“The ESPN of technology.” That’s how Jeff Frick, general manager and host of theCUBE, describes his interview show. Founded in 2010 by tech media company SiliconANGLE, theCUBE streams news and interviews from events in Silicon Valley and beyond, and these days it has become must-see programming for tech fans everywhere.
“We go to the big tech events, drop in a live studio and interview the ‘tech athletes,'” says Frick. In 2017, theCUBE will conduct approximately 1,500 interviews from over 100 events. At major annual conferences like AWS re:Invent and VMworld, Frick and his production team will interview as many as 70 tech leaders.
The vast majority of theCUBE’s on-location interviews are streamed live and are also available on demand, along with other in-studio interviews. Some fans of theCUBE tune in via computers or mobile devices for an entire day’s coverage while they’re at work, jumping back to the site when noteworthy tech figures and keynote speakers appear. Event attendees, meanwhile, watch theCUBE interviews when they return from the conference to get additional insight from various executives and customers, Frick says.
Catching the you-are-there buzz
Even though many viewers watch theCUBE interviews on demand, the live interviews capture the energy from the conference floor.
“One of our big value propositions is the theater of our presence,” Frick explains. “We shoot with all the ambient noise in the background—no cuts and no editing. theCUBE’s live show has a very specific style and flavor, much different than traditional pre-shot, edited interviews.”
The conference-floor environment and live format adds a buzz to streaming video that in-studio interviews don’t. Depending on the event, theCUBE can broadcast from an elaborate news desk-style set that matches the event’s look and feel—or, at smaller events, Frick’s team can utilize basic banquet furniture. At AWS re:Invent 2017, which attracts more than 40,000 attendees, the team will have two sets, an anchor desk set, and a less formal director’s set to manage all the interviews.
Engaging fans in real time
Whether streaming viewers are watching live or on demand, Frick and his team work to keep the action moving so fans stay engaged.
“We start the day with a show kick off with the host and an analyst,” Frick says. “Then we have interviews every half-hour throughout the day. We’ll bring on a parade of executives, customers, partners and keynote speakers.”
Sometimes Frick and his colleagues will take questions from theCUBE’s Twitter feed in order to keep the remote audience engaged in the livestream conversations. For streaming events that are meant to draw remote viewers, Frick has a colleague monitor social media to ensure that questions get answered in real time.
To keep the streamed interviews flowing smoothly, theCUBE’s production team includes, at a minimum, a switcher (to manage audio and video feeds), a graphics person (to create on-screen chyrons or titles), an audio engineer, and a “concierge” (to be the primary interface with the guest ). Nearly all guests are booked in advance, which assures a good mix of lively content during the day’s streaming video feeds.
When going live goes sideways
Despite all of the team’s meticulous preparation, no amount of preplanning can prevent the various items that can negatively impact the live, onsite production.
“There are things you can control and things you can’t,” Frick admits. “A mic cable can fail or fire alarms go off on the conference floor. We even had a cleaning woman walk right across the camera to pick up some garbage.”
Even with the periodic hiccup, the live format is what keeps viewers coming back to theCUBE’s candid interviews.
“Because of the conversational style, people get really comfortable and say things that you wouldn’t wouldn’t normally script,” Frick says. “And that’s what our viewers love about theCUBE interviews.”
Seasoned broadcasters plan for a variety of outcomes. Some optimistic, some worse case scenarios. If you are looking for strategies to keep in mind for your next broadcast, check out these 15 Streaming Tips for Live & On-Demand Video. This covers everything from testing considerations to backup considerations to make your next live stream more successful.