TL/DR (Too long, didn’t read): Livestreams require many variables from the total amount of virtual guests to the different graphics and videos being used. At ZMBmedia, we’ve found pricing to range widely from $750-5000 per finished hour of a livestream based on complexity and the show as a whole.
With COVID-19 cancelling events and conferences around the globe, companies and organizations are resorting to online virtual events to replace the in-person experience. These virtual events are saving money on hotel room blocks, travel expenses and food. Not to mention the astronomical internet fees that hotels will charge for a conference. We’ve compiled a brief explanation of all of the elements to consider when you budget for a livestream or virtual event. As mentioned above, the pricing can vary drastically so you’ll discover which elements cost the most time and money to include in your next event.
So where do you begin? We typically recommend looking at past budgets for conferences and events and consider selling tickets in a similar price range. Just because an event isn’t in person, doesn’t mean that the content isn’t any less valuable. You’ll have some major opportunities to save by taking your next event virtual and the expenses will be very different from the past. As professional livestreamers we’ve discovered the pre-production process to be the most time-intensive and the largest portion of a budget.
Pre-production might include but certainly is not limited to:
- Pre-recording presentations
- Designing graphics and an overall themed look for the video
- Editing video content
- Renting a studio or location for your event to be produced
- Conducting “tech checks” to ensure your presenters are comfortable on camera
- Shipping kits to your speakers that include lights, webcams, microphones or any other items
Pre-production will also include many conversations about logistics. You’ll want to organize time with your presenters, review any videos that needed to be edited, build out website pages or platforms with agendas, schedule rehearsals, create technical assistance guides for your audience and more. Don’t forget since your attendees aren’t live and in person, they might be in a different time zone and schedules will be challenging to balance.
Since this is most likely going to be the largest portion of your budget, we recommend reaching out to your local (or virtual since it can be done from anywhere!) livestreaming professional and provide them a rough outline for your event. After seeing a run-of-show that schedules out the day(s) and shows the amount of speakers, graphics and videos that will need to be seen, a good livestream professional should be able to estimate the amount of hours going into the event prior to going live.
Here are some ballpark numbers of past events that we have livestreamed:
- Two-day virtual conference with approximately 20 virtual speakers. 50% of the presentations were pre-recorded, American Sign Language interpreters and Spanish interpreters were provided for simulcast dubbed livestreams. Total: $25,000-$30,000.
- One ninety minute session with a single speaker, PowerPoint slides, studio backdrop and a single camera. Total: $750-$1500
- Two-hour “Shark Tank” style pitch competition for a University with pre-recorded presentations, live judges and musical intermission. Total: $4000-6000
As you can see, the cost changes based on the complexity of the project. Everything from the amount of people speaking to the pre-recorded content is taken into consideration.
Don’t forget your platform!
At the end of the day, you will need to choose a platform for your viewers to watch the livestream. Websites like Facebook or YouTube allow you to stream completely free of charge. But sites like Zoom may require a paid plan to enable certain features.
Building a custom platform can open up your event to new features. We’ve teamed up with website developers to help some of our clients create a private, password protected website where all of their attendees can be given an individual login to watch. The website can take payment for the event and even house additional features like an event schedule, pre-recorded videos, a live chat lobby area, technical assistance links and more. Conferences really like this feature to make sure their clientele are taken care of. An average web platform like this can be between $2500-5000.
There are more custom solutions that we have seen although we typically recommend avoiding them for a couple reasons:
- There will always be a new kid on the block or shiny object that over-promises and under-delivers (we’ve seen this happen with a $40K product!)
- You’ll need to learn a platform very quickly without having used it before AND your technical team running the livestream will need to learn it too. This will add time and money that you were not originally planning on as well as testing. Your tests might reveal that the big fancy platform you wanted to use won’t work for your needs (we’ve seen it before).
- More tech = bigger problems.
Regarding that last point, a friend of ours reached out while she was attending her yearly convention (virtually) for a major multi-level marketing company. I can’t say who they are but I’ll give you a hint – they like pink automobiles. Their event crashed and burned with nearly one hundred thousand people watching and an estimated millions of dollars being invested into making it happen. Do you really want the headache or the legal problems to deal with? as the old saying goes, keep it simple silly.
Don’t forget the editing time
One of the largest expenses to understand and budget for is editing. This means both before the event and after the event if you’re delivering video recordings for paying members to watch. It takes experienced editors some time to create a smooth and polished look for a highly produced event. They’re going to be making sure your videos match the look of being live and are branded properly. This adds an additional layer that might not be required if we weren’t streaming live. While livestreaming costs are built into the price for your event, editing costs can vary and are dependent on the scale of the event, number of sessions, and the revision process. You might receive an estimate for 20 hours of editing work but if you continue to provide revisions to the editor, they might double the time on the final invoice when all is said and done. We’d hope that your editor alerts you of this before billing (which we always do with our clients) but it is important to understand that editing hours depend on the client’s ability to provide clear and concise requests.
Pre-event recordings and studio time
There are plenty of routes to take when pre-recording speakers and presentations for your live event. Sometimes speakers will come into studio to record, others might call in via Skype or Zoom. If they have a PowerPoint they’ll need additional tools like a teleprompter. If they’re recording remotely, you might want to ship the presenter a kit including a ring light, microphone, earbuds or airpods and a better quality camera. You could also included a branded step and repeat backdrop or a green screen although a green screen recording will require additional editing time. These kits can start as low as $200 but can easily surpass $1000 each depending on what you will provide your guests. Don’t forget shipping costs and a pre-paid return shipping label.
If your livestreaming provider is responsible for the shipping and cleaning of these portable kits, you may incur a convenience fee for the time to drop off and ship the items from a local FedEx or UPS store.
Pre-recording in studio might cost anywhere from $375-500 per hour while pre-recording remotely may cost $125-200/hour. Although your presenter may be speaking for a mere 60 minutes, your livestream technician will be arriving one hour early to setup the studio and prepare. They will also be staying at least one hour after the recording to backup footage and begin the editing process. Keep in mind a 1:3 ratio for pre-event recordings: for every minute of recording, there will be approximately three times as much time being billed.
Once the content is captured, you need to think about the post-recording edit and what it will entail. This will be billed between $100-200 per hour. If the presenter was flawless, your livestreaming tech might not have to do much other than trim the beginning and the end of the recording. If the presenter had to stop multiple times or fumbled over their words because they weren’t prepared, it can sometimes take up to five hours to edit and “fix” a one-hour recording by covering up the presenter with slides or imagery. They’ll also be taking into consideration what is happening in the segment prior-to and after the one they are editing to make sure any transitional elements, slides or introductions of the next speaker are built into the edited video. This will all help to make sure the livestream goes as smoothly as possible when live.
Don’t forget to ask about additional costs that might come up. Think about if your talent will be live and in-studio to lead the event, if additional crew might be needed because the livestream is happening on-site rather than in a studio, travel time, meals for the tech team (please feed your crews lunch!) and audio engineers if you have multiple speakers (like on a panel discussion).
This covers the basics of a virtual event but as you can see there are many elements that go into pulling off a successful one. If you, or someone you know is looking for a livestreaming production studio in Baltimore Maryland, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’d love to answer your questions.
Zephan Moses Blaxberg is the Owner of ZMBmedia, a Baltimore based video production studio and livestreaming company. This article was created using real-world numbers of past clients but is in no way a reflection of exact numbers to expect on your next livestreaming event. We do everything we can to provide a fair and transparent price. No prices here are valid on future quotes. If you’d like a quote for your next event, please contact us.