Simulcasting is a method of transmission that saves broadcasters time and money by allowing them to share audio and video through multiple channels simultaneously. Originally, this helped broadcasters air programs on television and radio concurrently, but today it applies to online streaming media as well.
What is Simulcast?
Simulcast is the condensed version of "simultaneous broadcast." It describes when broadcasters send multiple transmissions of the same content concurrently via different media, which allows them to reach a wider audience. It's not a new idea, either. One of the earliest instances of simulcasting occurred in 1926 when the BBC transmitted both medium and long-wave radio signals of a live symphony performance.
The BBC's simulcast allowed home listeners to create an impressive surround sound experience by tuning into both broadcasts with the use of two receivers. The dual transmission also meant that a wider audience was able to receive the signal. Because for the first time, the station's listeners had more than one option for how they could listen to a program.
Simulcasting evolved further with the introduction of television. Transmitting a radio broadcast of a television show's audio allowed broadcasters to reach an even wider audience, especially during the 1930s, when early television sets were prohibitively expensive. As televisions became more common, once popular radio shows like "You Are There" found greater popularity as television shows. And eventually, the radio shows were abandoned as television became the new family pastime.
Today, simulcasting also includes online streaming media and is so common that most audiences never think twice about how they'll consume their favorite programs. Modern simulcasts allow audiences to tune into live streams through seemingly endless combinations of social media platforms and streaming services. For instance, the NFL transmits multiple signals of every live football game, which allows fans to watch their teams via streaming platforms like Peacock and traditional cable television and listen in via radio broadcast.
How Does Simulcasting Work?
Simulcasting transmits multiple signals, each containing the same media, which allows audiences to receive the broadcast on the device or platform of their choice. What this looks like in practice depends on the media and how audiences access it. For instance, a radio simulcast typically uses more than one radio tower to transmit different radio frequencies, like broadcasts for both AM and FM radio.
Modern broadcasters use software that automates the process of encoding and transmitting media for different channels. Encoding and simulcasting software prepares media for different channels by adjusting things like resolution, bitrate, and file type.
For instance, Vimeo allows users to stream video feeds to multiple channels simultaneously by offering integrations for platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. All users need to do to simulcast is integrate each platform and give Vimeo permission to share video to their newly connected profile. Then, Vimeo automatically transmits signals to each selected profile, allowing users to reach audiences on all of their social media platforms with the same live video stream.
3 Benefits of Simulcasting
A simulcast's primary benefit is the ability to transmit multiple versions of the same content at once. This improves efficiency and helps content creators communicate with the largest possible audience.
1. Save Time and Money
Simulcasting allows you to share media to all of your channels at once, which means you won't have to dedicate time or money to creating unique content for each channel where you have an audience. Different platforms have their own specifications for media content. And to transmit signals that meet those specifications, you'll either need different content or a way to repackage your content for each platform's specifications.
Just look at social media --- most platforms require a custom real-time messaging protocol (RTMP) to livestream. But because "the location of where to input a custom RTMP differs between platforms," the RTMP you install for one platform won't allow you to share the same livestream to another. So, if you want to simulcast your livestream to Instagram and Twitter, all you'll need is a second RTMP that can transmit the stream to the platform. Or you can use "third-party services that 'split' one stream in order to send it to multiple RTMP points."
Let's say you're running an influencer marketing campaign, and you plan to have the influencer go live on the brand's social media account. Because the influencer is incredibly popular and has a busy schedule, their contract only guarantees one appearance. If you don't simulcast the livestream, you'd need to negotiate new contracts (and hope your influencer partner has time) to schedule additional livestreams for other platforms.
2. Reach a Wider Audience
Transmitting multiple signals simultaneously helps you reach a wider audience and ensures they see their preferred version of your content. Packaging media to fit the specifications of different platforms also means that audiences see a high-quality version of the content, regardless of how they access it.
But without simulcasting, you'll only be able to reach individuals on a single platform --- you'll stunt audience engagement and growth. And that's the problem that many content creators and streamers battled when they first shared content on Twitch.
For many years, the popular streaming platform required that livestreams on Twitch be exclusive, preventing its users from livestreaming to any other platform. But in August 2022, Twitch abandoned this requirement. Twitch acknowledged that its users have audiences they still want to connect with on other platforms and allowed them to do so by supporting simulcasting on YouTube and TikTok.
3. Get Better Data Insights
Every platform where you engage your audience provides you with data that can improve your future content by helping you understand what your audiences respond best to. And according to a recent report from Sprout Social, 85% of business executives believe that social media will be one of the most important data sources as they move into the future. Simulcasting allows you to engage with your audience through multiple social platforms at once --- and the more signals you transmit, the more useful data you'll have to draw insights from afterward.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between simulcasting, multicasting, and standard streaming?
Simulcasting and multicasting both refer to when content creators transmit their media via more than one signal, which allows their audiences to tune in through a variety of channels. Standard streaming is a broad term that encompasses both singular transmissions of media as well as simulcasting and multicasting.
Is a simulcast the same as a live stream?
A simulcast is not the same as a live stream. Live streaming refers to the transmission of media as it happens. This can happen on only one platform. However, if a live stream is transmitted to multiple channels, then it is also a simulcast.
What do you need to simulcast?
Simulcasting requires software that can encode and transmit media for different channels in real time. For instance, Stream’s Video and Voice Calling API allows users to transmit multiple streams of live events, allowing participants and audience members to join through their preferred devices.