Global OTT subscriptions are expected to hit 473 million in 2018, an 18 percent growth from 2017. More and more people are relying on internet video as the primary source of their entertainment. This article will look at how businesses are leveraging OTT platforms to manage, host, and deliver OTT content at scale.
Specifically, we’ll compare five of the top Online Video Platforms (OVPs) that OTT media companies use today. The streaming solutions we’ll discuss include DaCast, IBM Cloud Video, JW Player, Livestream / Vimeo Live, and Wowza.
IP networks are distributing more and more media these days. In fact, some industry leaders advocate that we stop differentiating between OTT and broadcast TV entirely. We are entering a future in which OTT platforms distribute all TV. In light of that trend, this article will provide you with the information you need on OTT platforms to ride this wave.
OTT Platforms & Video: A booming industry
The OTT industry is exploding. Worldwide OTT revenue was roughly $46.5 billion in 2017. That number is expected to rise to $83.4 billion by 2022.
Doing the math, that amounts to doubled growth over only five years. In fact, almost no industry grows that fast! Within only a decade, we’ve seen a massive shift in how people are consuming entertainment. It all hinges on OTT video and delivering content online. If you work in the OTT industry, you need to move fast to keep up.
In part, this entails searching for professional OTT platforms. These are also called video streaming platforms or online video platforms (OVPs). OVPs allow you to host, manage, and stream live video efficiently. They also allow you to use an IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) model, which keeps your costs low and ensures maximum up-time and efficiency.
Comparing top OTT platforms for business
Now, let’s shift gears and take a look at some of the top OTT video platforms on the market today.
For context, we’re going to compare these platforms based primarily on four different features. First, we’ll look at OTT video content delivery. 63 percent of live stream viewers in 2017 cited buffering issues as the most serious issue they experience. That number represents an increase from the previous year. Businesses need robust content delivery via large CDNs with fast, global Point-of-Presence.
Next, we’ll look at monetization. There are three main ways to monetize content: ads, pay-per-view, and subscriptions. In 2016, analysts estimated that mobile ad revenue represented a $16 billion revenue opportunity in the US alone. One-time events like sports are perfect for pay-per-view monetization.
Third on our key features list is an API. A video API, as the name suggests, provides programmatic access to video platform functionality. Broadcasters use video APIs in many different ways. They use them to host and deliver their video-on-demand TV shows via web portals, and create video-centric mobile and web apps. Additionally, streamers use APIs to tack an online stream onto an existing broadcast workflow with minimal disruption.
And last but not least important to consider, we’ll look at live streaming pricing.
First up on our list is our own streaming platform, DaCast Streaming as a Service. Though of course we hope you’ll give our platform a try, our goal here is to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information and analysis for all interested broadcasters.
DaCast is a “Streaming as a Service” platform that aims to make high-end features available to any OTT media business. The platform provides both a live streaming solution and video hosting solution to all kinds of broadcasters.
DaCast uses the Akamai CDN (Content Delivery Network) for all content distribution to viewers. As the largest CDN in the world, Akamai operates more than 240,000 servers located in over 130 countries globally.
DaCast has a built-in paywall that supports subscriptions and pay-per-view, with various configuration options. However, it also supports external paywall providers such as Cleeng, InPlayer. DaCast also supports advertising monetization via the video player API.
DaCast’s video API provides full, programmatic access to every feature of the service. A well-documented API, it also adheres to REST standards.
DaCast plans begin at $19 per month for 100 GB of bandwidth and 20 GB of storage. The mid-tier “Premium” plan starts at $125 per month. This plan includes 2 TB of bandwidth, 200 GB of storage, API access, full monetization options, and phone support. The “Enterprise” plan is $289 per month. That plan offers more bandwidth and storage suitable for OTT users.
However, enterprise users can also purchase custom plans for greater bandwidth needs.
IBM Cloud Video / UStream
IBM Cloud Video (formerly UStream) is another competitor in our OTT platforms comparison. Their cloud video services include the following functionality.
Video content streams via IBM servers, which are located worldwide and provide good performance.
IBM Cloud Video’s Enterprise plans support monetization via subscriptions. Also, an API enables advertising integration. However, this is only available on their most expensive, high-end plans.
Media/Enterprise plans (the most expensive) on IBM Cloud Video include a “Channel API.” This provides full programmatic access to the platform via a RESTful API.
The IBM Cloud Video business spans a few main segments. Basic UStream plans target small and medium-scale streamers. These plans have no bitrate or resolution caps and offer varied functionality for $99 to $999 per month.
Enterprise plans add additional features, including OTT features. This includes the Streaming Manager online video platform. However, all customized plans do incur additional costs.
JW Player Live
JW Player is most famous for their popular video player. However, they recently launched a live streaming service as well. While capable, this platform may not be suitable for OTT media broadcasting.
JW Player delivers content via its internal network of servers, rather than via a CDN.
JW integrates advertising monetization tools, but does not support subscriptions or pay-per-view.
The JW Player platform includes a number of different APIs. These include the Platform Management API, which does not support live streaming via API.
JW Player pricing comes in three tiers: Starter ($5/month), Business ($50/month), and Enterprise (custom pricing). The Starter plan does not include live streaming access.
Livestream / Vimeo Live
After many years of streaming service, Livestream was acquired by Vimeo in late 2017. Today, both businesses operate streaming services. However, Livestream still exists, while Vimeo Live integrates an OTT wing. We’ll focus here on Livestream.
Livestream uses an internal server network for content delivery.
Livestream’s Enterprise and Custom plans support monetization options, including subscriptions and advertising support.. These are the most expensive plans, tailored to large-scale businesses with large budgets.
Livestream offers a video API to users on the higher-priced custom plans.
The basic Livestream plan costs $75 per month ($199 per month billed monthly). This plans lack some important business features like custom branding control, white label, and advertising and monetization. The Enterprise plan ($999/month) adds most of these advanced features, for a price.
Custom plans are also available for higher prices.
The final platform we’ll look at here is Wowza, a streaming-focused company that began operation in 2007. Today, Wowza provides services that the streaming video industry widely uses.
Wowza, like DaCast, uses the Akamai CDN.
Wowza doesn’t have any built-in monetization features for pay-per-view, subscriptions, or advertising. To monetize your video content, you’ll need to use an external service.
Wowza’s platform includes a RESTful API that provides programmatic access to their service. The Streaming Engine APIs enable users to develop custom applications to manage the media server via HTTP.
Wowza offers three versions of their service. “Live events” is Wowza’s offering for one-time streamers. The “24/7” plan allows for constant live streaming. OTT businesses will probably prefer the third option, Wowza’s API-based service. Pricing for API plans depends on usage levels.
In the US, watching subscription-based OTT video services is a daily habit for 60 percent of adults. Given the size of this industry, how fast it is growing, and how important it is to people’s lives, now is a great time to involve yourself in this trend. However, you don’t have to go at it alone! We hope this article has helped to introduce you to the world of OTT video and some of the OTT platforms making it possible.
Are you deciding between OTT platforms and interested in giving DaCast a try? Why not sign up for our 30-day free trial (no credit card required) to test out all the features for yourself?
Lastly, did you find this article helpful, or do you have other comments or feedback? Let us know what you think in the comment section below. We love to hear from our readers! For exclusive offers and regular live streaming tips, you can also join our LinkedIn group.
Thanks for reading and, as always, good luck with your broadcasts!
By Max Wilbert.
Note to our readers: We’ve updated this article to reflect the latest information as of mid-2018.