It’s not much of a stretch to say that live streaming or webcasting of funeral services is a popular topic these days. I spoke with one industry vendor this week who said that his phone started ringing last March and hasn’t stopped.
Most of my clients started with a bandaid approach, putting something in place asap to meet families’ needs. But now, as the pandemic has dragged on far longer than anyone wanted, we’re revisiting the initial approach and starting to look for a more robust solution.
In this newsletter, I’ll discuss the options we’re considering and our reasoning. Hopefully, this will save you some time and effort.
The first thing you want to do when considering any new technology is to define your requirements. What do you want this solution to do for you and your families?
Here’s a list I put together for a client recently.
- Easy for the attendees to access and view
This is pretty basic. If a family can’t use it, then we’ve completely missed the target.
Reliable video stream
- After watching Facebook Live streams start and stop over and over again, this issue is pretty high up on the list
Easy for the funeral home to set up
- My clients are generally not super technical and don’t have a tech person on their team. That means whatever solution we pick must be easy for the Funeral Directors to set up and use.
Professional-level quality of video and audio
- If we wanted amateur quality, we’d stick with our current bandaid solutions.
Portable for use at churches and graveside
- Broadcasting from the funeral home is a nice start, but we want a solution that can be set up and used anywhere, anytime.
Expandable capacity – a minimum of 200 viewers at a time
- Live streams have been far more popular than we initially expected. If the deceased is a young person or a public figure, it’s not uncommon to have hundreds of people watching the service.
Avoids copyright issues on music
- This has been a huge issue for people using Facebook or YouTube Live when the sound is suddenly muted because of a song. Whatever we put in place has to get around this issue for us.
Customer support for attendees
- One of my clients mentioned that every time he runs a Facebook Live, he’d get an average of six phone calls from people asking how to watch it. It’s in the obit. It’s on the website. It should be pretty easy….but it’s not for some people. Someone needs to support remote attendees, and the Funeral Director has better things to do.
No long-term contract, so we are not locked into a vendor
- Technology is changing every day. The last thing we want is to get locked into a year-long contract when a better option could come around at any time.
When you consider this list of requirements, especially the one about a portable solution, the list of potential vendors gets pretty short.
Most of my clients started out using either Facebook Live or Zoom.
Facebook Live is easy to set up but prone to stability issues, especially if you’re broadcasting over a cellular signal from the graveside. It also has the dreaded copyright music issue.
Zoom is more stable, but you’ve got to be careful with your security settings to block unwanted visitors. Plus, the Hollywood Squares effect can be pretty tiring for attendees.
One thing I do not like about both Facebook and Zoom is chat.
If you read some of the chat comments made on a Facebook Live or a Zoom broadcast of a funeral service, you might be surprised and disgusted. At least on Zoom you can turn chat off, but on Facebook, you can’t disable it.
Clients have told me that remote attendees have gotten into some pretty ugly chat exchanges during Facebook Lives. They wouldn’t behave like that in person but feel free to do so online.
I have been researching new options, and the two that show the most promise are TribuCast (tribucast.com) and Gather (Gather.app).
To be clear, I do not have any financial stake in either solution and receive nothing for recommending them. I’m just sharing some good options that I’ve uncovered for my clients.
According to Bruce Likly from TribuCast, they’ve got around 1000 customers and have broadcast 6,000 funerals in the last six months. Their customer service plan sounds excellent and covers both attendees and Funeral Directors.
It’s not a cheap solution, but they are providing much more than just live streaming. Apparently, some of their clients absorb the cost, and others pass it on to the family. Overall I would say they are definitely worth considering.
Curtis Smith from Gather told me that they have both a case management and live streaming component, but you can license them separately. He took me through a detailed walkthrough, and their live streaming solution looks excellent.
They charge a flat fee per case regardless of how many service elements you broadcast. Plus, they offer a monthly unlimited plan that would make sense for a lot of funeral homes.
Both Tribucast and Gather create a customized web page for every family you serve. The page is branded with the funeral home’s logo and colors. The funeral home simply puts the link to the page into the obituary and emails the link to families.
I’d rather see the live stream embedded on the funeral home’s obituary page. But that would require the funeral industry website vendors to do something other than fight over flower commissions (that’s a topic for another newsletter).
Those are the only two vendors I have found that meet the requirements I listed above. If you know of another vendor, please have them contact me. I’m actively looking for ways to help my clients upgrade their live streaming capabilities.
I believe that live streaming of funeral services is here to stay. Even after Covid is long gone, people will expect to be able to attend services online.
If you put a bandaid in place last year, it might be time to consider a better solution.
Until next time
update – add Viewlogies.com to the list of vendors you should consider
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