Major corporations like Facebook and Google (Alphabet) are going all-in on live streaming video. Prominent tech figures like Mark Zuckerberg are describing themselves as “obsessed” with live video.
Increasingly, streaming is moving into the mainstream. Apps like Periscope and Facebook Live have made it easy for anyone with a smartphone to start streaming. More importantly, they’ve normalized the idea of live streaming video. Millions of people are now used to this type of content.
That growing ubiquity represents an opportunity for other businesses. Live video can be a powerful tool. Whether for marketing, sales, training, entertainment, or media, live video is a compelling technology.
In this article, we’re going to look at two of the biggest social media video platforms out there: YouTube and Facebook. We’ll examine these platforms, their features, and the pros and cons of each. Then, we’ll compare these to paid video streaming platforms aimed at more professional users.
Facebook Live review
About Facebook Live streaming
Live video has only been possible on Facebook for a short time. However, the feature has already been widely adopted. Many people use Facebook regularly, so sharing and watching video content is a natural extension of the service.
Some streams reach tens or even hundreds of thousands of visitors. Since Facebook is still trying to drive attention to this new feature, users are alerted via notification whenever one of their friends starts broadcasting live. That makes it easy to attract an audience quickly.
How Facebook Live works
Using the Facebook Live streaming service is simple.
On mobile devices, starting a live stream involves using the Facebook app. All you have to do is open your app, then tap on the status input area labeled “what’s on your mind?”
The screen that opens will have an icon on the bottom right that looks like this –>
Tap that button and you’ll be presented with the option to start a live stream. You can then give a description to your live video and choose a target audience if you wish. From there, a single tap lets you go live.
On desktop, live streaming is a bit more complex. For starters, you can only live stream from a Facebook Page using a desktop or laptop computer. Streaming from your personal profile isn’t possible. You’ll need to use encoding software such as OBS to make this work.
Set up your encoder software using the following settings:
- Video bit rate should be no higher 2500 Kbps
- Resolution should be no higher than 1280 x 720
- Frames per second should be 30
- Select the appropriate video and audio sources
Once your encoding software is set up, you can visit your page and click on the tab labeled “Publishing Tools.” On this page, click the option labeled “Video” and then click “Live.” The “stream key” and/or “stream URL” generated here can now be entered into your encoder. Enter a description on the next page, and then click “Go Live” to begin streaming.
Facebook Live Pros and Cons
The main upside of streaming live on Facebook is the built-in audience. If you’ve invested time in building a social media following, it’s a no-brainer. Additionally, the service is sufficiently powerful. With the Facebook Live API, you can stream from high-quality cameras and integrate with existing workflows.
However, there are some big downsides to Facebook Live as well.
One of the main drawbacks is that Facebook Live video content is not indexable. That means that search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo don’t ever find Facebook posts. That includes live and archived videos.
You can search for the content within Facebook itself, but searching inside the platform isn’t very useful. It’s a confusing interface compared to YouTube, Google, and other search engines. Finding posts, especially if they are older, is nearly impossible.
This is a major drawback when it comes to SEO. Facebook content simply won’t rank on a search engine. Unless you can generate a large audience on Facebook spontaneously, your content is unlikely to find traction among viewers after-the-fact.
Another drawback of Facebook Live is that the maximum supported resolution is only 720p HD, not full high-definition. Additionally, the maximum supported bit rate is only 2500 Kbps, which isn’t very high. Other limitations include a maximum length of 90 minutes, which is overly restrictive for many users.
Additionally, Facebook Live doesn’t support the following useful live video features:
- Access and security restrictions
- Multiple simultaneous live streams
YouTube Live review
About YouTube Live streaming
One alternative to Facebook Live is YouTube Live. This service comes from another tech behemoth: Google. YouTube Live is a basic live streaming service, but offers more functionality than Facebook Live.
How YouTube Live stream works
To live stream on YouTube, you need a few things. First, you need a YouTube/Google account. Second, you need to “verify” your account. Note that if you’d like to embed your stream on an external site, you’ll need to have an approved AdSense account linked to your YouTube account.
Once you have met these qualifications, there are two ways to get started. “Stream now” is a fast and easy way to begin streaming. This allows you to use your webcam or other connected camera.
“Events” allow you to pre-schedule a live event, invite people in advance, set up backup streams, and so on. Events also enable you to use higher-quality cameras connected to encoders.
YouTube Live pros and cons
Compared to Facebook, YouTube Live is much better when it comes to searchability and SEO. For starters, YouTube videos show up in search results. That just isn’t the case with video on Facebook. Since YouTube is a Google-owned business, videos tend to rank relatively high. Even Bing, Yahoo, and other engines rank videos highly in search results.
Finding videos on YouTube is also easier than on Facebook. The search functionality is much more powerful. In general, YouTube is designed to make videos available forever. Facebook content is technically available forever, but it’s strongly biased towards finding of-the-moment material. Hence, the timeline design.
The service also has a YouTube Live API that allows for programmatic access to their live streaming service. This makes it easy to stream live on YouTube while streaming on other services, or to integrate apps with YouTube live streams.
There are a few major drawbacks when it comes to YouTube Live. First, you lose control of your content. Anytime you broadcast or upload content via YouTube, they gain access to use your material in their advertising. This is a big drawback for many users.
Additionally, YouTube is one of the most-blocked websites in the world, especially in businesses and schools. This is also true of Facebook. Your content isn’t worth anything if your target audience is unable to access it.
Different types of live streaming platforms
YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and other social platforms are undoubtedly popular. However, they’re far from the only providers in the live streaming market.
There are plenty of other companies that provide live streaming services. In fact, YouTube and Facebook are quite minimal. Other live streaming service providers will often give more features and functionality. These platforms are often preferred by professional users.
Why use a professional live streaming video host?
For people who are looking for a more professional appearance, social streaming platforms don’t fit.
For example, a company live streaming an event may want to monetize their stream. A university may want to stream multiple lectures simultaneously. Businesses, universities, social organizations, media channels, religious groups, and many other types of users often fall into these situations. That is where features offered specifically by video platforms come into play.
These features include the ability to:
- Monetize broadcasts in various fashions
- Broadcast with no competing branding
- Restrict access to certain geographic locations or IP ranges
- Use custom video players
- Stream multiple events at the same time
- Maintain all rights to broadcast content
- Access dedicated tech support
These features, among others, define a comprehensive live streaming platform. To offer these features, most dedicated streaming providers charge for their services. Typically there’s a wide range in pricing. Some services are aimed at large businesses, while others are more affordable for smaller businesses or individuals. Though Facebook and YouTube are free, they simply can’t compete when it comes to functionality.
Next, let’s take a quick look at several of the top live streaming service providers on the market.
Ustream live video service provider
One of the most popular live video hosts is Ustream. Since launching in 2007, Ustream has been a leader in the field. Features include security restrictions, embedding, playlists, and social sharing. The platform also supports marketing integration, lead capture, and analytics.
Ustream includes an API for broadcasters to control and integrate their content. They also feature a Player API and Channel API that make customization possible, and various development tools to speed up new projects.
- Free account is ad-supported, and offers testing of all the Pro features.
- Pro accounts begin at $99 per month, include 100 viewer-hours, and support 720p HD video resolution.
- More high-end features such as paywall integration and white label kick in at $999 per month.
- Custom Enterprise plans include full HD broadcasting and other features, and are custom priced.
Livestream video services
Another alternative provider is Livestream. This business has a unique focus on full end-to-end integration. Livestream sells a number of hardware tools such as encoders and cameras that are set up to work with their streaming service natively.
Other Livestream features include tracking, analytics, and production support (only available with custom pricing plans).
API functionality on Livestream is split into three categories: API tools, Player API, and Channel API. These allow you to customize, control, and modify your content. They also make custom programming and integration possible.
- Pricing starts at $42 per month for the basic plan, which has limited features.
- Tracking, analytics, and embedding are added in the Premium plan for $199 per month.
- The $799 per month Enterprise plan adds password protection, white label support, and branding control.
- Custom plans start at $1,199 per month and add support for lead capture, cloud transcoding, and RTMP input.
Brightcove live streaming video host
Another popular platform is Brightcove. This provider is focused mostly on serving mid to large size businesses with an array of services. These include video monetization and transcoding. Brightcove is especially focused on media and TV providers. They offer support for OTT (Over the Top) content and TVE (TV Everywhere) technology.
Other great Brightcove features include the ability to bypass ad blockers, capture leads via popup forms inside the video window, and powerful video marketing integrations with popular platforms like Salesforce.
There are a number of APIs for the Brightcove platform. These include the Media API, which allows you to interact with your library. Additional APIs support the other Brightcove product categories. Comprehensive documentation is available on all of these.
Brightcove doesn’t publish pricing figures, but does offer a 30-day free trial. They are focused mainly on large businesses willing to commit significant financial resources to their streaming provider.
Wowza video hosting
Wowza is an interesting company that offers two main products. The first is Wowza Streaming Cloud, a cloud-based live streaming service. Features include support for 4K streaming, white label service, and security controls.
The second Wowza offering is the Wowza Streaming Engine software. This package allows you to set up your own streaming platform on your servers using the same software on the cloud platform. It’s not the same type of service as the other things we’re covering here, but it is useful for some specific users.
Wowza has a number of APIs in Java and REST to build infrastructure around their streaming platform. These include a server-side API for the Wowza Streaming Engine that integrates with databases, storage, web servers, and external processing.
- Starter plan: $49 per month for 500 GB bandwidth and 10 processing hours.
- Standard plan: $199 per month for 3 TB (3,000 GB) bandwidth and 50 processing hours.
- Plus plan: $499 per month for 7 TB bandwidth and 150 processing hours.
- Premier plan: $999 per month for 15 TB and 350 processing hours.
Wowza’s basic plan includes extremely limited viewer hours, and none of their plans support pay-per-view.
DaCast video streaming as a service
Finally, the last platform we’ll highlight is DaCast. Based in San Francisco, DaCast bills itself as a “Streaming as a Service” provider. Like the other video hosts highlighted here, DaCast also offers on-demand video hosting.
The best features of DaCast include easy live streaming and ad-free, white label service starting at the base price level. Technical support is available 24/7, and all DaCast broadcasts use the tier-one CDN (Content Delivery Network) from Akamai, which is the largest network of its kind globally.
The DaCast API and SDKs (devkits) allow users to integrate their platforms with current workflows or create their own applications. Security options allow users to restrict access to content in various ways.
- Starter Plan: $19 per month, 100 GB of bandwidth, 20 GB of storage.
- Pro Plan: $165 per month, 2 TB of bandwidth, 125 GB of storage. This pricing level adds phone support.
- Premium Plan: $390 per month, 5 TB of bandwidth, 250 GB of storage.
All DaCast plans offer the same features, except for phone support, API access, and M3u8 links for live channels. These features aren’t available in starter plans.
Advantages of these platforms
Compared to social platforms, these alternatives are much more powerful. The ability to perform video streaming in a white label fashion is a professional necessity. This and other features make these platforms more attractive to professionals. For businesses and individuals hoping to generate revenue, paywalls and flexible advertising models are essential components of live video.
All of the providers listed above offer free trials so that users can test out the service and find the best fit for their needs.
In this article, we’ve looked in depth at the social media live streaming platforms from Facebook and YouTube. These services are free and offer some cool capabilities. However, they have substantail drawbacks. For many users, they’re just not professional or feature-rich enough to get the job done.
Many find a good alternative using platforms like Wowza, DaCast, Ustream, Livestream, or Brightcove. These professional service providers offer a much more robust platform for video streaming and broadcasts. You will have to pay for that functionality, but it’ll likely be well worth the cost to a discerning user. This is especially true for the more affordable platforms.
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the difference between these platforms. The information here should assist you when choosing the right one for your needs. Check out our other blog posts for more comparisons between these different platforms. Any questions, comments, or random thoughts? Let us know in the comments! We monitor your responses and love hearing from you.
Thanks for reading, and good luck with your live streaming!
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