How To Start Online TV Channel

In this digital era, it seems like cable TV is a relic of the older era, and many people have cut the cord and stopped their cable subscriptions in favor of internet-based TV channels and platforms like YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu, among others.

Meaning, there’s now also a lucrative opportunity to start your own online TV channel: while in the past we needed to build or rent the expensive TV broadcast tower before we can run our own TV channel, nowadays it’s much more affordable and accessible to start our online TV channel. 

It’s actually not all that hard to start an online TV channel, and you can take advantage of platforms like YouTube or Twitch, as well as broadcasting your channel on your own website and platform. 

So, how do we start? Below, we’ll discuss the tips you’ll need to start an online TV channel, starting from the first one. 

Planning Your TV Channel

There are basically three things you’ll need to decide before starting an online TV channel: your content, your distribution model, and your monetization method. 

Your content

What’s your TV channel going to be about? Arguably the biggest challenge of starting an online TV channel is finding and attracting your ideal audience, and your content is the key to winning this viewer’s attention. 

Although you can try to be a jack-of-all-trades and juggle between all kinds of content just like a traditional TV channel would, it’s typically better to focus on a single niche. 

Determine what kinds of target audience you are looking to target, and you can figure out what types of content you’ll offer. 

Here are some popular niches you can target when starting an online TV channel: 

  • Sports: pretty self-explanatory. You can broadcast sports events and also review matches, discuss tactics, etc. 
  • Education: you can focus on certain topics like history, science, philosophy, etc. 
  • Children: a huge niche with massive potential market
  • Religion: a lot of opportunities to build a loyal community
  • Entertainment: gaming, comedy, music, etc. 

Your Distribution Method

There are three main content distribution models to choose from when running an online TV channel: 

  1. On-demand: think YouTube or Netflix. Your content will be available for your viewers to choose from, and they can choose to watch this content any time they see fit. 
  2. One-time live-streaming: you broadcast your content live (can be pre-recorded), and to watch this content your viewer must tune in to your channel. After the live broadcast period, the content might be available as on-demand content.
  3. Linear streaming: you’ll broadcast your content on a 24/7 schedule, much like traditional TV broadcasts. 

Which distribution model is ideal would depend on your target audience’s preferences. Although the on-demand model is obviously popular with the rise of  YouTube and Netflix, the linear model is also making a comeback

Monetization method

There are also three main ways to monetize your TV channel : 

  • Advertising-supported: viewers can view your TV channel for free, but you’ll show ads. You can also charge a subscription fee so the viewers can access the ‘premium’ version of your channel where you won’t show ads. 
  • Transactional-model: viewers must pay a certain fee before they can consume a single content. Similar to the pay-per-view model in traditional TV
  • Subscription-model: viewers pay a subscription fee (monthly or annually) to access your channel

Preparing Your Infrastructure and Equipment

While your actual online TV channel setup may vary depending on your budget, the scale of your channel, whether you’ll stream live often or use pre-produced content, among other factors, but there are only four essential elements of online TV channel infrastructure: video/audio source, encoder, video hosting platform, and a reliable internet connection. 

That’s it, and here we will discuss each of them. 

  1. Video and Audio Source
Video Source

A camera is the most common video source, but it can also be a video file on your computer or even video uploaded on other platforms that you’ll re-stream. You’ll most likely need at least one camera, or two for redundancies if you are going to live stream your content. 

Entry-level cameras are affordable and compact/lightweight, and you can get one nowadays for below $500. However, there are also professional video cameras that can cost above $10,000. 

Audio source

You’ll need at least one decent microphone. Nowadays there are USB microphones with pretty decent quality that are also pretty affordable. 

  1. Encoder

Especially important if you are going to live stream your content. 

An encoder ‘encodes’ the stream of data coming out from your video camera as one complete video instead of a stream of images. This will reduce the overall file size and reduce buffering for the viewers. 

Hardware encoders are dedicated hardware processors. They are typically more expensive but can provide more reliable performance with lower latencies. Software encoders are essentially programs that run on your computer/smartphone. There are free and affordable software encoders like OBS, vMix, or Wirecast that are pretty reliable, but you might need a capture card to connect your camera and microphone to your computer. 

  1. Video Hosting Platform

You have various different platforms on which you can stream, but in general, you have two main options: 

  1. Using free social platforms, mainly YouTube and Facebook to live-stream your church services. You’ll have less freedom in what types of content you can stream, branding, and monetization.
  2. Build your own platform. There are various platforms that will allow you to do this, and you can also do it yourself (with the help of a professional web developer). You’ll get more freedom with this method in personalizing your video player and your content, and you wouldn’t need to worry about breaching content regulations, and so on. 

We’d recommend using a professional video hosting platform so you can stream your content both on your website/app and relevant third-party platforms to maximize your reach. 

  1. Reliable Internet Connection

You’ll need to pay extra attention especially if some or most of your content is going to be live-streamed. At the very least, your bandwidth should be 1.5 times your stream’s target bitrate. For example, if your target bitrate is 4 Mbps, then you’d need at least 6 Mbps of bandwidth.

Conclusion

Creating an online TV channel is not fairly difficult and expensive by today’s standards, but having a clear plan and investing in the right platform is still important if you want to capture your target audience’s attention and grow a successful TV channel. Focusing on the right niche, targeting the right audience, and using reliable online streaming software like Viloud is essential in achieving success with your online TV channel. 

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