What is Live Streaming?
Ustream offers a wide variety of videos — from the serious to the silly.
NBC broadcasted 45 million live Internet video streams of 2012 Olympic events. The recent Mars Curiosity rover landing and the transit of Venus across the sun also caused explosions of interest online, as have speeches by major political figures from Obama to Palin and broadcasts from the Occupy movement.
Live streaming has gone way beyond video chat, music, webinars and "lifecasting" — the broadcast of someone’s daily life for all the world to see. It's now also focusing on huge events that thousands can watch and enjoy simultaneously on computers and mobile devices.
Where can I watch free videos online?
Ustream and Livestream are two of the biggest sites for free live content, with plenty of programming from organizations like Macy's, NASA, Discovery, The Wall Street Journal and the Arena Football League. You can also find lots of soccer and cycling, as well as a few major league basketball, football and baseball games. There's no shortage of musical performances (Foo Fighters, Wynton Marsalis and many more). Of course, there are also cat videos and 24/7 webcams, too. If you can't find live content that interests you, check out the many streams that are archived.
Other free ad-supported sites, like Wiziwig.com and TwitchTV specialize in sports or video gaming-related programs. Justin.tv started out as a lifecast by the site's namesake (Justin Kan) but has evolved into a clearinghouse of user-generated content — and some copyrighted material that occasionally slips through the site's filter.
What can I get if I shell out some dough?
Much like music streaming services, many ad-supported live streaming sites, such as Ustream and Livestream, offer the option to purchase premium (ad-free) service.
[SEE ALSO: What's New in Streaming Music Services?]
Where can I watch stuff?
Most sites are available on PCs and Macs. In addition, Ustream, TwitchTV and Livestream offer free mobile apps for iOS and Android that let you share what you're watching on social networks. Justin.tv offers a paid iOS app for $5. Justin TV's website uses Flash, leaving some smartphones out in the cold.
Wiziwig.tv offers some streams that require a Windows-only app download, while other streams are playable on any browser (Mac or PC) — just watch out for pop-up ads that claim you need a plug-in. (Tip: you’ll see the video playing obscured by ads, but if you hit the Fullscreen icon on the video, the pop-ups disappear.) Wiziwig is not supported on mobile devices.
What were all those sites again?
- Ustream.com - Good for politics, arena football, music performances
- Livestream.com - News, various live events (like New Year’s Eve in Times Square), sports
- Justin.tv - Lifecasting, news, sports, video gaming
- Twitch.tv - Video gaming-related streams (tips, cheats, screencasts, etc.)
- Wiziwig.tv - Sports, sports and more sports