Live Streaming Services vs. Traditional Broadcasting: Pros and Cons


Traditional broadcasting is the way most consumers are familiar with viewing programming. It uses typically static media like video tapes or DVDs, but more recently in the case of broadcast television, digital video and portable hard disc. The broadcast is received at a television or set-top box through a transmission signal. For standard and satellite television, the signal is sent through an external cable or an antenna. The signal is often a compressed data stream which is then decompressed and displayed. Standard and satellite television can offer an analogue or digital service, and digital television has enabled interactive television and electronic program guides. Broadcast television can also be sent through a cable network.

Great advances have been made in the technology used in the television industry. This includes live streaming; it is popularly used for covering events like sports and music concerts. It takes advantage of new advancements in technology, including transferring files over the internet and for audio and video production. It should not be confused with streaming television, which refers to watching regular television on the internet. Live streaming is still in development and can often result in a less reliable service when compared to traditional television.

Pros of Live Streaming Services

Global Reach

Because global reach does have the potential to reach a massive amount of viewers, it’s crucial to consider what type of network infrastructure will be required for the desired scale of viewers. Event planners need to factor in that if an event is to be publicized as having millions of viewers, it needs to be something that scales to that size. Whether it’s streaming from one’s home computer or a premium content delivery network, make your decisions based on the scale of the event.

Another benefit of global reach is preserving and sharing culture. Jenn Barger wrote an excellent article about how her children are learning Mandarin Chinese through Skype, online games, and videos, essentially with Chinese tutors. Global reach may not necessarily involve an official live streaming event, but the availability of anything to learn online in any form of media is just being an internet search away.

Global reach extends to making your event accessible to other countries. I was recently made aware of a situation where a group in England had a high-profile sports event that attracted a Ghanaian sponsor. The sponsor wanted to view the event, so the event coordinators set up a live stream. The event received over 1000 views from individuals mostly located in Ghana. This is a great example of how an event can be successful at reaching a demographic far different from the present location.

Live streaming services have a global reach. It enables users to view a live stream from any location where the specific event is taking place. This is especially handy for corporate events that have individuals who are physically in remote locations. Recently, a company utilized a live streaming service to provide their all-hands meetings to those in regional offices. In the past, this would have been a herculean task with the organization and money it would have taken to assemble the employees and have them all at one location. This also applies to any event that requires bringing together a large group of people. Often times, it’s just not feasible to get everyone together at the same time and place. You can still gather the group, but have members view from wherever they’re located. An example of this occurred recently when a group of student musicians took their nationwide audition.

Interactive Audience Engagement

Real-time conversation is something unique to live streams, and there are many occasions where information dispensed over a traditional broadcast may be missed by the viewer and never followed up on in the hopes of getting consumer expenditure for your product and its increased loyal brand following. An example of this may be Konami’s recent Live Stream of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain at E3, the stream viewers were given the option to tweet questions of the game developers with a chance that they would be answered during the live stream. This use of an out-of-stream communications medium gained greater exposure for the stream and increased Twitter activity related to the product. The live stream and the Twitter conversation created around it is a more effective form of relaying consumer questions to developers than a post on Konami’s social media page with the possibility of those questions never being answered.

Engaging with the audience in any way is a primary concern of advertisers. They are often concerned with creating brand conversations, unlike TV ads which are one-way transmissions of a message. The very structure of streaming encourages audience participation. Twitch’s streamers usually involve the audience in the game by letting them join as players, and simulations of traditional game shows like The Price is Right and Family Feud have been adapted for live streaming with participant involvement from viewers at home. Viewer questions and comments are generally read and reacted to, making viewers feel like their voice can be heard. For example, during E3’s live stream, E3 representatives responded to all comments and questions from the Twitch chat. This is contrasted with YouTube’s recorded videos uploaded by E3 which received no comments back from the content creators. The same goes for recent YouTube live streams of press events; when there is a lack of audience participation, the stream is simply a less effective way of conveying information to that given audience. Finally, in a time where “Attraction Marketing” concept is becoming an ever-increasingly popular advertising strategy, interactive and participatory content is especially important in generating content that keeps the consumer returning to seek more. Live streaming provides a method of doing so for many types of brands.


According to IBM Cloud Video, “cloud platforms eliminate the high costs associated with building or renting traditional linear broadcasting infrastructure, and using streaming encoders and players removes hardware requirements.” While traditional broadcasting may require local servers and broadcasting antennas, the multiple cloud services and peer-to-peer content delivery networks (CDNs) have made live streaming much more accessible at a lower price. Moreover, cloud-based streaming allows for greater scalability. With traditional broadcasting, it is difficult to predict how many viewers are going to tune into a live event. High anticipated viewer traffic that exceeds server capacity may lead to poor stream quality or an event crash. On the other hand, cloud-based streaming makes it so streams can be easily upscaled or downscaled depending on viewer traffic, and at a much lower cost than the price of renting extra traditional broadcasting infrastructure.

Streaming live events are more cost-effective than traditional broadcasting. Regular TV and radio provide a “broadcast and forget” environment. All of the time and money invested is in delivering a show to its audience. Compare this to a weekly video conference with an online community. The show is every bit as valuable as the TV show, but at a fraction of the cost. In addition to less expensive travel and event hosting, many internet broadcasts are able to provide their own modest revenue stream. Pay per view or premium content can help subsidize production costs. Web advertisers tend to pay more for ads on streaming media as well.

Cons of Live Streaming Services

Speaking of the internet, streaming is most reliable on a broadband DSL or better connection to the internet. Dial-up users, who comprise only around 6% of people nowadays, must usually suffer through excessive buffering times and poor video quality. Tyler, 25, an avid SC2 fan, expands on this point, “It’s just that a lot of people in the world don’t have access to internet fast enough to support high-quality streaming. So it kinda sucks for them when they have to watch a higher-level quality SC2 tournament at like 480p.”

All one would need to engage in the act of watching traditional broadcasts on TV is simply a connection to a TV. Simple, even your pet could do it! However, in order to watch live streams, you must have access to a computer and internet, and even then it may be a task that is easier said than done. “The biggest issue with streaming is that it takes a lot of time to learn how to use the programs and navigate to the game you want to see,” says Aaron, 23, a Starcraft II fan and former MLG employee.

The battle of which television viewing method has the upper hand is ongoing. Some say TV, some say PC, some say laptop. There are those that have those fancy video streaming capable cell phones now as well. Regardless of which method is superior, it can’t be denied that live streaming has its issues.

Technical Challenges

Finally, error messages with no solution at the viewer’s end can be very frustrating when trying to watch live streaming video. There are still many compatibility issues with different types of software and computer platforms. Be it Real Media player, Windows Media player, on a Mac or a PC, the list of different combinations is infinite. This issue can turn people away from the video if they have to spend time troubleshooting to try to get it to work. Error messages and compatibility problems are not something a viewer will ever see when the power switch is turned on to a television.

This topic, throughput and broadband capacity, directly affects the viewing of online video. Live streaming video is much more affected than on-demand video because there is a higher percentage of people trying to watch the content at the same time. High server and network loads can cause massive packet loss that results in audio-video desynchronization and video freeze. Likely in the future, online video will be the standard, and traditional broadcast video will no longer exist. For now, traditional broadcast video has a higher bit rate quality, and live streaming video often falls short of the standard. Server and network technology needs to continue to improve before live streaming video can catch up to broadcast video quality.

Technical challenges have always been an issue with live streaming video. It used to be that to watch a live video online, you would have to download the entire video to your hard drive before you could even watch any of it. Then, in recent years, “streaming” video has become the standard, only downloading a small portion of the video at a time, and playing it as it downloads. However, with all the different types of internet connections and the large sizes of the videos, there is often a lot of stopping and starting before you can watch the whole video.

Quality and Reliability Issues

It is widely accepted that higher quality broadcasting services are more immersive and enjoyable to the viewer. The ultimate goal for live streaming service providers is to offer a service that can effectively bring internet-based television to near or even on par with the experience of watching traditional broadcast television. However, at present, due to the inherent issues involved with internet broadcasting, this goal is often hard to attain.

The concept of quality can often be subjective and dependent on an individual’s perception. Whether someone considers a service to be of high quality or not can often depend on many different factors. However, in the context of this comparison between live streaming services and traditional broadcast television, the quality of a broadcasting service can be measured in terms of how close the service can bring the viewer to a ‘TV-like experience’.

Quality and reliability are important issues in all types of broadcast services. However, when comparing traditional broadcast television to live streaming over the internet, the issues concerning quality and reliability are more inherent and often exacerbated within live streaming services.

Pros of Traditional Broadcasting

Reliable transmission is the most important, as traditional broadcasting is reliable and doesn’t have issues that live streaming does. The bandwidth that traditional broadcasters use is dedicated and has very little risk of losing bandwidth in the peak of times. This has been experienced by live streaming companies such as Ustream or JTV, in which there are times late at night where a viewer might buffer in and out, and these live streams experience freezes and lack of synchronization of the audio. It’s rare that a person will experience these issues, and if they are viewing a program on demand, they can guarantee that it will have a smooth connection from start to finish.

In terms of production value, traditional broadcasting provides a much higher value for its viewers. Compared to high production live streaming, traditional broadcasting has a higher standard in definition quality and produces programs with the best equipment and editing software. Live streaming can be done through any computer and capture device and only really requires a high-speed internet connection. While it is possible to emulate the same quality as traditional broadcasting, it is highly unlikely that everyone who is live streaming is doing it. In most cases, there are gamers streaming from their console to the internet, and while the definition is standard or high definition, it cannot compete with traditional broadcasting, which is the source of high-definition television.

Traditional broadcasting is the act of making a program and airing it through a television host or radio host. While it is not live, it is much more efficient in delivery as there aren’t slow load times for a viewer to access the program.

Unlike live streaming, traditional broadcasting has been present for over 50 years and has established infrastructures that are strong and fruitful. Traditional broadcasters have been given allocated bandwidths, and this has become justified through the strenuous process that these companies and organizations have made. If a business or company has established, then employing the services of a traditional broadcaster enables access to demographics and regions that may not have internet services to view live streaming.

Established Infrastructure

The advantages are apparent: cheaper calls and greater efficiency. However, one must have a good internet connection for it to be effective. Should the consumer or service provider’s internet be temporarily disabled, the service itself also becomes unavailable. This being the case, it ends up defeating the purpose as mentioned earlier. One is essentially replacing a pre-existing platform (in this case, the telephone network). The same can be said for live streaming services. If they are attempting to replace the platform of traditional broadcasting, they must deliver something of similar quality. But at this stage, it is not possible.

A good example to illustrate this is the gradual shift of many telephone services onto a voice over internet protocol (VOIP). VOIP is a technology used to transmit voice conversations over a data network using the internet and is steadily replacing traditional telephone services.

If we look at a television station or an established and successful production company, it is not difficult to understand that this organization already has an established infrastructure set up from which to run their broadcasts. This infrastructure is simply a platform from which to broadcast – a concrete feature offered to the consumer. Although it is a factor often overlooked, an established infrastructure is one of the key benefits in favor of traditional broadcasting. The reason for this is that upgraded forms of media are essentially aimed at providing the same platform – that is, one from which to broadcast to the consumer.

High Production Value

With decades of development and establishment, traditional broadcasting has adapted proven ways for producing the highest quality content. First and foremost is the video and audio editing staff. With recorded content, audio and video staff have time to review their work and make improvements where necessary. As the sound and video aspect of the media is the most important part, having specialists in these areas really improves the outcome of the broadcast. There are more effects that the audio and video technicians can use to enhance the media, and they are often used in traditional broadcasting, adding more value to the end product. Special effects such as slow motion replays, instant replays with on-screen graphics, and image enhancing via video production techniques are often used in video media and can only be implemented at a high level with established traditional broadcasting. Step-by-frame analysis is available in sports events, where the play can be slowed down considerably to show in detail the legality of certain plays. The option of High Definition TV has caused traditional broadcasters to create a separate channel just for HD programming. With the new technology of 3D television, traditional broadcasting will lead the way for its implementation in a sports event that will be accessible to viewers at home. High Definition Radio is also in development and will require separate recording skills to produce. Leading to another aspect of high production value, which is multiple channel sound. This can be used to simulate various sounds coming from different parts of the viewing area and is only possible to implement with recorded media. Audio media such as music and sound effects can also be enhanced with various techniques for clearer quality, and with the advancement of audio storage devices, they can last longer. All these attributes of sound and video can be improved with the use of research and development, and traditional broadcasters have a separate division to continually improve the level of the media. High-quality products are the result of fierce competition within the industry, and outstanding achievements are often rewarded with honors such as the Grammy’s/Emmy’s for the best music and video.

Reliable Transmission

Video streaming suffers from two potential issues: 1. If the network is too slow or congested, the streaming video will freeze or buffer. You can end up having to wait an hour for a 30-minute show to watch. This will not satisfy viewers who are used to TV where videos always play immediately. 2. Sometimes the connection will be lost. This is one of the most frustrating issues for users. They sit down to watch their favorite show and get 10 minutes into it before the connection is lost. They can never be sure about when the connection will be reestablished and they can watch the rest of the show. This often leads to them seeking the same video on another site or even giving up on the show completely. The reliability of streaming video can be quite poor and can turn away many viewers. On the other hand, TV has almost always been available, and people are accustomed to being able to sit down and watch it.

Cons of Traditional Broadcasting

The concept of ‘limited audience reach’ refers to the inability of traditional broadcasters to effectively broadcast to a wide spectrum of individuals, and thus a smaller base of viewers or listeners is acquired. This is principally due to the fact that live streaming is now supported by a vast number of devices which are able to connect to the internet. Presently, the revenue stream in traditional television or radio is dependent on creating a program, then attempting to gather viewers by scheduling the show at a specific time. However, without a high degree of marketing, it is difficult to attract many viewers, and it is the viewers themselves who decide whether the show is broadcast at a convenient time for them. If viewers do not want to watch the show, they will not have available time to see when the show is on air. Conversely, the potential audience is much larger for live streaming as the viewer has the ability to essentially ‘pull’ the content as soon as it is available. This is combined with the fact that search engines can easily direct internet users to the live stream as they search for content related to it. Finally, the creation of on-demand versions of live streams means that the content effectively ‘waits’ for the viewer to watch it. This is essentially ‘time-shift viewing’, a term coined to describe recording a television program to watch later, and was considered a luxury with the advent of the Personal Video Recorder (PVR). Now the creation of an on-demand video makes time-shift viewing possible for a far greater number of programs.

Limited Audience Reach

Moving on to alternate methods to increase freedom, we take a closer look at E-learning. E-learning is a blanket term used to describe education that is delivered using internet technologies. It may be used in conjunction with face-to-face teaching, in which case it is known as blended learning, or used on its own. This method has been globally adopted as it facilitates distance learning and computerized learning environments. One form of E-learning of particular interest is webcast lectures, which are now part of UC educational programs. This can range from two-way interactive video at the University of Canterbury, or to even just capturing a classroom lecture or video and posting it on the internet by lecturers. This can be beneficial to students with disabilities as lectures are downloaded as audio and text documents, capturing multi-sensory learning, giving the students layout and content flexibility. They can also replay a 3-hour lecture until it is completely understood without being subjected to time constraints in a classroom. This will be conducive to motivation as knowledge of topic understanding raises self-efficacy and produces positive affect in learning. Self-administered questionnaires and graded quizzes with automatic feedback reinforce learning and retention of material. This is a cognitive process that the disabled student can do at their own pace but, more importantly, they can do it in the comfort of their home with the ability to stop at any time. This setting highly contrasts with the child who is full-time in an ED classroom. Any form of online learning gives the students control and convenience.

We all know “knowledge is power”; however, in the case of education for children with disabilities, knowledge is freedom. So let us spare a thought to how they can find freedom from their limited freedom of movement. The answer is Virtual Reality, as it creates simulated environments that are similar to the real world. Children with disabilities can traverse between different locations within the VR environment in an attempt to be as independent as possible. Control of the virtual world entails the attainment of IT skills. Creating, maintaining, and navigating a virtual world forces children to create and use written strategies to successively reach a specified goal. This is a process that develops skills that will be applied to job-related activities. Simulation activities have been reported to be fun and an effective medium for transferring learning skills. Children can apply newly attained knowledge to a variety of situations, which ensures the maintenance and generalization of learning. It is of particular interest to research the benefits of VR for individuals with autism and ADHD, as it can also create a simulated social world. This can be appropriate for an individual with developmental disabilities who needs to work on interpersonal skills.

Now we go on to idealize the most innovative and unique methods that technology-driven education systems have created and implemented for children with disabilities. If there is growing content for increased time spent on computers and if this can be a learning environment where children with disabilities can attain skills to compete in the workforce, then adaptive or assistive technology is the answer.

Lack of Interactivity

The very nature of traditional broadcasting as a one-way form of communication, which is push-based, does not augur well with the Internet. Broadcasting, which is essentially a visual sounds, lacks the dynamics of text that serve to encourage participation and is limited when the viewer is only receiving. Unlike traditional broadcasting, text in the online environment is a pull-based form of communication, encouraging participation and allowing for interaction. An example of pull-based communication would be an online chat or forum, where Internet users can communicate with one another through text, both in real time and non-real time, discussing and debating issues. Pull-based communication can also take the form of email, where customers can offer feedback to an organization on a product or service. This interaction is simply not possible with a broadcast medium and is at the very heart of what the Internet is about.

Higher Costs

As could be expected, the production of almost any type of data will cost more for traditional methods, with the same being said for traditional television. Live video streaming over the internet does not have as much public awareness as other media forms, and so it is likely that the end product will be viewed as low quality by some, if not most people. An attempt to host a professional live stream would be a very difficult task to accomplish, whereas with On Demand videos, taking the time to make a quality video is much less risky because, unlike live streaming, it can be edited and polished before it is released to the public. The more common use of On Demand video means there is a higher quality of production and a clearer target audience used to reduce costs on resources. Advertising through traditional television often presents a high initial cost, but the results can be long term and substantial. Ads on traditional television are often more effective due to the aforementioned better quality and clearer audience. However, the same can be said for an online video ad as the target audience can be filtered by various means.