Ferrets in focus - challenges of live-streaming revealed

Kate Russell left her role as a tech reporter to embark on a new way of making an income on Twitch, the world's leading...

Kate Russell left her role as a tech reporter to embark on a new way of making an income on Twitch, the world's leading live streaming platform. - Credit: Kate Russell

A former BBC journalist who quit her job to broadcast live ferrets from a purpose-built sanctuary in her garden has revealed the challenges she has faced since setting it up. 

Kate Russell left her role as a tech reporter to embark on a new way of making an income on Twitch, the world's leading live streaming platform.

Harpenden-based Kate and her business partner Richy Reay launched FerretTube in August, following a chance encounter with an abandoned ferret during lockdown. The 24/7 stream aimed to provide high quality edutainment around the care of ferrets.

She said: “I realised I wanted to do something that combines my tech and filming experience with my belief that streaming is the future of broadcasting, and also to share my love of animals."

After the creatures arrived, she let them settle in and then began to learn how to handle them. She said they can bite even if they like their owner.

"We had a fair few technology issues at first too, which required a lot of research, trial and error bug fixing, and a few more pieces of tech needed buying. But a few months into the project everything settled into place and we really started having fun.

"A project like this is always throwing up new challenges to solve. Once we were happy with the tech we turned our attention to the audience, which was not growing as fast as we had expected."

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After watching the stream for a few hours, Kate realised there was one fatal flaw in the plan - ferrets sleep for 18 hours a day! 

As with any creative idea, Kate and Richy were ready to adapt.

"Because we were recording all the activity on 5HD cameras, we had so much great content but you were lucky if you ever caught it live. So we restyled our broadcast-look to incorporate another video feed featuring random clips from all the cameras of when the ferrets were on view.

"We have learned so much through this experience, and one of our primary goals was always to be a resource for other content creators and people interested in streaming. So the other big lesson we have learned from recently was that keeping a five camera live stream on 24/7 takes up a LOT of time, and we were not getting the time to make all this wonderful educational content we had planned. So we adapted again.

"Two weeks ago we stopped streaming the ferrets live during the week, and switched to a weekend only streaming schedule. We begin the weekend on Ferret.tube every Friday at 7pm, with a hour-long review show where we chat to the audience and show them clips we have picked out from the recordings they have not seen that week.

"It’s presented in a very chatty style, interacting with the audience on Twitch and discussing all things technology and what I have learned that week about the ferrets. We then put that show on the YouTube channel at ferrettube.live on Monday evening, capitalising as much as we can on the available platforms.

"And we have very proudly published our first ever tech guide – 5 Tips for Streaming your Pets – which has already been successful far beyond our expectations."

She added: "There must be lots of people living in Hertfordshire who have been forced to rethink their function in the working world. I know many freelance creatives like myself have particularly struggled to find Covid-compliant incomes. The one piece of advice I would give them is to keep heart and try not to think too far into the future.

"If the endeavour you’ve chosen fails after lockdowns are ended, you can re-evaluate then. But while we’re still in this lockdown-limbo, give it everything you have. Be ready to review your work with a critical eye and adapt where you see weaknesses in the plan."

YouTube of the streaming tips guide: https://youtu.be/3PhorFudH6A

YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXEVs1ZDZZt1JelFYduc4Vg