Do you remember the early days of Google Video and YouTube? In 2020, more than a decade later, so much has changed.
YouTube has long been a multi-billion dollar business. And today, the majority of people in the U.S. stream live video on their phones regularly. Consequently, a multitude of hosting services have emerged in the live streaming industry.
Let’s break down exactly what online video platform (OVPs) do and discuss some key players in both the consumer and professional spaces.
What is an Online Video Player
Online video players are applications that allow users to upload and broadcast video content to their audience. The most common video players run on Apple’s HTML5 technology, such as the THEOplayer. There are multiple reasons for using OVPs to share videos, including lead generation, building brand awareness, advertising and providing paid access to video streaming.
Video Platform Features and Capabilities
Some key features to look for when choosing the best OVP include:
- Security features
- Monetization capabilities
- Available integrations
- Video editing tools
- Access to analytics
OVPs are not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Determine which features and capabilities are required to reach your goals and use that to determine which OVP to choose for your business.
The Rise of Live Streaming via Consumer-Grade Platforms
Consumer-focused platforms (B2C) are currently the most popular platforms for video sharing and hosting. YouTube Live and Facebook Live are considered heavy-hitters in this market.
Billions of people around the world use these services. As a result, they make great platforms for B2C marketing and outreach. In particular, these B2C platforms can help you to reach massive audiences. Also, they are completely free to use, even for the biggest corporations.
YouTube and Facebook both offer live streaming services, but they didn’t always. They have evolved to meet the needs of their B2C users.
As convenient as these services are for beginners, the free platforms don’t offer many key features that most businesses and serious broadcasters require. Both also have significant limitations.
For example, many schools, businesses, and other settings block Youtube and Facebook because they are social media platforms. If you want to reach your target audiences or expand your viewership, streaming over the most-blocked sites in the world is not a great idea.
That’s where professional live streaming solutions come into play.
Professional-Grade OVPs and Their Role in Business Settings
There is great value in professional OVPs. YouTube and Facebook can’t satisfy all of the needs of larger businesses.
Professional video hosts offer advanced security features, enable complex monetization schemes via integrated paywalls and include tools to ease integration with existing workflows. Free OVPs do not.
Those features, among many others, are equipped to meet the needs of B2B live streaming more effectively than B2C platforms.
Many professional platforms, including Dacast, also offer on-the-spot tech support. B2C platforms like YouTube don’t offer such support. This is a key feature for 24/7 live streaming. It’s a crucial feature for live streaming events that require real-time troubleshooting and a guaranteed positive experience for paying viewers.
2020 Online Video Platform Comparison
We have collected some information from the top competitors in the online video platform space to give you a rundown on key features, pricing, pros and cons and more.
First, a note that the data in this online video platform comparison comes from a number of different sources. For example, these sources include platform websites, user reviews, and free trial accounts.
However, it’s difficult to keep up with every detail, as platforms change services, pricing plans, and features often. If you’re one of these companies or a consumer with a correction, please send us an email or leave us a comment below. For now, take a look at what we’ve got.
1. IBM Cloud Video
Next up in our platform comparison, IBM Cloud Video is the latest evolution of UStream. In 2016, IBM acquired UStream. IBM Cloud Video primarily targets the enterprise streaming market with a variety of cloud video and streaming services (such as storage and GPU computing). Within the IBM Cloud video umbrella, Streaming Manager is its core product. As an online video platform, this option includes uploading, managing, and delivering live and on-demand content.
- Worldwide delivery via CDNs
- Internal video sharing platform for corporate communications
- HTML5 video player for all-screens
- Analytics and insights
- Social playback
- Cloud transcoding
Streaming Manager’s Pro plans start at $99 per month and range up to $999 per month. All monthly pro plans include HD broadcasting, though only up to 720p. However, users must purchase a custom-priced Enterprise plan for full access to professional broadcasting features. These include 1080p broadcasting, OTT-level features, and more.
Next up in our best live streaming platforms review, Dacast is an ideal live streaming platform in terms of ease of use. Overall, this platform offers live streaming solutions and OTT video streaming across all devices, including mobile. Recently, Dacast also acquired streaming platform vzaar, for advanced VOD features and China playback accessibility. Additionally, this platform offers recurring and pay-as-you-go pricing.
Dacast Streaming as a Service is an ad-free, white-label platform. With Dacast, users can access the Akamai live streaming CDN to reach viewers around the globe. Among other stand-out features, Dacast offers secure video upload and professional-grade live video hosting as well. Dacast broadcasters include media companies, TV stations, religious community networks, corporate enterprises, sports leagues, individuals, and non-profits.
- Video delivery via Akamai CDN, with low-latency HLS streaming available
- HTML5 all-device video player, with Integrated Paywall
- Video APIs with complete documentation, including code samples and sandbox
- Analytics dashboard
- Monetization via pay-per-view, subscriptions, and advertising
- 24/7 customer support
For your business needs, Dacast has many live streaming pricing options including Premium ($125/mo) or Enterprise ($289/mo) plans. Among other features, these plans offer monetization tools, video API access, chapter markers for VODs, and direct m3u8 links for mobile apps. In fact, plan rates are affordable for even small-scale businesses and professionals. The Enterprise video platform plan offers more streaming data (5,000 GB) and storage (500 GB) than the Premium plan (2,000 GB, 200 GB, respectively).
For newer or less experienced broadcasters, you might consider these more basic plans:
- Starter plan ($19 per month), which includes many of the features of the higher-tier plans
- Pay-as-you-go options. For users who only live stream occasionally, Dacast offers unique event pricing. This option allows you to purchase customized streaming services and bandwidth, without worrying about wasting bandwidth or money.
Overview and company history:
Wistia was founded in 2008. The Massachusetts-based platform focuses primarily on marketing. Note that this OVP does not offer live streaming functionality.
Wistia’s claim to fame is that they provide a television-quality experience for their viewers that helps users grow their audiences. They are known for being the online video platform that puts users in control of their content.
- Multi-bitrate and adaptive streaming
- Global content delivery
- Tech support, but premium support is only available on custom-priced plans
- Video API access, with six different APIs available
- Security features, including password protection, email gating, and domain restriction
- Great analytics
- Mostly unlimited bandwidth
- Integrations with various CRMs
- Great security features
- No live streaming
- No monetization
- Extra videos add to cost
- No China delivery
For a basic plan, Wistia pricing starts at $99 per month. This includes hosting for up to 10 videos, and additional videos cost $0.25 per month. For larger customers, there are custom-priced plan options.
Next up in our best live streaming platforms review is Vimeo, an online video platform that originally launched in 2004. In 2017, the company acquired the Livestream OVP. In recent years, Vimeo has pivoted toward the B2B sector. One element of this shift is the Vimeo OTT solution, which markets itself as an all-in-one streaming solution for live broadcasting and video hosting. As a streaming service, Vimeo OTT offers uploading from any device, player customization, and video analytics. Overall, Vimeo OTT targets larger-scale businesses with substantial budgets.
- Video monetization
- Privacy and security features
- Embedding to your own website
- Video player and broadcaster APIs
- Custom hardware and software available
- Video hosting and management
Since acquiring Livestream in 2017, Vimeo has changed its pricing and offerings. With Vimeo OTT, there is no longer a basic plan starting at $42 per month. Instead, the first plan that includes live streaming starts at $500 per month, plus transaction fees and other potential fees incurred. Overall, Vimeo OTT takes a high-end premium approach to its service, which means higher costs for users. For example, full API access starts at $1,000+ per month. Likewise, full monetization tools only come at that pricing level.
Overview and company history:
With a video management foundation in its open-source software, Kaltura offers a unique focus in the OVP market. Historically, this company has worked most extensively with educational institutions.
While the Kaltura software is free, it requires an infrastructure of servers for hosting and distribution. This platform represents an alternative to the self-hosted model (e.g., Dacast). That said, Kaltura offers cloud-based video hosting and distribution services for both VOD and live streams.
Kaltura shines when it comes to extensibility. The open-source nature of their software means that a community of users create and share countless add-ons and integrations.
The downside of Kaltura’s extensibility, however, is that the platform can be confusing to use. With so many different features, it can be overwhelming for beginner users.
- Multi-bitrate and adaptive streaming are included
- Global content delivery via a combined CDN approach (with the option to bring your own CDN)
- Tech support via a ticket-based system, which is slower than chat or phone
- Video API access
- Security features, including a range of authentication and encryption options
- Monetization, including all major models (subscription, advertising, PPV streaming)
- Many available features
- Good monetization options
- Robust security
- No phone or chat support
- Highly complex
- No China delivery
Kaltura doesn’t publish pricing information on their website. However, some users have said that plans start at about $1000 per month and go up from there. For more details, you can read about this platform’s pay-for-what-you-use pricing model.
First up in this review, Brightcove is an online video platform that targets large businesses. Brightcove divides its product offerings into several discrete categories. These include Video Player, OTT Flow, Video Marketing Suite, and a number of others. They have recently acquired Ooyala and announced the end of life of the Ooyala platform.
Among other offerings, Brightcove’s streaming and hosting platform is called Video Cloud. This platform includes an all-screen player and supports monetization. Additionally, it offers a functional analytics feature.
Key features (Brightcove Video Cloud)
- Monetization & advertising
- HTML5 all-device video player
- Video analytics
- Social publishing tools
- Token-based REST APIs
- 24/7 customer support
Brightcove doesn’t publish its pricing plans for Video Cloud live streaming services online. For a customized quote, you need to contact them directly to discuss your specific business needs. For more details, you can check out this third-party review of the platform as well. Note that this might change following the absorption of the former Ooyala video platform.
7. JW Player
JW Player was originally founded as a video player. However, the platform has since expanded to include video hosting and delivery services. Recently, the company added live streaming to its offerings as well. JW Player is a highly capable player that is based on open-source coding. The live streaming platform includes the player itself, among other useful features.
Key features (JW Player Live)
- Cloud-based content-management platform
- Content-recommendations engine
- Custom video galleries
- Up to 1080p HD streaming
- Support for monetization via advertising
With JW Player, limited live streaming support begins at the Starter plan level. At $12/month (billed annually), this plan targets developers and small businesses. Among other features, it includes storage for up to 1,500 videos and bandwidth for 150,000 plays. For most higher volume streaming/hosting, custom-priced Enterprise plans include ad integration and remove revenue sharing. Publishers and broadcasters should contact JW Player directly for pricing and features.
Overview and company history:
Flowplayer is an online video platform that serves large media houses and small businesses. They are primarily known for their white-label streaming services and top of the line monetization solutions.
Flowplayer has offices in the United States, Finland, and Sweden. Flowplayer was launched in 2013, but the site provides very little background information.
The main purpose of Flowplayer is to provide smaller businesses with the tools they need to host, stream and monetize videos with a sleek and professional video player.
If you are looking for an online video platform that is simple and straightforward, Flowplayer could be an option for you. It is most widely known for its reliable video player and monetization tools.
It has straightforward pricing, including a $25/month plan that is great for those who are getting started with video broadcasting.
- High-quality video player
- Live streaming capabilities
- Award-winning monetization solutions
- Powerful video analytics
- Reliable video player
- Sleek interface
- No notable cons
Flowplayer has three pricing plan packages: Standard, Professional, and Enterprise. The Standard package costs $25/month, and the Professional package is $100/month. The Enterprise package is the most inclusive package and it runs at $500/month.
Wrapping it up
The streaming service market is full of many great options. Choosing the right platform can be overwhelming, but we encourage you to take a step back, analyze your goals and priorities and choose an online video platform that meets your every need.
We also encourage you to test platforms with their free trials to make sure you find the one that is your perfect fit.
Whether you want to stream live video occasionally, do regular business-related broadcasts or anything in between, Dacast is here to help. We hope this post has helped you narrow down your OVP options. And when comparing OVPs, we highly recommend taking advantage of free trials when possible.
Meanwhile, if you haven’t already, you can try out the Dacast online video platform free for 30-days (no credit card required). Just click the button below to sign up and start streaming live today!
In addition, we invite you to join our LinkedIn group for regular live streaming tips and exclusive offers.
Thanks for reading this online video platform comparison. Let us know your feedback and questions in the comment section below. We love to hear from our readers, and we will get back to you.