The History of Live Streaming and Virtual Events, Explained

The History of Live Streaming and Virtual Events

Today, virtually anyone with a smartphone can deliver their own live streaming event. From “going live” on Facebook during a family vacation to hosting a talk show on YouTube, streaming content is everywhere. But how did it become so prevalent? Why do people love live streaming so much? And how can you leverage it for your business for employee connectivity, lead generation, and tons of other juicy benefits? Let’s start at the beginning… with dial-up modems, believe it or not.

The First “Podcast”

As the story goes, a band called “Severe Tire Damage” had some super-smart buddies at Xerox PARC in Silicon Valley or, more specifically, Palo Alto, California. They used a niche network called “multicast backbone,” or “mBone,” to broadcast the band’s concert all the way to Australia — literally across the planet. And live streaming was born in 1993.

Live Streaming Gets “Real”

Internet company RealNetworks created the RealPlayer for live streaming on home PCs in 1995, broadcasting a Major League Baseball game. In 1997, the company tried to commercialize and monetize with RealVideo, but it wasn’t exactly a home run.

Webcasts Go Mainstream (With Some Help)

In 1999, trendsetting politician and former president Bill Clinton participated in the first widely attended webcast when 50,000 people logged in for the presentation “Third Way Politics in the Information Age,” produced by [email protected] Network and the Democratic Leadership Council. Today, businesses strive for those kinds of webcast attendance figures. But even smaller attendance numbers can yield big results. One webinar with only 232 attendees resulted in $11,286 in sales for a Udemy course, for instance.

Businesses Adopt Webcast and Live Streaming for Employee Connectivity

While many businesses today use webcasts for lead generation and sales, they also adopt the technology to encourage employee connectivity. From live employee training to virtual town halls that deliver important messages to teams, departments, or the company as a whole, businesses have found more uses for live streaming than we could have imagined back in 1993. We’ve gone from live streaming to webcast to webinar, and back again, on more platforms than we ever could have dreamed. And, just like the first streaming concert back in 1993 set the stage for an entire industry that was yet to come, it’s wise to remember that entertainment creates engagement. Why not go full circle and incorporate some live music into your next town hall meeting or webinar? PGi can help you with crystal clear audio, professional-quality video, and the right tools for engagement.


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