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Does Your Church Livestream? Here Are Some Things You Need to Know


If your church has joined one of the growing number of congregations that livestream your worship services, congratulations.  Now, how are you tracking viewership?

Every church that expends the time and resources to produce a livestream wants to know people are watching. But there’s a lot behind those numbers that you should consider.  Here are a few.

How are people watching?

It could be on a desktop computer, mobile device, or “Over the Top” (OTT) boxes like ROKU and Apple TV. Knowing which platform your viewers are using helps you know what to focus on in your broadcast.

More mobile viewers mean you could consider lowering the quality of the stream you send, of course that will adversely affect the percentage that are watching on computers. Users on mobile connections have less bandwidth to work with and have a greater likelihood of experiencing buffering issues. Beyond those practical applications, examining this live streaming metric is simply good practice so you know where your viewers are.

Watching live or on-demand?

If your primary audience is watching live, do you even need to offer it on-demand? On the other hand, if most viewers are watching your content after the fact, it can change what you promote on the program.  Looking at the numbers collectively can open your eyes to new business possibilities.

Repeat traffic.

Are people returning to your live stream to watch multiple events, or do you see mostly one-time viewers? This live streaming metric will tell you if you’re producing compelling content that makes people want to come back. (It’s easier to track if your live stream is on a pay-per-view or registration-based platform.)

Duration of views.

How long are people watching your live stream? Is the average viewer staying connected for the entire broadcast or just long enough to pause and move on?  Low streaming duration could indicate that the quality of your content needs work, or that you’re not reaching the right viewing audience. If a large number of people drop out at certain point in the broadcast, it can help you avoid audience killer content. For example, studies show a large number of people drop out when the pastor says “in conclusion” or something to that effect.  You also wouldn’t want to have your promotions or appeals follow a heavy tune out point in your program.

Unique visitors to your site.

Unique visitors, or views, are different than total views. If the same person visits your site 10 times in one day, all 10 visits would come from the same IP address, assuming that person is using the same computer/network each time. Those are not unique views (which come from different IP addresses).

Geographical breakdown of your viewership. Where do your viewers live? It could help target a potential church plant location.

Viewer engagement.

If your audience interacts with your content, that says a lot about the quality of your live stream. It also means viewers are more likely to come back for more. So if you’re running a social feed with Twitter or Facebook alongside your broadcast, monitor how often people comment, chat or tweet a link to the content to their friends.

Now that you know what to look for, here are some ways to find the information from the most popular carriers.

Facebook metrics

Facebook Live has a metric called “reach.”  “Reach represents the number of people who can see your posts. That doesn’t mean they actually viewed or read your content, it just means it’s available to them.  

Facebook can also calculate “views.”   A view represents the number of people who paused on your video for three seconds or longer. That’s why measuring the duration of views is an important metric.

Some content creators add subtitles so even if a viewer mutes the sound on their Facebook feed they could still glean part of the message you’re trying to deliver.  This works best on short features.

You’ll need to dig into the stats for each video and discover for yourself just how many people watched for longer than three seconds with the sound on.

YouTube analytics

YouTube doesn’t say what constitutes a view, but since they don’t have a newsfeed like Facebook with scrolling autoplay videos, and since you have to at least start the first video in a playlist or the first video, it seems likely that these views are more intentional.

If your church’s Youtube account includes videos you upload later, they can skew stats one way or another. If a video you upload gets a lot of traction, it might make your numbers look more positive than they are. Likewise, if you have a lot of videos that are only of interest to your church, but have titles which people might misinterpret, you might end up with very low apparent engagement across the channel while your live-stream might actually be highly engaged.

Youtube also measures duration of view (30 seconds or longer is considered a view) and geography similar to Facebook.

If you have access to multiple platforms, streaming to all at the same time increases your overall reach.  According to Facebook’s research, audiences watch Facebook Live videos three times longer than regular video posts. Research from industry leader Hubspot tells us that “48% of marketers plan to add YouTube to their content strategy in the next year.” Companies such as Livestream, Boxcast, churchstream.tv and others offer a full range of analytics and make it easy for you to stream to Facebook Live, YouTube Live, and other social channels from a single source.

A lot of work goes into streaming a worship service. Make sure you’re spending enough time finding out if your efforts are reaping grain or chaff.