Could Micropayments Add up to Big Bucks for Your Live-Streaming?

Author: David McMillin       

To charge or not to charge — it’s the question that most event organizers ask as they outline plans to broadcast their programming and connect with remote attendees. However, the issue may not be so simple. Instead of determining an appropriate price tag for access to two or three days of digital education sessions, what if the cost structure relied on nominal fees for very limited access? The financial industry calls them micropayments, and while they sound small, they can add up quickly.

Consider the National Basketball Association’s current test of offering access to limited portions of games for next to nothing. Vasu Kulkarni, managing partner of Courtside Ventures and passionate basketball fan, tweeted a screenshot of a personalized offer from the NBA last week.

The NBA offers other all-access passes to watch the entire league or one team all season that vary from $17.99–$39.99 per month. For an on-the-fence customer who is already paying subscription fees for Netflix, Spotify, cable television, and a range of other entertainment services, justifying another monthly fee might be difficult. However, forking over 99 cents for a back-and-forth game that everyone is tweeting about? That’s an easy call that yields what every digital customer craves: instant gratification.

The meetings industry can take a cue from the micropayment approach. Just as a basketball fan’s purchasing behaviors are influenced by variables of timing (the NBA’s offer was served up instantly via Twitter), cost (99 cents is very low compared with a bundled media service), and care (Kulkarni may be a huge Miami Heat fan and want to follow their race to the playoffs), a remote conference attendee also balances a range of considerations. The traditional approach to promoting a live-stream broadcast might call attention to 40 sessions, 60 speakers, and three days of education credits. If I know that my daily responsibilities will most likely prevent me from actually tuning in for the entirety of the broadcast, I’m not going to pay $150 for the full program.

Now, consider if I receive a message via email or in a social-media feed with an offer to pay $3 to catch the closing keynote speaker — the one with the inspiring story I read about in my favorite magazine three months ago. Then, when the speaker finishes, another offer that sounds even better pops up: Pay $1 for an exclusive online discussion with the speaker.

Micropayments feel like an impulse buy, a simple add-on candy-bar purchase at the cash register. You’re already there, and the cost is small enough that your brain doesn’t bother to put up a fight. For the business, though, those costs can add up to meaningful revenue. For event organizers seeking ways to monetize their digital offerings, micropayments — if the potential audience is macro — could be a sound strategy.

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