What Time Should You Start Your Live-Streamed Broadcast?

As we’ve seen our coverage of live streamed events and shows expand, a question that’s been coming up for me more and more is that of what the optimal time might be to start a broadcast. After all, if you’re not beholden to start times and can go live whenever you want, there has to be an ideal time to do so. And while there are a lot of factors to consider, such as who your audience might be and what time zone you’re aiming to hit, there does appear to be a sweet spot.

Max Haot, CEO of livestream.com, considers primetime to be 3-5 PM on a weekday for whatever time zone you’re aiming to target, whether it be West Coast or East Coast, and also recommends that broadcasters start their stream as early as possible and let it run as late as possible. “For example, for a live red carpet we recommend putting a locked camera of the empty red carpet, or even the red carpet being setup 2-5 hours before the event,” he said via email. “When you do this viewers are confident the feed will be there later and as a result are prepared to recommend it to their friends via Twitter or Facebook sharing.”

Shari Foldes of Ustream, meanwhile, got more specific, saying that “Our biggest times for traffic are weekday evenings between 4-8 PM PST.”

When pressed with the question, Evan Solomon of Justin.tv found that peak times for his site differed based on the activity happening. According to him, “Viewing peaks from noon-3 PM PST, broadcasting peaks from from 3 PM-5 PM PST, and chatting peaks from 5 PM-9 PM PST.” The latter, based on direct user feedback about the value they get from using the site, he would consider to be prime time, as “That’s when there’s the most interaction going on,” but 3-5 PM PST is when “there’s the most stuff to watch,” which holds more value for users who are viewers and don’t broadcast.

So, there you have it: 3-5 PM, depending on your time zone. This matches with decisions made by companies like Revision3, who have a full live-streaming studio set up in their San Francisco offices. When their show CO-OP switched to a live-streamed broadcast, the reason given by programming VP Ryan Vance for the choice of their Tuesday at 4 PM PST start time was that “It’s a good time to catch people at home on the East Coast and at the end of their work day on the West Coast.”

However, what time your show starts won’t necessarily make it or break it. Mike Rotman directs two different live-streamed shows — Stupid For Movies, which starts broadcasting at 8 PM PST on Thursdays, and Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show, which just switched its Sunday airtime from 5 PM PST to 3 PM PST.

The reason for these airtimes is strictly due to circumstances beyond Rotman’s control: One of the hosts of Stupid for Movies “has a real job” and can’t make it to the studio any earlier on Thursday nights, and as for Chat Show (which won a Streamy last night for best live production), they use the Mahalo studio in Santa Monica to shoot, which is occupied by Malaho employees during the week.

However, both shows still pull in impressive audiences — Stupid for Movies, thanks to being featured by Ustream and the addition of celebrity guests, got 23,000 viewers during its last broadcast, and the most recent Chat Show pulled in 30,000 in its first ten minutes alone. Moving Chat Show earlier hasn’t seemed to affect their numbers particularly, and as for Stupid for Movies, Rotman likes going up later at night.

“The bottom line is that it depends on what you’re doing — late night comedy seems silly to do during work hours,” he said via phone. “Doing a show during a weekday work day doesn’t really seem like an event, and I don’t mind butting heads against TV primetime.”

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