January 19, 2018 by
Case Study Snapshot
Live event broadcasting
High-profile auctions of popular merchandise are big business; these live events draw massive numbers of viewers, both in person and online. One of the world’s largest auction companies hosts up to 15 of these events each year at venues across the U.S., and broadcasts them live on TV as well as on YouTube. However, the company wanted to find a way to engage more deeply with online audiences—and what better platform for connecting with viewers in a meaningful way than Facebook, the most popular social network?
The company tried a number of solutions for getting to Facebook Live, but none of them provided the reliable streaming or direct viewer-to-broadcaster interaction they were searching for. Then they saw an ad for the Wowza ClearCaster™ appliance—and everything changed.
High-Profile Auction Company Seeks Reliable Equipment for Facebook Live
At each of its huge events, the auction house conducts two separate video shoots, filmed by two different third-party production companies. One of these broadcasts is delivered to YouTube Live; it shows only the auctioneer, the stage and the current bid, and uses IP cameras to film the entire auction, start to finish.
But the most valuable content is handled by a third-party video production company and broadcast on a major television network. This broadcast covers more than just the auction itself, including commentary and analysis from announcers; special previews of certain merchandise; and human-interest stories focused on some of the most unique lots and their sellers. The production crew shoots the live footage on the show floor, then creates a highly produced final product in an offsite production truck stocked with switching, graphics, audio, recording, routing, monitoring and communications equipment.
Normally, this video is shown live on TV—but sometimes, the auction is preempted by special programming, or the broadcast rights can’t be secured in time. In these cases, a “live to tape” production is recorded instead. Either way, however, the production team is on set and ready to roll at each auction. If they simply tape the auction, the engaging, live element is lost, since viewers may already know who won each bid by the time the show airs.
Not ones to waste an opportunity, the auction company’s marketers had an idea: When they couldn’t go live on TV, they could stream the video product on Facebook Live. With over half a million followers, Facebook is their most popular social platform, and seemed the perfect destination for expanding their coverage.
“We wanted to get our show out to as many people as possible,” says the company’s social media coordinator. “You can’t share on TV like you can on social media, so we wanted to use it as a way not only to reach our current followers, but also to extend our reach to a new audience that might not even know about [us].”
The team started looking for a solution they could use onsite to encode the produced video feed and deliver it to their Facebook page. They tried a number of products, including the Teradek Cube and OBS Studio encoding software, but in each case, they struggled to connect to the platform and keep the live stream going.
Reliability was a particular problem. The team had to have two devices configured and ready to go every time; it was inevitable that the first device would drop the live stream, and they’d have to switch to the second in order for the broadcast to keep going.
Even when the stream didn’t drop, the auctions typically run for six hours—longer than Facebook Live’s three-hour time limit—and the broadcasts would time out. When staff had to restart the stream, viewership dropped dramatically, because it took so long to get back online.
“The process was rather hectic and nerve-wracking,” the social media coordinator notes. “You were working harder, not smarter.”
What’s more, since one of the biggest reasons for streaming to Facebook Live was audience interaction, the auction announcers wanted to be able to see, and respond to, what viewers were saying. But the solutions they tried offered no easy way to do this. Instead, the announcers had to use the Facebook app on their phones if they wanted to see follower feedback—and people looking down at their phones doesn’t exactly make for compelling live content.
ClearCaster Boosts Facebook Live Engagement for Announcers
The auction company knew there had to be a better solution for streaming to Facebook Live. That’s when the director of IT operations saw an ad for the Wowza ClearCaster appliance. He had used other Wowza streaming products in the past, when running the live audio stream for their online bidding system, and had confidence in the technology—so he suggested they give ClearCaster a try.
His inclinations were right. The success rate of the auction company’s Facebook Live broadcasts has gone through the roof since implementing ClearCaster. Even better, it has brought benefits in audience engagement that surpassed the team’s wildest expectations.
Thanks to ClearCaster, on-air announcers can now directly engage with online viewers. The crew simply hooks up a monitor to ClearCaster, sets it up in front of the announcers and they can see exactly what followers see on Facebook Live—including comments and emojis. In the past, announcers either had to look down at their phones or wait awkwardly while the social media coordinator read viewer comments to them, but now they can see all audience feedback in real time.
“That’s one of the beauties of the ClearCaster system: You can hook the feed right up to the monitors at the broadcast desk, and it’s presented in a format where the commentators can watch all the action on screen, but they can also simultaneously see the comments rolling in,” says the social media coordinator.
It was so intuitive, the IT director says, that even though the announcers are not technology experts, when they set up the Talent View, “we had the social media coordinator there to coach them, but before he even said a word, they were reading the comments right there and responding to people on Facebook.”
This results in greater efficiency and reduces the manpower necessary for a Facebook Live broadcast, since the announcers can now conduct the live social broadcast entirely on their own. Best of all, engagement with the auction house’s Facebook Live videos has exploded in popularity.
“We saw over double the numbers in engagement [from our previous broadcasts], mostly because the commentators could address peoples’ comments, questions, their thoughts on certain [items] … [they] could easily pick out questions as they were rolling across the screen,” the social media coordinator describes. “It made for a much more engaging experience, both for the commentators and the audience. We got a lot of good feedback through our social platforms from people happy that we were … interacting with them, and that was all thanks to the ClearCaster.”
While past broadcasts maxed out at less than 400 viewers, the company’s latest live stream had nearly 2,500 peak concurrent viewers. What’s more, over half of viewers on their last broadcast came from shares—in other words, from new viewers who didn’t already follow their page.
“Our numbers for people watching and interacting went up when we started using ClearCaster,” the IT director says. “The marketing team loved it, because the announcers were doing all the work. … They were responding right away because of the Talent View.”
Reducing Facebook Live Encoder Headaches
The auction company was pleasantly surprised to discover that ClearCaster was easy to set up and pair with the Facebook Live platform. While the other solutions they tried had trouble connecting and frequently dropped, going live now takes a matter of seconds—and the connection keeps going strong, no matter what. Even switching over to the new broadcast once the time limit is reached is a seamless process.
“ClearCaster has been great; you just turn it on and let it go, and it just keeps working.” —Director of IT Operations
“It was much easier using the ClearCaster streaming system than in the past,” says the social media coordinator. “It’s great to have something where you literally just take the content from the truck, plug it into the box, push a few buttons—and that’s it. We were very impressed with how simple it was, and how few steps it really took to get everything up and running.”
The old solutions suffered from long delays and plummeting viewership when they reached their time limit for one stream and had to switch to the next. Now, the social media coordinator says, “the transition between the two parts is very smooth and almost instantaneous … with only a second or two of delay when rebooting the stream. … We retained probably 90 percent of our audience just because it was so quick.”
ClearCaster is installed on the showroom floor, and connected via SDI to the satellite TV truck outside the event space. This is also where the announcers are located, watching the Talent View on an external monitor. There is also a feed going back from the truck to the onsite setup, so the crew behind the scenes can see what’s going on.
ClearCaster Improves Facebook Live Quality and Frequency
Thanks to ClearCaster, Facebook Live broadcasts that deeply engage viewers and build brand awareness are now easy to create at any of the auction company’s live events. They intend to capitalize on the momentum they’ve built with their online viewership by creating a greater number of Facebook Live streams in the future.
“Any chance we get where there are no conflicts with our live TV broadcast, we plan to use [ClearCaster],” the director of IT operations says.
The biggest benefits the auction company has realized as a result of using ClearCaster include:
- Greater efficiency and reduced manpower when producing Facebook Live content.
- Reliable streaming with a connection that keeps going strong.
- The ability for on-screen announcers to directly interact with online audiences.
- Four times greater Facebook Live viewership for live events.
Auctions are inherently interactive events, so streaming to an online platform that allows for meaningful dialogue with digital audiences just makes sense for this organization. ClearCaster, live auctions and Facebook are a natural fit, and the sky’s the limit for the reach and engagement future broadcasts can achieve.
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“ClearCaster gives us the opportunity to broadcast as [high] a quality production as you would see on TV, and gives us an opportunity not only to get it out to the people who follow us, but also to reach a new audience.” —Social Media Coordinator