Onstream Vs. Livestream: Which Is Better for Online Events?

I recently kicked off six streaming-specific webinars. My motivation? To sell copies of my new book. Rather than market through book reviews and bloggers, I decided to reach out directly to potential buyers with content.

From a technology perspective, I had two options. First was a webcasting service such as Onstream or MediaPlatform. This option became a reality when I was assigned to review the Onstream service. The other was a live streaming service provider such as Livestream, Ustream, or YouTube. So far, I’ve held two webinars: one through Onstream and one via Livestream. Both went well, but each approach has its pros and cons for product marketing, which is the focus of this column. Let’s consider data collection first.

Onstream provides a lobby page for viewer registration. You send an email to prospects with a link to the registration page, which they visit to sign up and download a calendar reminder. Registrants receive a confirmation email with a link to the viewing page and optionally a reminder email on the day of the event.

With Livestream, you create an event page where prospects can download a calendar reminder, but you can’t force them to register. Note that Livestream will launch an enterprise edition this fall with registration functionality, though at a much higher monthly cost. As a workaround, I sent prospects an email describing the webinar, asking them to sign up to receive a link to the webinar on the day of, and a copy of the handout.

With Onstream, on the other hand, you can force the viewer to register for the event. While comparative attendance numbers provide limited value because the content was completely different, here are the raw numbers: Onstream produced more registrations, 131 to 80, while Livestream produced more viewers, 124 to 70. With Onstream, I get analytics that let me track how long each registrant watched the video (or who never did). With Livestream, you can’t get this data.


Both services have their content-related pros and cons. You send Onstream a single video that it transcodes to multiple streams as needed in real time. With Livestream, you encode and transmit multiple videos to the service, increasing the outbound bandwidth requirements. Onstream offers quizzes and polling, which help qualify prospects and increase engagement, but Livestream offers neither. Onstream’s Q&A facility produced many more questions than using Livestream’s comments function for questions, which is key to engagement.

Other differences? By design, Onstream is a managed service with a technical coordinator holding your hand before and during the event, which costs you but provides a nice safety net for nontechies. Though Livestream offers excellent technical support, you’re in charge of the entire production, so you need more technical expertise in-house. For a fee, however, both companies can supply turnkey production.

Livestream lets you embed the webinar into your own website. With Onstream, you can only embed the video component, though you can brand either player to your heart’s content. Livestream offers better community, with many viewers “following” my account after the webinar, making it easier to reach them in the future, and producing more total viewers.

All things being equal, the cost per lead for a webcasting service will be much higher, but you’ll capture more, better-qualified leads than via the Livestream service as it existed this summer. This makes a webcaster better for higher gross margin sales where prospect qualification and management is critical and you have the margins to support the cost. Conversely, if you’re selling a low gross margin product — such as books through Amazon — Livestream’s ability to deliver more eyeballs starting at $49/month make it the better, if not the only, option.

About Jan Ozer

I help companies train new technical hires in streaming media-related positions; I also help companies optimize their codec selections and encoding stacks, and evaluate new encoders and codecs.

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