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The Ultimate Guide To Pay-Per-View Live Streaming

Your Guide To Pay-Per-View (PPV) Streaming:

Over the past 5-10 years, live streaming has revolutionized the way content-creators interact with their audiences. Widespread access to live streaming platforms makes it simple for anyone to immediately and meaningfully connect with their users. For years, Cable TV news programs, HBO boxing matches and evening baseball games reached viewers this way. Now, this immediacy creates many opportunities for anyone, you included, to evolve their product, and explore new business models. One way to  aggregate your core audience and monetize your content is to implement pay-per-view with your live streams. PPV streaming generates revenue for your streaming venture or business, identifies who is tuning in and surfaces the content that registers most with your core audience.

There are many things to consider when transitioning from free to monetized streaming models, like pay-per-view, but don’t be overwhelmed! Before anything else, determine if you have, or expect to have, an audience that would pay to engage with the specific content they’re interested in. After all, you need to believe that you are offering a valuable experience worth monetizing!!

Once you’re ready to explore your options, hammer out the finer details. What platform should you host your content on? What kind of packages should you offer? How can you ensure the content reaches your audience? We’re here to help.

What is Pay-Per-View?

You may still be trying to better understand how PPV live streaming works, the benefits of PPV or whether it’s a good fit for your organization’s content. In that case, read on for a few important points about pay-per-view live streaming you should know before diving in.   

Pay-per-view live streaming occurs when two conditions are present:

  1. There is an event or piece of content that a particular audience, usually unable to attend the event, is willing to pay a fee to access.
  2. There is a person or organization with the ability to stream the content, connecting the audience with the event in exchange for a small fee.

That’s all it takes to create pay-per-view streaming opportunities. You can think of pay-per-view streaming as a form of crowdfunding, a popular modern method for raising funds from a community of supporters to bring a project to life.

The evolution of pay-per-view streaming

You hear a lot about cord-cutting these days, as cable-customers flee traditional payment systems and adopt out-of-the-box streaming options. It makes sense to take advantage of this trend and offer viewers itemized content packages. Pay-per-view streaming has a clear role in this new marketplace, and in fact, pay-per-view has always functioned as a disruptor to traditional payment systems.

Companies first experimented with pay-per-view as early as the 1950s, but it really gained traction when HBO applied the system to big, promoted events. The 1975 “Thrilla in Manila” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier was the first boxing match to use a pay-per-view model. Not all live-streamed content can rival one of the greatest bouts in history, but events like this created a new dynamic between provider and viewer.

After HBO’s success with pay-per-view, companies like ESPN and, eventually, WWE implemented the system as well. In fact, the domain payperview.com redirects to a WWE website. Pay-per-view streaming allowed these industries to provide viewers with the exact content they wanted. This shift occurred even before smartphones facilitated the boom of live-streaming and cord-cutting became ubiquitous. Now those things are true, and we believe the market is perfect for content creators looking to implement pay-per-view services.

Why Pay-Per-View?

There are many reasons that you should consider monetizing your live streaming content. Here are some to consider:

  • Ancillary benefits

  1. There are benefits to pay-per-view live streaming that go beyond ROI, such as gaining deeper insight into your core audience and using your profits to enhance your production quality over time.
  • Growth into a wide variety of markets

  1. Many industries are embracing the PPV model, and they are seeing success.  The Northwoods League (collegiate summer baseball) has had excellent year-over-year growth and they’ve been able to dramatically improve their streaming product over time.
  2. Even if you think nobody will pay for your content, you’d be surprised at some of the unique pay-per-view live streaming events that have been successful in the past. With targeted marketing and enough demand, you can monetize a surprisingly wide variety of content.
  • Financial incentive

  1. If done correctly, live streaming on a PPV basis can be lucrative! If you have rights to content that is valuable, and the ability to share it, why wouldn’t you consider bridging the gap between that content and its core audience?
  2. Additionally, live streaming costs money and somehow that cost needs to be accounted for. There are equipment costs, bandwidth costs, personnel costs and provider costs (to name a few). Most people understand that and are willing to help foot the bill if it means they can view the content they are interested in.

Pay-Per-View Platforms & Hosting Options

Now that you’ve learned a little more about the history of PPV streaming and reasons to consider it, let’s talk about what you need to consider as you choose a streaming provider or platform for your content.

1. Not all live streaming platforms are pay-per-view video platforms

It is important to think of monetizing your content from the viewers’ perspective. Would they prefer to see advertisements, hear sponsorship promotions or pay for monthly subscriptions? There are plenty of options here. We think the most intuitive—and user-friendly—system is the implementation of a one-time paywall. As of now, none of the free live-streaming platforms—YouTube, Ustream, Periscope, etc.—are capable of putting video content behind a paywall. If you are currently using one of these platforms to stream, you’d have to switch providers to take advantage of a paywall.

In fact, many paid live streaming platforms don’t have the infrastructure to support PPV and the activities associated with it. What all does that entail? Well, a paywall is the simplest way of handling immediate payment for specific content. Without it, content creators have to turn to other methods of monetization. On YouTube, for example, this is typically sponsorships or on-screen ads. Unlike a paywall, these methods impact the content itself—what viewers actually see. Additionally, fans typically pay for events by credit card, which means the platform you use must be able to handle credit card processing.  

While many live streaming companies use outside vendors for payment processing, some are set up to handle it all in-house. If your provider handles it internally, then, when an end user purchases video content, the transaction goes through a secure processing system. For you, that means a superior customer experience . Then, as your live streamed event takes place, you can track your revenue in real time.

2. Pay-per-view services take a cut of the money

Ok, so you have decided how viewers will pay for your content, now it’s time to consider your revenue. Remember, it’s common for live streaming platforms to take a cut of the revenue generated from PPV. There are two questions you’ll need to ask:

  • What percentage of the revenue from each stream will you receive?
  • Who pays the credit card processing fees? These fees usually come to 3%-5% of the transaction amount. Many live streaming providers take those fees out of the total revenue, then split the remaining funds with you.

While you develop the details of your PPV streaming, like your pricing and ROI, you need to know the answers to the questions above. Be prepared to develop a pricing system that works for your audience and generates a strong return for you, with no surprises.

Some companies do a gross revenue split, meaning the total revenue is split with you first, and then credit card processing fees are taken out of the company’s share only. That means more money in your pocket from every event.

3. Flexible pay-per-view packages can maximize your returns

You’re doing great, and getting close to your ideal pay-per-view setup. Return to your viewers’ point of view, and consider how they’ll want to interact with your content. Fans are more likely to buy your video content if you offer them a range of purchasing options. Some people just want to watch one event, others may want to view every event of the year/season, and others may want access to every event you stream.

The problem is, not all pay-per-view live streaming providers offer high degrees of flexibility with custom purchase packages. If the only purchase option fans have available is, for example, a monthly subscription or individual event passes, that is not the best customer experience. That will end up costing you viewership and, therefore, revenue. We highly suggest making it easy for people to pay ahead of time for whichever package they prefer, and giving them options is critical.  

Find a platform that lets you design your viewing packages, mixing and matching whatever you like. For sports-focused content, for example, you should be able to create packages that include everything from day passes to team passes to playoff packages to second-half-of-the-season packages.  

4. Let viewers access your live content however they want.

Live streaming, including pay-per-view live streaming, has moved beyond the computer. Over-the-top (OTT) streaming devices are increasing in popularity—there’s one in four out of every 10 U.S. households. Your fans should be able to access your PPV content on their platform of choice, whether through Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV or something else. Some platforms do offer paywalls on OTT devices, which typically requires only a smartphone or computer nearby to use in conjunction with an activation code. OTT apps allow the benefits of PPV to reach viewers across a variety of platforms, which in today’s age of meeting users where they are is becoming increasingly important.

  

5. Think about support

For your and your viewers’ sake, make sure that you partner with someone who will be there with you every step of the way. This is especially critical for pay-per-view live streaming as customers who pay to access an event will be more impatient if something goes wrong. Choose a provider that will handle customer inquiries, troubleshooting and refund requests—or else be prepared to shoulder that load yourself.

Customer support can take many forms, so make sure to ask:

  • Is customer support available both to you (the content producer) and your viewers?
  • What hours will this support be available?
  • Will support be handled over the phone, email or live chat, or some combination of all three?
  • Is there production consultation if you need assistance with equipment (what cameras to use, audio equipment, incorporating graphics into your broadcast).
  • Does anybody monitor your live events to make sure the broadcast runs smoothly?

6. Set yourself up for expansion

If you’re hesitant about how PPV will be perceived by your audience, take it slow. Start with the minimum price required (this will vary by provider) and work your way up over time. Use that time to build a fanbase, putting the proceeds back into your equipment to help produce a higher-quality broadcast. It’s a great way to generate some revenue and improve your live stream at the same time. After time, this will create a productive loop, where your content continues to improve as you draw in more viewers, who in turn continue to invest in your product.

Additionally, this gives you an opportunity to listen to your audience by monitoring their spending. You’ll be able to pinpoint which packages sell the best, giving you a great idea of what type of content to focus on going forward.

What Next?

Having taken all of this into consideration, if you are ready to move forward with pay-per-view live streaming, find a platform that will partner with you to get you to where you’re comfortable. You should feel good about your offering and have a pricing system that helps you attract as many viewers as possible.

Interested in offering pay-per-view live streaming?

We’d love to work with you to get it started. If you have questions about our pay-per-view services or how pay-per-view-live streaming might work for your organization, let’s talk. In a free 30-minute consultation we’ll answer any questions you have about PPV; or, if you’re already using PPV but are looking for a new platform provider, we’ll review your current monetization strategy and see how it can be improved. Monetization is a natural extension of live streaming—take advantage of it!

NOTE: The streaming world advances quickly. To get the latest and most up to date information, get a demo.

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