We don't normally write about technical matters on our news page, but I wanted to give you all a bit of insight into some changes that are underway on our live stream - and why we're making them.
Over the last year, and particularly over the last 6 months we've seen a number of changes which have made us look again at how we live stream. These are partly problems of success - more people have been joining us live and on demand over the last 6 months than at any other time, and we are reaching now the limits of what our current streaming approach and handle.
Another major change has been that of technology. Of course technology is an ever-moving thing, but, up until now we have been reliant on a stable, but old technology called Flashplayer to allow you to view our services. The bad news is that flash player is no longer supported on lots of devices - so even if you view using flashplayer today (and you may not even realise you are using it) - the chances are the next device you buy will not support it. So we are forced to introduce a new type of player to stay with current standards.
Thirdly, what people use to view our live and on demand stream is changing. At the start it was mainly PCs - but today we have a mix of PCs, Macs, Android and iPhone phones, tablets, smart TVs, set top boxes, and we are looking at how to support a bigger range of devices.
So how might it affect you? Well hopefully, the vast majority of you will not really notice much change, apart from the stream will hopefully break up a little bit less, and the quality should be a bit better. This will generally be the case for people with computers and newer, more powerful phones, tablets etc. For some people with older equipment, or less powerful equipment you may have to use one of our alternate players which require a little less powerful a device, but sacrifice a bit of picture quality.
How many people are affected in a bad way, who are having to use an alternate stream or player? It's hard to gauge, but our numbers on Sunday Night were significantly up on normal. Of those numbers 93% of viewers were able to watch either the new stream, or the unencrypted version of the new stream. Only 7% chose to use the old stream. So we believe that the changes to the players are helping more people watch online than ever before. I've also personally had messages thanking us for making the stream available to them, where they were never before able to watch it, and at the same time messages from those who had difficulties viewing it. It's always difficult making it better for everyone.
But the vast majority of people should be able to view on one of the players that we use, so do take a minute to try the different players if the main page doesn't work out for you, and let us know if you can't watch the live stream at all.
So that's the reasons for the changes that we've already made. What's next?
There are a number of other changes that we need to make over the next few weeks as we look at how to scale to larger numbers. We're trialling a few options - different streaming services that will support greater numbers - and hopefully will settle shortly on what is best for our viewers.
So, in the mean-time if you are struggling to watch live online, do try the alternate players, or, drop us an email or facebook message to let us know you're having problems. Your feedback is an important way for us to know if things are working.
Lastly, many of you, when you contact us, tell us you watch every week, and that we are your church, and tell us how blessed you are by the ministry online. It's our privilege to be able to bring the Word of God, and the worship from this church right into your living room or wherever you choose to watch. Some of you live too far away to attend in person, others are unable to leave your homes because of sickness or disability. Some of you donate online to help support our church and in turn this ministry - there is significant cost in running our online ministry and your support helps us continue to provide this, and lastly and many of you pray, and we ask for your continued prayers, for wisdom as we work to improve this for everyone, and for effectiveness, that the Word of God will be received by the substantial congregation that we minister to online.
We appreciate you all.