Church Online: Pro AV for Streaming Church Services

The dramatic growth of churches using online streaming and on-demand options to extend the reach of their audience offers a steady stream of upgrades and innovations for Pro AV technology solutions.

With the increase in both accessibility and adoption of high-speed broadband internet access worldwide has come a massive increase in users taking advantage of streaming video content. Beyond Netflix, YouTube and social media video streaming, a subset of consumers are taking advantage of relatively new access to video technology are found in the church market.

Houses of worship (HOW) have seen significant growth in video streaming and video on demand. When reviewing stats from streaming providers and platform vendors, the picture for the pro AV industry becomes clear: audio, video, and lighting technologies are needed to enable future growth of church service streaming.

Streaming Growth for Churches Is Impressive

StreamingChurch.TV is a service provider geared exclusively for the HOW market. They provided us with their year-over-year growth statistics, which have seen nearly a 30 percent sustained growth. They are anticipating >122 percent growth in church clients from 2018 to 2019.

StreamingChurch.TV Year-over-year Growth Stats
2015 vs 2014 audience growth = 27 percent
2016 vs 2015 audience growth = 24 percent
2017 vs 2016 audience growth = 7 percent
2018 vs 2017 audience growth = 62 percent
2019 (projected) vs 2018 audience growth = 122 percent

Another provider, Livestream (by Vimeo), surveyed churches using their service and found that almost 3,000 churches across 59 countries broadcast a cumulative total of more than 166,000 services in one year. *Source: https://livestream.com/blog/livestreaming-houses-worship-statistics

Vimeo’s Livestream Church Streaming Infographic

This kind of growth, while impressive, also signals an opportunity for the Pro AV vendors to target the specific, unique needs of hosting inexpensive, small format AV technology but also the scalable steps to a more significant upgrade path over time.

Church Stats on Streaming for Church Online

Streaming for churches is primarily focused on three benefits: 1) increasing audience reach, 2) achieving higher engagement of church members, and 3) as an additional channel for localized service & donation opportunities.

For a growing number of churches, the shift has gone beyond mere streaming to staffed online church experiences with real-time interaction and resources for those watching the online church service. Ben Matthews, open network director at Life.Church, which makes the Church Online Platform, shared about the incredible growth of church online. “We are currently averaging over 10,000 attended services per week on the Church Online Platform from over 2,500 organizations,” noted Matthews. The Church Online Platform averaged a growth rate of 41 percent from 2013 through 2018, according to Matthews.

When talking with churches using online platforms and streaming services, one of the critical distinctions they are quick to make is the data they capture of devices connected versus the actual number of people represented by each connected device. In one of the Facebook church online groups, churches reported an average of 1.8 viewers per device, based on feedback tools in their streaming software platforms.

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We surveyed the Online + Digital Church Leaders group on Facebook and received the following stats:

Average number of church online device connections per week:

Church Online Poll: Average number of church online device connections per week

Various streaming providers offer included analytics about each live stream to show where the viewers are located, when they join the service and how long they watch the church service.

Sophisticated Models for Church Streaming

When accepting the challenge to go beyond audiences passively streaming church services to interactive, real-time online church participation, church leaders are mapping the strategic, operational aspects and the technology investment to the values of their local church. This level of sophistication and commitment changes the metrics from transactional (passive viewers) to relational, with a focus on fostering engagement, building community and after-the-service support.

Of course, pro AV sits squarely in the middle of the streaming technology requirements, with production values increasing dramatically as the audience size increases.

One of the church online leaders, Gareth Gilpin of Mannahouse Church in Portland, Ore., wrote a helpful guide to highlight how their church mapped the value of the technology to the vision and mission of his local church. This guide is now used by churches as a helpful reference point to build their own digital strategy for streaming. In the document, Gilpin created and impressive graphical representation of the scope associated with reaching and engaging with online streaming viewers, what he calls “digital users.”

Sophistication in churches adopting streaming as part of their church online efforts. Source: Digital Strategy for Churches 2.pdf by Gareth Gilpin

Opportunity for Pro AV Vendors to Meet Demand of Church Video Streaming

The growth arc of churches using streaming video follows a similar growth pattern for internet usage and broadband access. The charts below represent a crucial requirement for online streaming: bandwidth availability and adoption.

Broadband penetration in North America from 1999-2014

Graph of bandwidth availability (in Mbps) from 2008 to 2016

Streaming will obviously continue to grow as technology becomes more ubiquitous, easier to access and offers higher speeds for viewers. With this growth will be the increased adoption of video streaming by churches as they expand beyond their brick-and-mortar physical locations to reach a larger community of digital users. With this up-and-to-the-right growth will is the opportunity for the pro AV vendors to promote and provide audio, video and lighting technologies to further this demand for streaming and video-on-demand.

What say you? What kind of growth is your firm experiencing with consumers — HOW market or otherwise — demand for pro AV gear for streaming?