Your pastor has asked you what it will take to start live streaming, so you figure you will need a computer, free software like OBS to stream to YouTube Live or Facebook Live and a video camera. That’s it, right?
Sadly, no. A church cannot legally use copyrighted materials. At least, not without the proper license(s), namely CCLI, WorshipCast (from Christian Copyright Solutions) and more likely than not, CVLI.
You may be thinking that you’re not making any money from live streaming your services, so surely your church cannot be prosecuted for that, right? Not only can the church be prosecuted, but any individuals who had a hand in producing the live stream can also be pursued in a civil lawsuit. The maximum fine per infraction is up to $250,000 and up to 5 years in prison!
Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about other areas to think about:
Even if your church has a high speed broadband Internet connection, you may not have enough speed to provide a stable live stream to your live stream host. Why? Because you are uploading, not downloading, to the live stream host and as such, you will need a minimum of 3Mbps (megabits per second) to send a 720p HD signal, 5Mbps for 1080p HD. If your connection has less than a 10Mbps upload speed, then you run the very real risk of running out of bandwidth for your live stream.
How do you address this? Purchase a managed switch and have someone set it up so that the live stream connection takes precedence over any other connection during your church service. The second solution is to get a dedicated Internet connection (a 2nd line of service) for your live stream.
Looking ahead 5-10 years, what will the live streaming ministry look like? Putting a plan down on paper will allow you to build a system you can add to down the road. For example, if you plan to start a live stream with one or two cameras now, but later will add another camera or two, make sure to purchase a video switcher than can handle that many inputs. Plan ahead and you will ultimately save money because you were smart in the equipment you chose to invest in.
Where will the audio for your live stream come from? Will it be a pre-mixed output from the main audio mixer or will you have a separate audio mix for live streaming? An on-camera microphone is not going to cut it here so think long and hard about this.
If you are going to have multiple cameras with live operators (not remote controlled), you will need a way to communicate with them that will not distract the congregation during the service. This will involve an intercom system of some kind. These can be wired or wireless and each has their respective price points. Make sure you think about and plan for this critically important equipment.
Live Stream Host
Who is your live streaming host going to be? YouTube Live and Facebook Live have the most appeal because they are free, but remember, you get what you pay for. There are a myriad of stories from churches who have used one or the other and had their streams stopped in the middle of a service because of copyright infringement claims created automatically by the platform. Even if you have the correct licenses, there is currently no way of using either platform that will stop this from happening. So, yes, you can use these platforms, but be aware that you may not only lose your ability to live stream but your entire account may be terminated. Is that worth “free?”
Finally, we must talk budget. If your church wants to live stream, there needs to be an appropriate and realistic budget set. This is why doing your research is so important; live streaming costs money. There is the upfront cost of the equipment, installation, training, managed switch or dedicated Internet connection, live stream host, intercom system and copyright licenses. The on-going costs of live stream hosting and copyright licenses are things that need to be accounted for, as well.