notch, reliable distribution. Your business won’t gain traction unless you’re broadcasting quality content to bring in and maintain viewership. “That’s where having a partner like Vimeo plays into our business strategy,” he said. “With Vimeo, we know that when we’re out streaming, it will work. It’s always just worked, and that’s been a key ingredient in our success.”

In the end, Maish remains invested in and reliant on Vimeo to support ISC because of the team behind the platforms. “One thing we’ve learned as both a community-facing service provider and from dealing with vendors, is that loyalty is everything to us,” he said. “If we feel secure in that relationship, we will preach it from the rooftops.”

“When a vendor does what they say they will do and they do it well, we will be vocal to say, ‘These are the guys you want.’ Looking at what we have with Vimeo, we will share the good news with anyone who needs to hear.”

Engaged audiences spark business growth

Through their highly-engaged audience and growing advertising base, ISC Sports now broadcasts all over Indiana. “Our production team continues to grow,” Maish said. “Even for a local game, we may have 10 guys there doing things. We’ve had to evolve into multiple crews, trying to cover as much as we can.”

Fortunately, as demand grows, so does ISC Sports’ bottom line. “What we’re spending is very manageable,” he said, referring to Vimeo’s Livestream and OTT price points. “[It’s] something we can not only pay for, but it makes it a profitable endeavor for us.”

Learn more about how to grow your business — and audience — with on-demand video in our guidebook, The 2018 OTT Revolution. By analyzing 1.3B consumer data points, we took the guesswork out of how viewers consume and subscribe to video content, empowering you to focus on expanding your reach and maintaining subscribers.

Live Streaming Platform and Pricing Comparison: What You Need to Know [2019 Update]

Researching an up-to-date live streaming platform comparison can be overwhelming, as there are many factors to keep in mind when searching for the best solution for you or your organization . 

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re weighing your options for whether it’s worth paying up for a live streaming solution. You want a live streaming service that can grow and scale with your needs, has all the features you want, and won’t break your budget — is that too much to ask?

As always, we’re here to help you sort through the noise and get clear on what matters to your business when it comes to finding the right live streaming solution. Here is our updated live streaming platform and pricing comparison for 2019.

What to consider when selecting a live streaming platform

If you’re using video for internal business communications, such as live town halls, all-hands, or trainings, it’s essential that your chosen video platform will keep your content (and users) secure. If you’re leveraging video as an effective marketing tool, you’ll want to make sure you’re delivering content where and how you want, within your company’s brand experience.

Important features for live streaming for business — like privacy, authorization, customization, embedding restrictions, and security — help define the content you stream and the audience that watches your live and on-demand events. Businesses looking to brand their content, for instance, will need the ability to white label web players, remove a platform’s logo from their page, and embed the videos on their own landing pages.

Of course, your needs will vary, but here are some factors to consider when conducting a live streaming platform comparison:

  • Authentication: How can my audience access video content securely (and how can we ensure it will scale)?
  • Authorization: How can my team manage their video content? What permissions do they have?
  • Customization: How can I ensure my company’s brand will be front and center when people watch my video?
  • Pricing: Is the value I’m getting worth the cost?

As live streaming has become more ubiquitous, so have the “DIY” options, like YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Periscope, and Instagram Live. We’ll touch upon those options in this article, but it’s worth noting that they will, by and large, pale in comparison to many of these platforms. Free live streaming tools are intended for consumers, not companies. They’re built with the intention of putting the viewer first, often forcing creators to juggle multiple platforms to manage their video content and distribution.

If you have deeper needs than just going live to an external audience, if your stakes are higher and you cannot experience any downtime, if you need a white label, branded, platform-agnostic video player, you’ll need to invest in a more robust live streaming platform.

Let’s recap some of the pros and cons of the bigger players in the professional live streaming space.

Live streaming platform comparison

Vimeo

We would be remiss to not include a mention of our video solutions, right? Today, Vimeo has multiple solutions to help businesses get what they need with video, no matter the strategy or infrastructure.

Launched in 2019, Vimeo Enterprise is the latest addition to our family of products, offering even more security and exclusive features that meet the needs of medium and large businesses. Vimeo Enterprise takes what our 90 million members already know and love about Vimeo — like a branded, beautiful player and customized embedding — with added security and features that businesses need to scale and grow, including:

  • Single sign-on authentication
  • Live streaming to secure Showcase pages
  • User-level analytics
  • Live production services
  • Dedicated enterprise support and account management
  • Uptime guarantees and SLAs

If your business requires advanced functionality, like multiple simultaneous streams, geoblocking and IP restriction (security and gating), monetization, API access, or eCDN, Vimeo Livestream can help.

And, if this all seems a bit much for you, our Vimeo Premium subscription includes unlimited live streaming, without some of the more advanced bells and whistles. Whatever your needs, we’re happy to determine which option is best for you.

IBM Cloud Video

IBM Cloud Video, formerly Ustream, offers live streaming and video solutions with all kind of advanced features. Silver, Gold, and Platinum subscriptions, which range anywhere from $99/month to $999/month, are based in part on “viewer hours,” or how much time users spend watching your content. If you surpass the allotted number of viewer hours, additional fees are tacked on.

This means if your event runs longer than expected, or is more popular than you anticipated, there will likely be an additional fee. For larger organizations holding town hall meetings or looking to promote a new product announcement, these overages can be an unwelcome – and costly – surprise. Fortunately, Vimeo’s enterprise offerings do not include any overages, making for a predictable pricing model, so you know what you’re paying up front.

IBM Cloud Video does offer user authorization (single sign-on) and password protection of events, to help keep your sensitive video content secure, as well as dedicated support and production services, should you need an extra helping hand either virtually or during an event. However, IBM Cloud Video does not offer hands-on, in-person training for your team, so unless you already have video experts on-staff, you’ll be left to learn the ropes on your own.

Brightcove

Boston-based Brightcove continues to stake its claim in the video space with its 2018 acquisition of Ooyala’s platform business. Today, Brightcove tackles three core areas for its business strategy: enterprise communications, marketing, and monetization.

Its enterprise solutions offers many of the same features as Vimeo Enterprise, including live streaming, branded video galleries, SSO, and domain restriction. A notable caveat is if your organization is new to live streaming and wants hands-on production support — whether it’s supplying the switchers and encoders or setting up a multi-cam event — you’ll be tasked with going it alone, or hiring various external freelancers to produce an event for you. Vimeo Enterprise includes exclusive access to our award-winning live production services and training for a no-fail event of any size

Panopto

Founded in 2007, Panopto operates in five cities around the world with around 100 employees, and boasts about being a leader in video content management. This distinction promptly brings us to the sticking point: Live streaming is not its bread and butter. Video asset management is. We’ve heard that some companies opt to use Panopto as a video CMS, but pay for a separate service for reliable live streaming — not an ideal solution for scaling lean businesses.

Additionally, if authorization is top of mind, implementing single sign-on appears rather technical, with help guides topping almost 1,600 words and multiple steps. As with other streaming services on this list, Panopto does not offer live production services, again leaving you to your own devices to coordinate a no-fail event.

Even if on-demand streaming video is of greater importance for your business, Panopto lacks features that can help you get more out of them. Tools like email capture or cards are not available, for instance. This means if you’re looking to build in a post-event call-to-action, or use your video for lead generation, you’ll have to find other work-arounds.

Kaltura

Kaltura established itself in the video space over a decade ago for being open source, meaning developers could make it their own and expand upon it freely. While open source does mean more customization, it also requires more technical know-how to get it up and running.

Looking to customize your player? It’s possible with Kaltura, but requires knowledge of CSS coding. Vimeo’s player customization is built directly into our platform, with a user-friendly interface of a few toggle buttons and color palette selection to make it your own.

We’ve heard support can be hit or miss, as well. According to their website, Kaltura offers a knowledge base, video learning portal, and a ticket-based support center. When your company’s biggest moments are on the line, having your questions or concerns put in a queue is not an option. Vimeo’s enterprise offerings includes top-notch support that you expect and deserve, from our growing staff of friendly humans.

Qumu

Qumu prides itself on offering a seamless CMS for both on-demand and live streaming. While its technology is powerful, Qumu is tightly aligned to internal communications use cases only. If you’re looking for an all-in-one, end-to-end solution for all your business needs — both internal and external — Qumu likely won’t make the cut.

Partnering with a service like Qumu can also require deploying hardware within your own internal network, which creates a fairly high barrier to entry and implementation. Not only is this process expensive, it also takes a fair bit of time to roll out.

What’s more, creating an on-brand viewing experience isn’t feasible with Qumu, as white labeling, password protection, custom branding, or embedding videos with domain restrictions is not available. Plus, features like email capture and video CTAs aren’t built in, either.

If you want to use video in your external marketing and communications (if it’s not part of your strategy yet, it should be!), you’ll require a separate subscription and system to manage them. Twice the implementation, onboarding, cost, and systems management for your IT team. Yikes!

DaCast

A more entry-level option for live streaming for business, DaCast offers video management and live streaming solutions with fewer bells and whistles. What you’ll save in money, you’ll lose out with enterprise-grade solutions like SSO, eCDN, and tight security features. DaCast does offer customization options, although only through its API, adding a level of complexity for teams to create an on-brand viewing experience.

Social Streaming: Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Periscope, Instagram Live

Over the past several years, major social media platforms democratized and commodified live streaming, with YouTube Live launching way back in 2011, and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others (R.I.P. Meerkat) following suit.

These free platforms are great for brands and businesses looking to dip a toe in the live streaming pond, but they are not viable solutions for long-term scale and growth of a video strategy. Why? While ease of use is a major draw, for sure, none offer onboarding or customer support. If your team hits a snag with an event, you’re left to your own devices to problem-solve in real time.

What’s more, streaming is only possible on a platform-by-platform basis. This means if you want to stream to Facebook and Twitter at the same time, you’ll need two cameras to live stream from each device — creating twice as much work (or more) and a less-than-ideal experience for the on-screen talent and viewers alike.

Finally, as with any social network, advertisements abound, including pre-roll ads on YouTube. It’s a challenge for any organization to create an on-brand experience for their audience with ads disrupting their content.

So, what is the best live streaming platform?

Ultimately, only your team can decide what solution is best for your video needs. Ideally, your choice will support all sorts of video use cases — both internal and external — and offer the necessary security and customization features to keep your content safe and on-brand.

What we can say, though, is that Vimeo has been an industry leader in supporting people to do more with video for nearly 15 years. Vimeo Enterprise is the best end-to-end solution, for both live and on-demand video, to support businesses of all sizes.

We can help with:

  • SSO-enabled Showcase galleries for live and on-demand video
  • Access to our award-winning production team to make your live events shine
  • Advanced video analytics to help your team better understand your audience
  • Dedicated account management
  • Technical support, online or over the phone
  • Uptime service-level agreements (SLAs)

Curious to learn more? Chat with one of the friendly members of the Vimeo team online, give us a call on 1-877-977-8732, or sign up for our Vimeo Enterprise webinar to get the scoop for yourself.