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The Virtual Pastor: Expanding the Message to Any Screen

The Virtual Pastor: Expanding the Message to Any Screen

A look at how SermonAudio empowers churches to increase their reach to any screen.

SermonAudio is an 11-year-old, privately owned, for-profit company that serves Christian churches by archiving and making available sermons, worship services, and related programming for parishioners and other viewers. With some 400,000 free sermons for streaming or downloading, SermonAudio reports that it maintains the largest library of conservative Christian sermons on the Internet. SermonAudio reportedly leverages its small staff for maximum impact, with more than a million downloads and 20 million page views each month. Visitors and listeners come from every state in the U.S. and more than 180 other countries.

As the name implies, SermonAudio originally provided audio podcasts and audio feeds. Today, however, the increased availability of bandwidth-saving technologies and high-speed connectivity has enabled the company to offer its clients video streaming as well.

SermonAudio initially reported the use of traditional tools such as Windows Media services for content delivery over IP, but this effectively limited its reach only to PCs. The company also wanted to provide support for Mac users, iPhone, iPad and other mobile devices, but the associated staff time, coding expertise, and infrastructure expense for different server types needed to support this variety of devices initially seemed to make doing so impossible.

The solution was a unified streaming software platform that eliminated the expense associated with specialized, client-specific encoders and content-specific storage platforms. The platform the company selected is Wowza Media Server, flexible software that runs on commodity server hardware. Today, sermons and broadcasts uploaded to SermonAudio are made available on PCs, Macs and other devices such as iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry smartphones. The unified server software platform reportedly eliminated the costs associated with buying and maintaining specialized, client-specific encoders, as well as discrete, content-specific server platforms. In addition, the software offers per-session logging for all streams, regardless of user device, making it simple and straightforward to correlate billable traffic with customer accounts.

To further enhance the user experience, SermonAudio has developed custom-fitted apps for the most popular mobile devices. Using SermonAudio’s intuitive interface, anyone can access, search, stream, and experience audio and video sermons. Particularly appreciated by SermonAudio clients is the unified software platform’s support for inexpensive and easy-to-deploy Roku set-top boxes that bring services to elderly worshippers and shut-ins gathered around a television set. In fact, some SermonAudio client churches have reported buying multiple Roku boxes and installing them at convalescent hospitals and other facilities where viewers can watch live or on-demand video sermons on their TVs, SermonAudio representatives report—saying that even viewers unfamiliar with computers can easily use these TV set-top boxes.

Another benefit associated with SermonAudio is the software’s open APIs, which allows its programmers to add service automation features to its website. For example, Wowza Media Server enables SermonAudio client churches to upload video to the website then control and monitor settings for their own webcasts.

SermonAudio’s clients include Christian organizations of all sizes, even small local churches. The company reports that these users have in common a desire to broadcast their messages to as many viewers as possible while keeping costs reasonable. For SermonAudio, the Wowza unified media server software platform reportedly supported a dramatic and cost-effective improvement of its services and of its clients’ abilities to spread their messages.

TAGS: Audio
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