Why Should The Funeral Industry Embrace Live Streaming?

By Peter Billingham

It was an unusually late evening. Perhaps, more of an early morning. On 19th July 1986, I remember stepping into the original Wembley Stadium. It was amid the roars of 80,000 other spectators. Challenging for the World Heavy Weight Championship against Tim Witherspoon was Frank Bruno.

As the cliche goes, the atmosphere was electric. The noise tumultuous. The event unforgettable.  

Frank lost. 

My friends and I consoled each other with hugs and mumbled sympathies. I was there. I felt that raw emotion, passion, and community as everyone there did sharing in the feeling of loss. Collective compassion.

I have watched many championship boxing matches since then. Nothing compares to being there for real, or does it? Now live streaming pay per view events is big business. Want to watch that international sporting match on your mobile phone? Easy. Want to gather a few friends around to share in that sporting contest on your 60" 4K HD curved TV with a few beers? Now commonplace. Is it the same as being there? No. It is different. Connecting with the collective emotion of the event through your smartphone or TV still works. Ask the millions who buy per-view tickets.

What About Watching A Funeral on Live Stream?

What if it wasn't a sporting event? What if it was the funeral a loved relative on the other side of the world? How would it be to watch that on your mobile phone? Would there be that collective compassion? Would your virtual presence be of comfort to grieving relatives? 

In this post, I want to explore the growing trend to live stream funerals. Soon, your customers are going to be asking for this facility. Would offering this service set your funeral business apart in the town or city where you work? Adding the option of live streaming to your business could add a needed service. Also, it could add additional streams of income to your business.

What Is Live Streaming?

Live streaming is the transmitting live video coverage of an event over the Internet. A camera connected to a broadcast channel relays the event in real time. Simple technology now makes this possible even from your smartphone. Many online tech firms see opportunities to create new businesses from this development. Funeral Directors are being asked by customer demand to provide this option. This digital development is another case of how technology is driving change in culture.

One Room

One Room is NZ company that offers streaming services specifically to Funeral Directors. One Room is an automated webcasting system that records and streams funerals live. Through a simple email invitation, family and friends can access the service live. An impressive video based website invites people to connect with a private online "room" to watch the service. Currently its available in the USA and Canada and Australia and New Zealand. One Room plans to increase its reach across the world. I am sure without a doubt that many other firms will follow suit. For example, FuneralOne.

In Ireland, Funerals Live offer a range of services to suit every family. Online viewing allows seeing the Ceremony securely online within two hours of the funeral. This service costs clients from €350. Live streaming of the funeral ceremony is available from €850. It not only provides an excellent service but generates extra income.

Why Would You Customers Want To Live Stream A Funeral?

The simple answer because people want to share in the collective compassion of loss. Even separated by miles, countries or even continents. Is it the same as being there? No. Connecting with the collective emotion of the event through your smartphone or TV still works. Ask the 1000's of families who now use such as service.

The mobility of families makes this service appealing and vital to offer to your customers. A live stream of a funeral may be the only option for those far away or too ill to travel. Other obstacles such as cost or time could prevent people from being able to attend. Is it the same? No. It's not a replacement. It's not designed to be a replacement. Digital technology offers new choices not available before. While still miles away people can experience the service, share the stories and virtually "be there" for their families. 

Live Streaming Helps Your Funeral Business in Three Ways

Live streaming is a highly valuable technology for funeral professionals. I believe it helps them do three things:

  • It increases the opportunity to serve your customers. 

Personal service is at the heart of the funeral profession. Funeral Directors have that human touch. They go the extra mile and take every opportunity to make a difficult situation more bearable. This is what Funeral Directors do well. Adding this live streaming service to your business declares to customers we are changing our approach to meet your needs. We want to do everything possible to make sure that all of your family, no matter where they are, can share in the collective compassion on this sad occasion. How comforting would it be to see maybe hundreds of people there "virtually" supporting the family. 

  • It connects the community of a family with collective compassion.

Healing from loss begins when we can share the grief of losing someone with others. I know that some people carry the weight of guilt for years. It pains them that they were not able to attend a loved one's funeral. No longer need that be the case. With live streaming funeral services families can be together in their loss no matter where they are living. It won't be the same. But it is an excellent alternative.

  • It creates a lasting memorial

As a funeral celebrant in Bromsgrove, when I speak to families who I have taken a service they often haven't heard the words spoken. It is not surprising. Having a permanent memorial stored online for future generations is an option digital technology can provide. Maybe using a “digital time capsule” like Safebeyond, this video can be available for generations to come.

Why Will Consumers Drive This Change?

There are two reasons among many I can see that consumers will drive this choice.

Celebrity funerals are now live streamed.

Though not a fan of the "celebrity culture" that grips the media and publishing industry; the truth is it drives cultural change. Earlier in 2016, two big celebrity funerals took place and in both cases the choice made was to live stream the event.

René Angélil - René Angélil was the husband of Celine Dion. Sadly, he passed away after a battle with cancer. He had planned his funeral to last detail including live streaming the event.  The whole event stream was seven hours long. More than two and half hours is now a youtube video with getting close to 1M views.

"Lemmy" from Motörhead - Motörhead frontman and heavy metal legend Ian 'Lemmy' Kilmister's funeral took place in Hollywood on Saturday, 9 January 2016. The entire memorial service was live-streamed on YouTube. Here is what band's the youtube channel invited fans to do.

"We want you ALL to be a part of this memorial service. So wherever you are, PLEASE get together and watch with fellow Motörheadbangers and friends. GO to your favorite bar, or your favorite club, makes sure they have access to an internet connection and toast along with us. Or simply invite your pals around and celebrate Lemm's life at home. Whatever your venue, and, however, you can, let's be sure to gather globally on Saturday 9th and celebrate the life of our dear friend and irreplaceable icon."

Ease of Broadcasting

The second driver of change is the availability of live broadcasting open to anyone with a smartphone. Periscope and Meerkat offer live streaming on a simple platform from a smartphone. Periscope has more than 10 million users and people watch 40 years, yes, 40 years worth of content a day! 

How simple is it to use Periscope? Have a look at this video of me writing this post! It's simple. I live streamed the content and then uploaded it to youtube - simple? Even my dog Pippa was impressed! (The quality is not a good as it normally is because the insulation in my office cuts the signal down very low) You can also film landscape.

 

Facebook has now added Facebook Live - so people can go live streaming on their profiles. I guarantee that someone has already streamed a funeral this way. 

Conclusion

Consumers are driving these changes. Today people want choices. Customers are going to the funeral home with the list of things they want to do, rather than leaving these options open to the Funeral Director. That will increase. It's not "business as usual" when it comes to funeral planning. The subject of death is open for conversation. The ceremonies around death are open for change. Death is viewed differently in this digital age. 

What are you going to do about this? You can ignore these changes or you can embrace them. 

Do some market research. Ask some recent clients if this had been as service we could have offered would you have used it? Play around with Periscope. Maybe your digital ambassador could learn and experiment with this technology. Type funeral service into youtube and be amazed at what you will find. I would love to hear from you if are using live streaming in your funeral business. Drop a comment in the box below or contact me!