Device Type: desktop
Skip to Main Content Skip to Main Content

Real-Time Video Streaming: Who Needs It and Why?

This article was updated on July 16, 2021

Live chat and real-time video streaming have been on the rise for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic made them mainstream.

man in apartment plays chess over live video

By August 2020, 43% of Americans were regularly video chatting with businesses, up from 28% in January, according to the Vonage Global Customer Engagement Report. And with events and conferences now driven online, there are also plenty of new use cases for livestreaming. Yet, as many business leaders are now learning, not all real-time video streaming is created equal.

In fact, events you thought you were watching "live" might have happened over a minute ago. The most popular live video streaming protocols such as HLS and RTMP, while often described as "real time," are subject to encoding, transmission, and then decoding. Each of these processes introduces a delay before you get to feast your eyes and ears on the glorious content.

Livestreaming this way is an incredibly effective and low-cost way to reach a global audience simultaneously, regardless of where your viewers are or what device they're using. However, this type of video streaming isn't actually live. Due to the different processes involved, the delay can be between 15 seconds up to 90 seconds — a whole minute and a half after the original event.

When Only Real Time Will Do

Live video streaming using HLS or RTMP is a no-go when real-time interaction is key. In many situations, anything other than real-time video streaming would severely impact the audience experience and could even render the whole thing unviable.

Let's have a look at use cases where only true real-time streaming will cut it.

Online Auction

If you've ever seen an auctioneer in full flight, you know those guys don't waste time. With bids coming in fast for popular items, audiences and bidders alike stay super focused to keep track of the rising price, and everyone enjoys the thrill of putting a last-minute bid on that once-in-a-lifetime item.

So when the auction moves into the virtual world, the same speed, pace, and responsiveness are crucial to maintaining the atmosphere. For bids to come in and to be acknowledged fairly and accurately by the auctioneer, only real-time streaming will do.

Auction houses are using real-time streaming solutions like the Vonage Video API to attract more bids while still retaining the same sense of excitement as their physical showrooms. This way, they can keep their businesses afloat during the pandemic and expand their customer base around the world.

Interactive Webinars

For a truly interactive webinar, real-time video streaming is a must. Otherwise, conversation, questions, answers, and arguments become disjointed. With no delay between the presenter and the audience, it's easy to bring guest speakers or audience members into the main event to ask questions or to contribute to the discussion without missing a beat. For everyone else watching, the switch is seamless and fluid.

Giles Bertaux, CEO of webinar platform Livestorm, hits the nail on the head: "Hosting real-time webinars is critical to our end users. Webinars are all about engagement. The more you engage your attendees the more likely they are to convert. This is not something you can do with a 30s latency. The Vonage Video API really helped us build the webinar software our customers needed."


As any teacher will tell you, it was hard enough to keep a class in order before adding the complications of a virtual classroom setting. For remote learning to be effective, communication needs to be instantaneous. This way, teachers or instructors can coordinate lively discussions, practice fluent foreign language conversations, and mediate debates among a large group of students.

For in-person training or learning, real-time video streaming is also a great way to bring in a panel of experts from around the world to participate in the same conversation and reach a large audience.

Social Interactive Broadcast

The world of social media and online communities continues to grow, and live video is increasingly part of that evolution. For building relationships, nothing beats real time.

Kickstarter Live is a great example of how live video can enable great relationship-building. This social interactive livestreaming application allows product developers to have real conversations with current and potential crowdfunding backers. Product developers get to share their passion with a wide audience, and backers can easily jump into the conversation to ask questions. Trust is a huge element of crowdfunding campaigns, and Kickstarter Live is helping to foster that trust, which leads to more successful campaigns.

Sports Media and Entertainment

Even before the pandemic, the MLB was letting fans chat with players via a real-time interactive streaming app. Now, all major sports leagues are filling seats with life-size screens featuring fans watching in real time from home. So are talk shows and other events that are typically filmed in front of live audiences.

While other livestreaming protocols allow these shows to go out to a large audience, it's the real-time communication that makes the format work and ensures the show goes on.

Interactive Gaming

The already-huge gaming industry has only grown during the pandemic — 35% of consumers reported engaging more with online games and entertainment in August 2020 than in January, according to the Vonage report.

Everyone knows gaming is more fun when it's a social activity, and timing is absolutely critical for the gaming experience. So anything other than true real-time streaming won't do.

Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too

When real-time streaming video is a must, the Vonage Interactive Broadcast allows up to 3,000 viewers to connect to the same session with minimal latency.

Of course, you're more ambitious than that, and some of your audience is just there for the show, not to get involved. That's why Vonage allows you to combine large audience real-time streaming with even larger audiences via HLS or RTMP, giving you the best of both worlds and the opportunity to grow your audience and your business.

Written by Vonage Staff

Deskphone with Vonage logo

Talk to an expert.