One of the most common misconceptions about live streaming video is that you can make money by having viewers to pay for your content. While it’s an appealing marketing strategy, the last 15 years of producing live streaming content taught us live content is much more effective when it’s used to build a relationship with your remote audience and encourage them to further engage with your company, rather than pushing for a hard sell.  If you’re already investing resources into producing your event and bringing a crew out to live stream it, do you really want to introduce a barrier of entry to your online audience?

Before we delve into alternatives for a paywall, we want to acknowledge when it would make sense to have your audience pay to view. Consider the big names in paid streaming content like Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Go and Hulu. Once you put a price tag on your streaming content, you are placing yourself in direct competition with the biggest names in the entertainment industry and shows that have million dollar budgets. Even well financed streaming companies with award winning content fail to get enough subscribers; see the recent news about the shut down of comedy streaming service Seeso. So unless you have major names attached to your production, it’s a better strategy to offer your stream for free. To put it into perspective: which show would your customers rather pay money for: Paul McCartney Live in New York, or an Annual Marketing Conference Keynote?

“But we don’t have a budget,” you might say, “we need to cover our costs!” To which we would respond, “of course you do!” And there are a few different ways to cover the cost of hiring a live streaming company without putting up a paywall. The simplest way is to seek out a sponsor for the stream. Our clients have seen great success with this approach, since it’s a hot new technology with exciting curb appeal. Chances are you already have sponsors for your event, and featuring their brand in the live stream—and the long-tail content you publish after the event—is a great way to add value to the sponsorship dollars they’re willing to spend. Another strategy is to include a “donate now” link in the description of your live video, and have your presenters or on-camera talent mention it to the online audience between sessions. You could also run a “live stream special” on products and services you already offer with a special landing page or discount code that’s exclusive to the people watching online.

Covering your event costs in other ways frees your team up to use the live stream of your event or conference to engage new viewers and show them why they need to attend the event next year, plus it gives them an opportunity to learn about your culture and encourages them to explore the services and products you offer if you’re a business, or donate to your cause if you’re a non profit.