Microsoft Teams – Live Events Takes Skype Broadcast Meetings to Where it Should Have Been!

Yesterday (July 12th 2018) Microsoft announced the preview of Microsoft Teams Live Events. Live Events is the Microsoft Teams version of Skype Broadcast Meetings. But while Live Events has some similarities to Broadcast Meetings it is not a direct port over.

Live Events does use the same type of technology, i.e. Skype plus Azure Media Services,  Azure Content Delivery Network but the experience of using the feature is much more baked into the Microsoft Teams client than it ever was with Skype for Business.

The limitations that existed with Broadcast Meetings in Skype, exist to some degree in Microsoft Teams, that being support for 10,000 attendees at any one time. Once you start a Live Event you cannot pause it and resume.  And you can only share your screen or video or both to begin a Live Event. It seems that we cannot just do an audio only Live Event like a radio show for instance. That being said, the use case for audio only Live Events doesn’t really exist in this context. For those you would need a conferencing service that could support thousands of participants. A Gap in Microsoft Audio Conferencing that still exists today. Oh and by the way the delay between Broadcaster and Attendee is still around 20 seconds,  no change there. It’ll never be real time, but then Live Events do not need to be real time, just almost live due to the way they are supposed to be used.

Now on to the MAHOOSIVE news, Live Events supports dial in conferencing participants and presenters!

So if you cannot join the live stream then you can dial in to listen. However, be aware, that if you cough, sneeze or do anything you’re not supposed to do while not being on mute, you will be heard by 10,000 people on the planet! This is a big win for Live Events, but it is not all gravy. While the supported limit for web joined attendees is 10,000 you are still limited (I believe) to a maximum of 80 dial in users as this comes under the limitations of Microsoft Teams meetings capabilities.

Scheduling a Live event is now super simple and can be done from the Teams client, rather than a separate portal. This is done by clicking on schedule a meeting and at the top where it says new meeting, this is now a drop down menu and you can select Live Event

You cannot schedule a Live Event from Outlook as yet.

When scheduling a Live Event, you now have options to select whether the meeting is closed as in restricted audience, open to organization, or public.

By default, the global policy is set to EveryoneInCompany. If you want to enable public join then use the command

Set-CsTeamsMeetingBroadcastPolicy -Identity Global -BroadcastAttendeeVisibilityMode Everyone

The ability to add an encoder via Microsoft Stream so that you can broadcast out to other platforms like Youtube is coming soon and under development

Live transcription services is supposed to make an appearance in Live Events, let’s hope it does, but this feature is not ready yet. However, if you want to make sure your tenant is ready for when it is released then run this command

Set-CsTeamsMeetingBroadcastPolicy -Identity Global -AllowBroadcastTranscription:$True

When you join as a producer, or presenter, you now have a new user experience in Teams. You get a staging area where you can build up your live scene before sending it live, so in a producer role you can work ahead of time to make sure that the scenes are set up and going to present what you expect before affecting the live stream.

You can choose from three scene layouts.

  1. Content only
  2. Video only
  3. Content and Video

The windows on the left of the above screenshot is the staging area where you can build those layouts. While the right is what is live right now.

In Skype Broadcast Meetings we were unable to screen share, only present a powerpoint or video. In Teams we can screen share so that is a HUGE improvement.

You’ll also notice that we have the ability to chat and create a meeting notes OneNote as a presenter. But sadly these don’t come through to the attendees. Being that the attendees can join using the Teams client or web client this seems a little bit of a mistake? I would have liked to have seen that feature there. As the product is in preview, maybe it will arrive before GA, or maybe we will just have to wait a little longer.

As an attendee I can join from the Teams client of the web client and the experience looks the same

Web client

Teams desktop client

I have the same controls as an attendee, catch-up, or watch the live stream. The media window is a nested Stream window, so I think the actual stream is being hosted on Microsoft Stream and the Teams client is just embedding a Stream player url into the client.

I have headed over to Microsoft Stream to see if the event can  be found on there, but it doesn’t seem to be available to watch live on Stream yet.

I also like the mini call notification window you get as a presenter letting you know what is being shown live currently

Other cool feature is that you can get a live attendee list by looking at the meeting invite in your Teams client

Previously this information was only available post broadcast meeting. The report is still the same as what Skype used to produce though

Interestingly though, it does not show dial-in participants, but then it wouldn’t because the endpoints of a dialin user and a web joiner are completely different technologies.

Post Event, you can go to the meeting invite and click the download link on the video recording to open an azure blob where the MP4 is located and you can right click and save. Or you can click the meeting join button again to view it within the Teams client. Personally, I prefer the latter. However, it would be nice to have a function that says upload to stream so that I do not have to download the MP4 to my machine to upload it back to the cloud and re-encode it.

All in all this is a massive improvement on Broadcast meetings in Skype for Business.

Before using this in anger though, consider your network and audiences. As the stream that each attendee is essentially a video stream at a constant bitrate. This means that if you have 10,000 employees all watching the bonus announcement by your CEO at the same time, you’re going to have 10,000 streams coming over your internet connection. In order to mitigate this impact you could look at eCDN solutions for your network, like Kollective that use a Peer to Peer content sharing where the first client in the network to get a stream, then distributes that stream to other clients on the same network and as that builds, more clients become hosts for other slave machines. This means you reduce your internet reliance to deliver this event quite considerably.

Let’s keep an eye on what else comes to Live Events….

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