Simulcasting: What It Is and How It Works
For most broadcasters, the goal is simple: reach as many viewers as possible. Achieving this, however, is a bit more complex. Not only is there more content than ever before, but also more platforms competing for your audience’s attention. Enter simulcasting.
Also called multistreaming, simulcasting is a technical word for a straightforward concept. It refers to the ability to broadcast a live or recorded stream to multiple destinations at once. These destinations can include websites or social media platforms like Facebook Live and YouTube.
In this article, we’ll look at why you’d want to do this, different options for simulcasting, and how to get started.
What Is Simulcasting?
To alliterate, simulcasting is simultaneously broadcasting to several sites — and thus, it describes any example of transmitting audio and video content to multiple locations at once.
With streaming, these ‘locations’ take the form of digital properties, such as Facebook, YouTube, or a good-old website. But that hasn’t always been the case. Originally, simulcasting described the act of distributing the same program on radio and television. What’s stayed consistent, though, is the end goal: reaching more users.
Here’s a look at the textbook definition of simulcasting and how its meaning has evolved.
- Simulcast (noun): An audio/video transmission that simultaneously plays on two or more channels.
- Simulcast, simulcasting (verb): To distribute the same audio/video transmission across two or more channels at the same time.
Alternative Meanings of Simulcast
- Early usage — simultaneous broadcasting on radio and television: Simulcasting was first coined in the 1940s to describe the act of broadcasting the same program on radio and television. This was done to reach end users on both mediums, as well as to supplement TV broadcasts with stereo-quality audio.
- Radio communications — transmitting the same signal from multiple towers: The radio communications industry has also adopted the word simulcast to describe the process of transmitting the same signal from different towers for increased coverage. This is used in emergencies to ensure that responders stay informed about critical situations across a wide geographical area.
- Today — distributing the same content across multiple channels: For the purpose of this article and everyday use, simulcasting refers to syndicating audio and video content to multiple channels, such as the Super Bowl’s live broadcast to a mix of television and digital properties (including CBS, ESPN, and NFL). When it comes to streaming, simulcasting often describes the act of live broadcasting on digital channels like websites and social platforms. This is also called multistreaming, a term growing in popularity.
Benefits of Simulcasting
Simulcasting is to video distribution what brunch is to daytime dining. Both blend two concepts into a single word (simultaneous + broadcasting = simulcasting ; breakfast + lunch = brunch). And in so doing, both kill two birds with one stone. With brunch, you benefit from cramming two meals into one. With simulcasting, you benefit from reaching multiple channels (e.g., Facebook Live and LinkedIn) with a single live broadcast.
The ability to broadcast media to countless viewers across different channels used to be reserved for major media corporations. But luckily, simulcasting makes it anybody’s for the taking. This translates to:
- Expanded reach: Live streaming social platforms are everywhere, with wide-ranging and niche applications. Broadcasting to more channels equals more viewers, which is what it’s all about for most content distributors.
- Increased brand awareness: With simulcasting, broadcasters can easily attract net-new viewers and get their brand’s name out there. This helps to diversify your audience by reaching those who eschew Facebook on Twitch, and vice versa.
- Improved engagement: Beyond just tapping into a large audience, part of the beauty of broadcasting to social media platforms is the opportunity to foster additional engagement via comments, likes, and shares. Live content also creates a sense of immediacy, prompting viewers to stop what they’re doing and tune in from anywhere.
- Simplified workflow: While multi-destination streaming can be done without simulcast technology, it requires massive amounts of bandwidth and is prone to errors. That’s why it’s important to start with the right tools. Simulcasting with a streaming platform like Wowza lets you control the broadcast from one interface — getting the same broadcast on your website and social media platforms at once with less work than individually streaming to each. What’s more, live simulcasting means you don’t have to edit and encode each video before sharing it on social.
How Does Simulcast Streaming Work
There are a few different options for distributing your streams across multiple digital channels. Here’s how they weigh up:
- Share codes: The use of share codes, as offered by vendors like DaCast, involves sharing a link to your stream on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Although a simple way to do it, this method is not technically simulcasting. Rather, users must click the URL and open the video in a new tab. This requires viewers to take additional action and navigate out of the platform they’re in — resulting in a poor user experience and high abandonment rate.
- Third-party software integration: Providers like Restream specialize in multicasting solutions. With this route, you’ll still need a video processing solution like Wowza for transcoding, adaptive bitrate streaming, and the like. Different platforms require different resolutions (e.g., 720p for Facebook vs. 4K for YouTube Live), which is why many live event broadcasters combine Wowza’s video platform with a simulcasting-specific solution like Restream for multi-destination broadcasting.
- Using Wowza as your simulcasting platform: Simulcasting can also be set up using just Wowza’s technology. Our Stream Targets feature allows content distributors to select one or more destinations for distribution, as demonstrated in the video below. This one-in-many-out approach ensures scalability without over-complicating your workflow.
How to Simulcast With Wowza
Through strategic partnerships with several third-party vendors like Facebook, we’ve created specific stream targets that ensure reliable and convenient connections. Wowza also offers the flexibility to reach additional destinations that aren’t established stream targets using the custom target option.
Check out the step-by-step process for simulcasting to Facebook and YouTube by watching the video below.
Simulcasting Best Practices
Preparation is key to any live streaming event. The only difference with multistreaming is that your viewer count could be triple what it would be (or more) — making it even more crucial to ensure you’re streaming-ready.
1. Promote in Advance
Give your audience a heads up by marketing the broadcast in advance. Facebook ads are a great way to create hype, and you can also notify users by updating your status or posting a story on most social platforms.
2. Optimize Stream Configurations
It’s a good idea to optimize your encoding settings for your specific broadcast. The right settings will help improve the end-user experience and reduce bandwidth requirements where possible. We generally recommend the encoding best practices detailed in our documentation. You’ll also want to check all your equipment before the event.
3. Test, Test, Test
The number one way to avoid catastrophe is testing out your scenario in advance. In addition to running through the entire workflow 24 hours prior, you’ll want to check audio and video right before going live.
4. Monitor the Broadcast and Health Metrics
Ideally, you’d have enough in-house staff to monitor the broadcast on each platform or you’d enlist our help supporting the live event. Wowa’s Professional Services team can take care of everything but tip one above, not to mention real-time communication and speedy mitigation during your live broadcast. We also provide resources to monitor health metrics on your own accord. Simply check out this article for a rundown on how it works.
Originally published at https://www.wowza.com on December 7, 2021.