What happened to all the live video streams from storm spotters?

I've streamed for five years now and there was a point I thought it was a huge hassle and taking away from the quality of my chase, but over time connecting has gotten simpler and re-connecting is almost automatic when I lose signal. I enjoy streaming and interacting with the audience on the way to a chase, and when the chase begins the stream becomes secondary, but most times it's not something I have to tend to.

A lot of my family and friends watch the stream and I like it because it gives them a way to be involved in my chasing, because otherwise it's something I do on my own. I made enough cash to pay for some chases in the past, but now I don't pay to stream and I don't expect to get paid. But, if something comes from it that's fine. We get to do something unique that, believe it or not, many people would give their left arm to do but for one reason or another can't or won't, but find it fascinating. I don't mind sharing it with them.
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Bill Hark

Jan 13, 2004
Richmond Virginia
My perspective as a chaser and viewer: As a viewer, I really enjoy watching streaming video when I can't be out chasing. I like to flip through streams and generally won't go onto an individual streaming link unless I am friends with them and checking out their progress. I prefer websites that have multiple streamers and a radar overlay. I enjoy clicking on a streamer icon and seeing their view in relationship to the storm on radar. I also like a website where I can quickly see the view of multiple streamers or at least a static image that I can click on. Unless there is an actual tornado, I really have no interest in watching a stream if no location is given or location without radar.

As a chaser, I won't be streaming mainly because I chase alone or in a caravan. I am already taxed to the limit and streaming would be one more thing to add to a crowded agenda. I'd hate to miss a shot, make a tactical error or crash my computer while messing with the stream. I might consider streaming if I could take a small separate self-contained device, stick it to the windshield and hit "on" and forget about it. I have nothing against those who stream as I am glad some do. From previous posts, it seems like there is not much money to be made but most chasers don't make that much money anyway. If they can afford to stream, go for it. There is nothing wrong with streaming just for attention and enjoyment. Maybe some streamers could be sponsored by a TV station or other entity. Maybe that entity could supply the equipment. As an aside, I do think some NWS folks look at streams for info on storms.

Bill Hark
Jul 2, 2004
Hastings, Michigan
For those who enjoy watching live streams and feel a concern about their becoming unavailable: I don't think you need to worry. When the season ramps up this spring, I'm sure you'll still find plenty of live streams to enjoy. More chasers (including me) appear to be choosing not to live stream for reasons that have been amply and eloquently expressed, and I suspect that trend will continue. But others obviously feel differently, they too have reasons, and that's fine. It's not a moral issue. In any event, I doubt live streaming is in danger of disappearing in the immediate future.

Susan Barwan

Hey there everybody :) Just wanted to throw my thoughts out there on this issue....

As a spotter who hasn't been able to travel to tornado alley and chase yet, I completely enjoy watching chasers livestreams. I watch for hours...i appreciate all the hard work that goes into planning the chase and the actual chase itself. There are plenty of us out here that don't take what you do for granted and I for one, would really miss being able to watch live tornadoes (the passion of my life since 1967). But i also understand how much of a headache it can be. So to those of you who will continue to stream live...thank you! I will watch religiously. And to those of you who don't stream anymore....it's all good guys. We understand. Here's to a great season this year and very few storm casualties. :)
Jan 14, 2011
St. Louis
One more thought on streaming for TV purposes. Anything done for a TV station is akin to working for that station as an employee or contractor. As such, the station using my labor/vehicle to enhance their final product should do one of two things:

a.) Pay a fee that allows me to both cover my costs AND make a profit, or
b.) Cover the cost of the equipment, fuel and vehicle wear during the time I'm performing services for them, all while paying me an hourly wage.

Heck, the janitor at the station gets at least that, why not me? A TV station simply covering my costs isn't good enough. It really shouldn't be good enough for anybody. TV stations aren't charities worthy of making donations to. If you spend any extra time for a station or network doing ANYTHING - setting up/troubleshooting a stream for them, FTPing video, editing together a package for air, doing live reports/phoners - that should all be billable time. Just like if you were a plumber or electrician making a service call to the station to fix their toilets or light switches.

You're supposed to make a profit when you perform services in the business world, not just break even. It's not about "being all about money" or getting rich. Don't fall for the "profit is evil" malarkey. You get a paycheck at work because someone at the top is making sure there is a profit to pay you with. It's not to get rich, but to make a living. I don't know about anyone else, but I still have to pay for my living expenses. In this world where everyone is so up in arms about income inequality, it's baffling that many are so eager to help big corporations make money without getting a paycheck in return. I know that times are tougher for TV business these days, but I know for a fact that stations could budget for this, but they simply don't because they haven't had to.

I can't stop someone from doing free work, that's a choice everyone has to make for themselves.
Spotters I guess are either:
1) not seeing a return on their expected "dream" of making lots of money on their video
2) seeing the same as chasers in that it is kinda cumbersome to stream and watch the sky at the same time.

I guess it is a different thread that talks about chasers bailing on streaming. Admittedly, I doubt I'd stream if/when I end up in the plains. I would still do it here in Florida. Last year I paid into the new CTV when Scott took it back from WDT but never got it going (maybe I can convince Scott to give me another discount to start again this season).

Ya'll probably have watched it way more than me....do Florida spotters even stream here? I know in Maryland, no one streamed except me and maybe one other person. I actually got more activity and fun out of streaming snow storms. I know further north @Dave Lewison and Scott McPartland did winter streaming too.

I do admit...I miss the days of exclusive licensing of the stream. That was a nice few hundred bucks for a days worth of chasing (or hurricane intercepts as was more common for me).
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Feb 19, 2007
Austin, Texas
When we started at TVN the market was pretty open and I think there were about 20 of us streaming. I hit 500,000 plus viewer minutes the second season and hit my high viewer count during my CNN stream of the Cherokee twins (4000+). It was fun at times for family and friends to watch, but a hassle. And then there is the times you forget that your on live stream and pick your nose (or much worse). Nothing like having your buddies call to tell you that you were live on News9 behind Gary England giving a thumbs up when he is talking about the death and destruction that just occurred.
I sure can tell you that chasing became a serious pain while butt streaming. Chasing is now about seeing the storms again and not being killed or maimed by cell phone chasers!

And Dan, there is were a couple items even worse than live streams. Tornado Tanks and Dome Cams were even worse!
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John Wetter

SN President
Staff member
Dec 11, 2005
Maple Grove, MN
I've streamed for about 6 or 7 years now and I can honestly say I've never found it to be the burden so many people are speaking of it being. If I'm in a bad coverage area, incoming data is just more important so I stop the stream. I mostly do it though so family and friends can see what I'm up to... Maybe that's why it isn't a burden, there isn't any pressure for me. So, when I make a little money, that's a win, but I never count on it and I also know that the NWS offices appreciate being able to get their eyes on a storm sometimes so I find personal value in that. I guess to each their own?
Jan 14, 2011
St. Louis
I received a comment on my Facebook page from someone that figured out that the extra data used in streaming costs him an average of $5 to $10 per chase, or around $50 a month. I'm not sure if that's what others are seeing, but that's an interesting figure.

As for my friends and family, I post all of my photos and videos after the chase is over so that all can see what I saw. I think that really should be good enough. I doubt most of my friends or family would tune in. Even when I watch a stream while I'm "armchair chasing", I'm not glued to any one stream for longer than a few minutes, even if something is happening.

A "set it and forget it" setup would in theory be OK, but that camera's going to miss a lot of the action if you're not constantly adjusting it or pointing your vehicle the right way. In that case, I can't see the point. And even the most hands-off setup will still chew up data.

I know of a couple of chasers who have had success by building a large personal following around it and interacting with those viewers during the entire chase. That requires a unique personality though, one that most of us don't have.
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Apr 29, 2012
My chase partner Steve Blum and I used to live stream on chasertv back in the old WDT days. I wasn't doing much in terms of videos back in those days, or even photos... just go out there and stream. Simple setup, sony lifecam velcro'd to the dash connected to a laptop. Started doing this back in 2011 - had launched a message board called Weather Weenies and posted our chasing antics on there. We would stream, have audio on and interact on facebook while heading out to the chase. It actually was quite fun, but yeah with popularity comes it's downfalls. Again the burden of keeping the stream going without freezes or spotty data caused this to be more a hassle than something fun to do, Steve has stopped streaming and gone pretty much all phototography. Now if solo, I'll live stream... it's low key - I don't announce I'm doing it anywhere, but I'll pop up on severestudios with a live video out the front - no audio. It's easier for me as I'm not much a photographer or videographer, just a here and now presently watching amazing weather type of chaser. If the connection dies out, it dies out... no rebooting computer or connection. Still love to watch them though. Although not hours on end, but like to see the different tactics to get on storm and the different views the chasers have live.
Truthfully? Streaming was just a fad that came and went just like anything else, especially after most of us realized that more cons than pros existed in the streaming world.

I started streaming back in 2005 with Inmarsat equipment while employed as a severe weather photographer and reporter for KAKE-TV. I was fortunate to be able to stream the very first live tornado in Kansas (Fowler KS F-2) that same year. In 2009 I started streaming CTV long before the WDT days. In fact, I lightly assisted with the end user stuff before it went viral and was the first person to stream a live tornado via that service. At the time it was a wonderful idea and was somewhat fruitful not to mention a lot of fun. However with the start of the 2011 season, I ceased all streaming.

The decision to no longer stream came down to a pro vs. con type thing for me - much of which Dan Robinson has eluded to in his blog. I just couldn't justify the extra bandwidth use, the time spent always checking and jacking with equipment, trying to remember your media passwords and info in the heat of battle, trying to compete with 99% of every other chaser - especially after the WDT viewer minutes stuff, all the private messages, emails and phone calls from Joe blow telling me that I needed to position my camera so that he could see the entire field of view, having to adjust frame rate and the like from rural setting to city (and I don't care how you tell me that your stream stays up all the time - if you have streamed before with anything other than satellite, you will NEVER have a perfect stream or 100% connection - you will have issues here) There is no set it and forget it option out there, that keeps you connected 100% of the time no matter what they say. At least not yet. I am sure you get my point. The only pro that I got out of it was that my wife and children could see me and somewhat interact with me during the tours. that's it.

The most user friendly service was CTV no doubt, but the most reliable streaming service I have ever used was Inmarsat. Constant connection albeit with slow frame rates (10-15FPS) but even they are on their last leg.

I have no desire to stream again as there are zero rewards to it and with the listed issues above why? I would encourage some of the younger chasers who might be interested in streaming while chasing to view Dan's info and them make a decision.
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Mar 1, 2004
Lansing, MI
I've done some tests with just my iPad and UStream.tv and so far it's been set it and forget it. Video quality is on par with my webcam / GPS / laptop / laptop charger / WiFi combo, and it takes about 3 seconds to set up versus 5 minutes and duct tape :)
Nov 4, 2008
Norman, OK
I seem to be the minority here but I enjoyed streaming back in 2010-2012. With CTV/WDT I would usually make $500+ a month during the spring just from video views alone. After not streaming in 2013 and 2014 the followers of my company pretty much begged for live video again. I tried Google Hangouts (YouTube Live) a few weeks ago and got used to running it in the field. Last week I set it up with a different method and I can say it pretty much is a 'set and go' type operation. For a marginal chase day I ended up gaining several hundred subscribers to my YouTube channel and a decent boost in YouTube revenue. I have no doubt I'll be able to recoup any data fees with revenue from YouTube based on my two streams so far this year.

As for media use I also have a unique view on it. If a local media outlet in the area I'm chasing in wants to use my stream I'll let them for no cost. If my live video can provide the needed 'second source' of verification to the public then that in itself is a complete success for me. I'd probably even let the national networks use my stream for free as long as they only used it live and didn't record it. The streaming game has changed big time from 2011. No longer do I need to 'pay' some company or use a chasing company's services to stream my video. I'll stream directly to YouTube where server problems are non-existent and the video will work on every device (mobile or not).
Ive watched hundreds of live streams, and almost without exception they were all terrible. Horrible, horrible quality and painfully boring...I think of the hundreds of streams I might have seen 2 or three interesting catches (like tornadoes...). Stting for 12 hours waiting for a cap bust is more exciting. Maybe I was watching the wrong streams... Until the quality improves, I'll try to restrain myself from watching, although like a bad car wreck it's hard to turn away sometimes.
Jan 14, 2011
St. Louis
I can understand the charitable angle to some degree, though, I think it's something that frequently leads to chasers' generosity getting taken advantage of. I think of how a live shot of a storm/tornado in a station's viewing area (especially on national TV) is something they probably covet greatly and possibly even consider budgeting for, as those are high-ratings type events that significantly benefit a station. Think of how they send that Bell JetRanger up every day to cover morning traffic - those things aren't cheap to fly. I feel that if a station wants to approach chaser storm coverage from the angle of serving public safety, that they should help out the lowest guy on the totem pole (the photographer/chaser) while doing so. And yes, we ARE the "little guy" in the process - always remember that. All of the other players farther up the chain are getting a nice paycheck, but it's always us "little guys" who are made to feel like we should donate our part of the effort or else face scorn for being "about the money".
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May 10, 2010
Saint Paul Minnesota
Let's not forget that when you give media entities your permission to "use" your stream, video, photos, etc. it is done so under the assumption that unless you have a specific licensing/usage agreement in place with that media entity, you give them permission to use the material "in perpetuity, worldwide on any platform available now or created in the future." Basically, what that means is while they can't "sell" your work, they can distribute it through any media channel they may own. Forever. This basically has the effect of diluting the unique value of your work to nil. And they haven't spent a dime for that right.

So the next time you have some media entity ask you for permission via Twitter to use your material for "credit" think very carefully about the possible future value of that photo or video to you...

Adrian Francis

I used to go to the News 9 (OK City) radar and click on the icons for the various spotters and watch their video streams. Not any more-nothing there. Which is sad-there used to be almost a hundred if conditions were right. Now I can catch 1 or 2 on ChaserTV and 1 or 2 on TVN Weather. Where did everybody go? And why?
Have a look at www.trackbwatch.com. Lots of storm chasers tracking everyday

Adrian Francis

I used to go to the News 9 (OK City) radar and click on the icons for the various spotters and watch their video streams. Not any more-nothing there. Which is sad-there used to be almost a hundred if conditions were right. Now I can catch 1 or 2 on ChaserTV and 1 or 2 on TVN Weather. Where did everybody go? And why?

Have a look at www.tracknwatch.com. A new tracking and streaming platform that is pretty cool
Jul 16, 2013
Joplin, MO
I never could get into the streaming fad. When ChaserTV first came to life, I tried it once and I just found it to be too much of a pain than it was worth. I just didn't see how one could truly enjoy storm chasing for what it is when they're constantly having to mess with the equipment and making sure they're getting a good shot. And as Dan mentioned, most people watching the stream might only do so for a short period of time and even then they'd complain about something because people are ungrateful.

I just always preferred to keep chasing simple so that I could truly enjoy chasing and the storms around me without having all this high tech crap that I have to constantly mess with. Even now when I go out, I just have my cell phone and my camera and that's it. The less technology, the better.
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The only interest I have in watching streams, if people are good enough to stream, is simply to 'be there' when virtual chasing from 4000 miles away over the Atlantic, rather than just 'radar chasing'. I don't get any of the one-upmanship, or smearing, or anything else, and don't care about it either - if someone is streaming, I like to watch. And that's it!


Mar 12, 2017
Fort Smith
Hi! I just discovered live streaming last spring and absolutely love it! Can't wait for this year's storms! That being said I understand where a lot of you guys are coming from. Costs, demanding viewers, etc. So I get it. But for all those out there that still participate in it, I just wanted to say thank you so much! Someday maybe I'll learn enough to be able to safely chase myself, but until then you guys have no idea just how much this lady enjoys being able to see these fascinating storms from the safety of her living room. You guys stay safe out there!