Live, But Not Live: How to Publish a Pre-Recorded Video as a Live Stream (Update)


Wowza Streaming Engine gives broadcasters the ability to publish an MP4 file as a live stream. That’s right: You can publish a pre-recorded video that appears as though it’s live in social media feeds, streaming apps, and websites. Wowza’s StreamPublisher module makes it easy, allowing you to configure one or more MP4 files (ranging from seconds to hours long) in a playlist that endlessly loops.

But why would anybody want to do that? It turns out, there are several good reasons.  Chances are that you’ve already viewed pre-recorded content posing as a live stream without realizing it. And because social media platforms like Facebook Live and YouTube have algorithms that promote live content over pre-recorded video, publishing pre-recorded video as though live results in an increase in viewership and click through rate for your ads.

Let’s take a look at the myriad benefits, steps for configuring your pre-recorded stream as live, and how to stream to YouTube  and Facebook Live. You can also watch the video above for a complete walk-through on publishing an MP4 as a live stream with Wowza Streaming Engine’s StreamPublisher module.


You Don’t Have to Be Present

Because the StreamPublisher module lets broadcasters schedule MP4s to play as though they’re live, you’re able to go on with your normally scheduled activities by configuring the stream schedule for viewers in any time zone. Some 24-hour streaming channels loop a lengthy MP4 video or playlist indefinitely as a continuous live feed — with no need for constant surveillance of the channel.


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Higher Engagement and Increased Revenue

People prefer the excitement and personal involvement of live video over on-demand content. Facebook Live recently reported that live video produces six times more interactions and ten times more comments than traditional video. In fact, Facebook Live viewing time quadrupled in a single year. Live streaming continues to grow and dominate over video on demand (VOD), with a number of promising predictions for 2020 and beyond.

So, with all those viewers, it might be a good idea to insert a pre-roll or mid-roll advertisement into your stream, right? A very, very good idea indeed!

A recent study shows that viewers of live streams feel more emotionally involved and thus more likely to make a purchase. So, if you insert an ad into your pre-recorded video that’s streaming as live, you could see a four to five times increase in ad click rates — not to mention a very nice bump in ad revenue.


Unlock Monetization Opportunities With Premieres

Social media algorithms favor live video due to the increase in viewer engagement. Because of this, channels like YouTube Live, Instagram Live, and Facebook Live have begun offering more opportunities to stream pre-recorded videos as live.

As one example, YouTube Premieres launched in the summer of 2018 and allows pre-recorded videos to be uploaded and scheduled for later viewing as a live stream premiere. This offers a huge opportunity for the traditional on-demand broadcasters to reap the monetization benefits previously only available for true live streams.

According to YouTube group product manager Kurt Wilms:

“This product is going to help creators make more money, and it unlocks two new big revenue streams. The first revenue source is Super Chat, where viewers can pay to have their comment move up to the top and had only been available for live streamers in the past. The second is channel memberships, which includes perks that were previously reserved only for live videos.”

The general idea is that as the pre-recorded video plays, the broadcaster can focus all their attention on chatting and engaging with the live viewers rather than focusing on the technical requirements of a true live stream.


Scheduling and Promotion for YouTube Premieres

When scheduling your stream premiere date, a page with a countdown clock to the time of the stream broadcast can be posted and shared to attract new subscribers to your channel. In many cases, a pre-roll video is used to promote and increase excitement — leading up to the moment when thousands of viewers can watch your video premiere. When the scheduled time arrives, the playlist schedule will simply switch from the pre-roll stream in the playlist to the MP4 you wish to act as the premiere video.

Streaming this way has caught on, with no signs of slowing down. Both small businesses and famous music artists are leveraging ‘live, but not live’ content to engage with their audience. YouTube Premieres has already broken records in 2019, and several other leading social media sites are following suit.


Reduce the Chance of Live Broadcast Issues

If you’ve ever live streamed a broadcast, you know that there’s always a chance for something to go wrong.

The camera or encoder could disconnect. The network could suddenly fluctuate with an unexpected long buffer. Even the on-camera presenters could get nervous and botch the script.

Whew…the stuff live streaming nightmares are made of! 

Although tens of thousands of live streams go off every single day without an issue, accidents can happen. Losing viewership is a small price to pay, but bad press could also result.

For anyone looking to avoid the risks, streaming an MP4 as a live broadcast is always an option.


How to Configure Your Pre-Recorded Stream as Live

In order to stream a pre-recorded video as live in Wowza Streaming Engine, you’ll first need to configure the StreamPublisher module. The complete list of instructions with code samples are provided here. Below we provide a brief summary of the steps required. You can also reference the video above for a recorded tutorial.

Prerequisites: Wowza Streaming Engine 4.0.0 or later is required.


1. Install the StreamPublisher Module

  • Download the file
  • Extract the contents from the downloaded (zipped) package, and then copy the lib/wse-plugin-streampublisher.jar file from the package to the lib folder in your Wowza Streaming Engine installation ([install-dir]/lib).
  • Restart Wowza Streaming Engine.

2. Configure a Server Listener

  • Once you’ve downloaded and installed the module, you will need to configure it with Streaming Engine.
  • You will do this by adding a server listener to your Streaming Engine configuration.
  • You must follow all of the configuration steps in this article before you can stream a pre-recorded file as live.

3. Add the Required Properties

  • After configuring the server listener, you will need to add some required server properties in Streaming Engine.
  • You can add these properties at the server or application level.

4. Create a SMIL file

  • The SMIL file will reference your mp4 file in your content folder.
  • You can create an elaborate schedule with several pre-recorded streams scheduled to play as live.

Now that you’ve configured the StreamPublisher in Streaming Engine, you’ll be able to stream an mp4 file as live to YouTube and Facebook Live.


How to Stream a Pre-Recorded Video as Live to YouTube

To use Wowza Streaming Engine as a video source for YouTube, you first need to set up a live stream in YouTube Studio. For more information about YouTube Studio, see the YouTube help article Intro to YouTube Studio.

  1. Create a live application in Streaming Engine.
  2. Create and enable a stream target to send the stream to YouTube
  3. Verify the stream is playing in both Streaming Engine manager and YouTube Studio

For complete step-by-step instructions to stream to You Tube, please review the documentation here.


How to Stream a Pre-Recorded Video as Live to Facebook

Before you start, make sure you have a Facebook configured to ingest a stream from Wowza Streaming Engine.

When your Facebook account is ready, create the Page to which you want to post a live stream. If streaming to your Timeline or to an existing Page, no additional configuration is required.

You’ll need to follow all of the steps outlined here to stream to FB live. The configuration is similar to the steps above for streaming to YouTube.

  1. Create a live application in Wowza Streaming Engine.
  2. Review the required Facebook security settings.
  3. Create and enable a Stream Target in Streaming Engine
  4. Test the connection in Facebook Live

After the Facebook stream target initiates a live video post, the video post in Facebook is labeled LIVE. If the live source stream is disconnected, Facebook puts the video post into a “waiting” state.

For complete step-by-step instructions to stream to Facebook Live, please review the documentation here.



There are perks to ‘live’ streaming a pre-recorded video, but it ultimately depends on your use case and streaming needs.

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About Rose Power

Rose Power is the developer community manager for Wowza Media Systems. Passionate about building relationships with the dev community, Rose strives to deliver quality resources for a positive user experience built on trust. When not working, she can be found playing the ukulele around a fire or hiking the mountains of Colorado with her pup.