When it comes to video, it’s hard to beat the excitement of live broadcasts where creators and audiences get to experience the action together. Unless, of course, you add some revenue. Wait — live stream and earn money at the same time? Yes, that definitely ups the ante! And we’re happy to show you how.
Over the last few years, live stream stats show broadcast video growing on every front. It exploded in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic kept people at home, yearning for connection through shared real-time experiences. That year, Conviva reported that viewers spent 57% more time streaming than in 2019 as every continent enjoyed double to triple-digit increases.
No matter what kind of content you offer — arts, sporting, gaming, hobbies — there is no better time for your live stream to make money. You just need a little know-how and maybe a push to get going.
From getting started, to leveling up with OTT, to monetizing side offers, here are 11 ways you can get paid to live broadcast online!
Earn seed money through donations and crowdsourcing.
Don’t let a lack of funding stop you from getting started. Whether you’re a nonprofit organization funded by donations or you just need to subsidize a few pilot episodes, there are easy ways to raise money to get your live streaming up and running.
Donations and tips
Many people start live streaming on social platforms, using funding features to build their content library and viewership. Loyal viewers have begun donating to or tipping their favorite vloggers to show their support for great content.
Donations have been around for some time. It could be as easy as enabling the “Donate” button on your stream. Be sure to check the donation rules of the platform you’re using. Facebook’s live streaming donation rules, for example, stipulate you need to be a US-based 501(c)(3) company or have a verified Page on Facebook.
Twitch, YouTube, and TikTok let viewers tip their favorite live hosts, just like tipping buskers by putting a few dollars in their guitar case. Save enough tips, and you can finance a higher-end streaming platform for future live and on-demand video. Just be sure to give props and shout-outs to the people tipping you!
Crowdsourcing lets you fundraise without depending on a single social platform. By posting requests on third-party sites like GoFundMe, Streamlabs, and Kickstarter, you can collect donations and backers for your shows. Be sure to include a video example of your planned programming to bring in more funding once people see the indisputable brilliance of your ideas.
You can return to crowdfunding as you grow, just like True Royalty TV. In 2020, “the Netflix of Royal TV” was well-established, had seen its subscriber base double in the previous six months, and was ready to accelerate growth with new programming. They crowdsourced funding to acquire and self-produce new shows, offering a variety of incentives including free subscriptions and even a tour of Clarence House, the residence of the Prince of Wales.
Start monetizing with OTT.
Now that you’re funded, let’s check out the profitable live broadcasting options by starting at the top, experientially speaking. While there are a number of ways to live stream your content, OTT has made the monetization of high-end streaming (think Netflix and Amazon Prime-level experiences) relatively easy for any content creator.
OTT is experiencing exponential growth. At Vimeo, we saw 5 times more OTT channels created in 2020 than in 2019 and 20 times more subscribers to those channels. The OTT market should reach $167 billion in revenue by 2025 and now’s the chance to get a piece of that.
The advantages having of your own streaming platform are impressive:
- Branded experience
- High-end streaming
- Live and on-demand video options
On-demand monetization strategies.
When beginning your live broadcasting journey, you want to consider the various types of video on-demand (VOD) monetization models available to you with OTT. It is key to choose the model that works well with you and your brand.
The major buckets of monetization model include:
- Subscription video on demand (SVOD) – monetization strategy based on recurring revenue through ongoing content and classes; usually a monthly or annual subscription.
- Advertising-based video on demand (AVOD) – monetization model that relies on viewers watching ads in your video (e.g. Youtube, Hulu).
- Transactional video on demand (TVOD) – one-off content that is available for purchase or rental; usually a supplement to an SVOD strategy.
When considering a monetization strategy, pricing, accessibility, and content format should be a factor in determining your OTT model.
Launch a subscription-based service.
We touched on SVOD, but it’s worth a deeper dive. The subscription video on demand model gives you an assured, renewable revenue stream through monthly or annual subscriptions to your channel.
The thing to remember about SVOD is that you must consistently release content that’s relevant and valuable to your subscribers. We recommend you have at least ten completed videos before launching your channel. You’ll lose subscribers if you start strong but your shows start to lose quality, or the cadence starts to get wobbly — and the bad word of mouth can tank you.
Oh good, you haven’t run away after that dire warning, so a subscription model is still an option! One of the top questions people have is, “what’s the right subscription price?” The general sweet spot is about $7.99 – $9.99 per month. That said, the best price for you will depend on how frequently you release new titles and the genre of your content. Monthly subscription prices vary:
- Entertainment channels should charge $4.99-$6.99.
- Our top fitness sellers charge $9.99 – $14.99.
- Our instructional customers offer the broadest range at $7.99 – $14.99.
Another way to use subscription models is to marry your live broadcasting to Patreon. Your paid subscribers on Patreon love getting exclusive video whether it’s Patreon-specific episodes and shows, or early access to your video content on other platforms. Since Patreon does not have its own video platform, it built integrations with Vimeo and YouTube, letting you have completely secure gated content that only your Patreon subscribers can view.
Make money with ads.
Just because you’re live streaming, it doesn’t mean you can’t use the tried-and-true method of broadcast monetization: advertisers. Back in Q3 of 2018, ad views on live streaming grew 56%, and it’s still growing.
Welcome to the world of advertising-based video on demand (AVOD)! We already stated that SVOD is the most reliable form of income. However, if you’re not sure a subscription model will work for you, you can still make money by placing ads within your video.
Ad revenue is small on a per-watch basis, so be aware that AVOD works best when you have a large audience following your live streams. Happily, audiences have become accustomed to video ads, thanks mainly to the many ad types offered on YouTube, including non-skippable and skippable ads, bumper ads, and overlays. If you already have a large audience and they’re not turned off by interruptions, then consider AVOD.
The AVOD monetization model can be a win-win. It allows viewers to watch your live streams for free (aka low barrier to entry) in exchange for putting up with ads. And for you, your reach won’t be hindered by a paywall or access to specific apps.
Host live pay-per-view events.
Long gone are the days when pay-per-view meant paying exuberant amounts of money to watch a single UFC match on your tv.
Despite the fact that the original concept of pay-per-view is at risk, many content creators are relying on the transactional video on demand (TVOD) monetization model to sell, one-off, live pay-per-view content. Furthermore, live pay-per-view allows creators to gain additional revenue streams that are separate from their subscription business while acquiring customers by reaching new audiences who may not be ready to subscribe.
For example: If you are a fitness business with a Vimeo OTT account, you can diversify your revenue streams by offering one-time extended classes or retreats, in addition to live and on-demand content. Or, if your business is in entertainment, you can cover limited-time only, live PPV content for your channel subscribers in addition to the content they look forward to week after week.
Benefits of Live PPV
- Acquire new customers: Offering live pay-per-view allows you to expand your existing customer base, unlocking passive revenue by reaching new audiences who are not ready to commit to a full season or subscription.
- Increase customer lifetime value: As you acquire new customers through live PPV you’ll have the opportunity to bring them back into your channel with more live content based on their viewing preferences or even hook them onto a subscription plan.
- Diversify your revenue streams: Subscription businesses generate more predictable recurring revenue, but it’s a good strategy to diversify your monetization streams to mitigate any potential negative impact on your revenue if consumption trends change in economic downturns (e.g. consumers cut costs by cutting subscriptions).
Whether you are a yoga studio owner or an online music instructor, think about turning your next live broadcast into a live pay-per-view event.
Influencer revenue: sponsorships and affiliate programs.
You may be thinking, “I’m not sure how to make money broadcasting without asking so much of my audience. I’m not subscription-ready, and I’m not sure my audience will put up with ads.”
It’s the era of influencer marketing. Chances are, if your content is good enough to gain an enthusiastic following, you can find brands that will happily pay you to promote their product or service. You’re offering up products of interest to your audience and making it easy for them to investigate a possible purchase.
Brands are happy to sponsor programs that share targeted audiences. And for a good reason — influencer marketing statistics are impressive:
- A full 86% of women use social media for advice on purchases.
- Influencer marketing campaigns earn $6.50 for every dollar spent.
Sponsorships are similar to ads but less intrusive. A brand will sponsor your video or a single live stream, paying you for a mention plus a short personal testimony about their product. Payments are typically calculated per view or per subscriber count of your channel.
For example, you may livestream dog training classes, and canine DNA company Acme Dawg sponsors your show.
- You announce your show is being sponsored (audience cheers because they’re getting great content for free, thanks to Acme Dawg).
- You proceed to share the surprising Acme Dawg DNA findings that your chihuahua mix Malachi is 2% St Bernard (audience connects with Acme Dawg because of this amusing fact).
- Acme Dawg pays you $30 per 1000 views (similar to CPM in media buys).
- Your show has 10,000 viewers.
- You’ve made $300, and Malachi gets bonus treats for the week. Not too shabby!
Similar to sponsorships, an affiliate program is when brands pay you for recommending them. Affiliate programs offer a commission for sending them traffic and/or sales. As an affiliate, you get a unique link to give to your viewers. The brand then tracks that link, usually with an Urchin Tracking Module (UTM), to accredit clicks and purchases.
For example, you might live stream art classes. During these classes, you recommend specific art brands and products to your audience and give them the URL to research and purchase them.
Hubspot has a great list of the top affiliate programs based on commissions, encompassing many B2B and B2C companies from Amazon’s affiliate program to Wix and Sage Financials. There’s a program for almost any live stream content you plan to create.
Create a branded app.
Your audience is on the go, so your video needs to be as well. Live broadcasting means your content is being sent NOW, whether or not your viewer’s stuck on that always-late train from South Station.
Vimeo’s data shows that while viewing preferences change by genre, viewers of your video content are no longer tying themselves to their desks or living rooms. They’re watching on a variety of devices.
Stream live to one or more platforms — OS, tvOS, Android, Android TV, Fire TV, Xbox One, and Roku — and you can monetize live video from your app.
How important are apps to streaming revenue? We looked at our OTT customers with over 1,000 subscribers and found that 93% have branded apps. When people are paying you for content, you want to make it easy to get that content. Otherwise, they’ll go somewhere else.
In money-making terms, the bigger your subscriber base, the more revenue you bring in. And given our remote culture, branded apps will grow your subscriber base. Cha and ching.
The side hustles: products and services.
While you’re working out how to make money broadcasting, be sure to consider monetizing through related opportunities.
Promote and sell products
It’s time to get crafty! Fans are happy to sport merchandise from their favorite brands, including your show. T-shirts, bumper stickers, really any swag you can think of can sell if you have a good design and clever copy.
Better yet, offer products that fit with your content. Do you live stream music lessons? Offer instruments, or side merchandise like guitar picks and shaker eggs with your logo. Our customer Y7 Studio has a very specific in-person customer experience. In order to create a similar CX for their streaming customers, they offer an online bundle that includes a singularly designed yoga mat + a candle scented with the fragrances of their studio.
The products don’t have to be physical objects. You can also create downloadable assets to further the live streaming content. For example, daily guided audio meditations that connect to the messaging of your fitness classes. Or a 30-day cleanse guidebook. Whatever has value for your fans.
Offer live broadcasting adjacent services
You get paid to broadcast online because there’s an audience interested in your content, and that audience considers you an expert and/or an influencer. You can easily morph live fitness classes into 1:1 private coaching or offer private tutoring no matter what your content. If you stream art classes, it’s just as easy to create private Painting and Pinot Noir parties. This approach to expanded services deepens your relationships with your subscribers in addition to providing you with income. And everybody’s happy!