How to Choose a Live Video Streaming Host

How to Choose a Live Video Streaming Host

Live streaming is a disruptive technology. In the past few years, it’s completely upended the world of broadcasting. All sorts of industries are finding ways to use live video to support their goals.

Businesses are using it for products demos and trainings. Non-profits are using it to bring major events to a larger audience. Media organizations are streaming live news. Sporting leagues are using it to bring matches to their fans, wherever they are. Governments are using it to comply with open-meeting laws. Religious groups are using it to grow their congregations.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of great uses for live video.

What Is a Video Streaming Service Provider?

If you want to live stream, you need a few things. Most important is a server (or network of servers) that can distribute your video to viewers around the world.

It’s possible to roll your own solution here. However, if you have any substantial audience, you’ll need a lot of servers. That means a great deal of expense and technical overhead. Generally, only enterprises deploy their own live streaming servers. Even then, it’s rare.

Renting servers to stream video

Most people take the option of renting other people’s servers to stream their video. These “streaming service providers” generally link to a global network of servers. These networks are called Content Delivery Networks (CDN).

The best CDNs are called “Tier 1,” and Akamai is the cream of the crop. The company has more than 216,000 servers in more than 120 countries globally. The CDN ensures your stream will be delivered fast, without buffering or glitches.

CDN vs single server

Besides linking you with a CDN, a streaming service provider has other benefits. Centrally, they provide a software backend for you to stream content. Instead of having to install and configure server-side software, that’s taken care of. All you have to do is:

  1. Prepare sources (like video cameras)
  2. Connect them to an encoder to convert the video into a streaming-friendly format
  3. Connect your encoder to the streaming service provider platform

In a few simple steps, you can be online and streaming in no time. Users with a modicum of knowledge can sign up for a streaming service account. Then, they can start live streaming within 10 minutes.

[Tweet “A streaming service provides the servers and technical backend to make live streaming simple.”]

This sort of “streaming as a service” model gives you power and flexibility, without the technical overhead of developing your own system.

Note: most live streaming service providers also provide video-on-demand hosting. This means that previously recorded footage can be hosted there too. This content can be delivered alongside live streams using the same account.

What Can Streaming Do For Your Brand?

brand awarenessLive video is valuable in many different ways. When it comes to strengthening your brand, this is especially true. That’s because streaming video excels at a variety of non-advertising uses. Without having to focus on sales, brand promotion becomes easier and more effective.

A wide variety of brands are using streaming effectively. These vary from small businesses and community groups to major corporations like General Electric.

The main benefits brands find in live streaming are that it:

  • Generates high levels of excitement and engagement
  • Drives traffic, site visits, and social sharing
  • Is an opportunity to share your brand voice
  • Allows valuable face-to-face communication
  • Is a visual medium that facilitates showing, not telling

To learn more about what brands get from live streaming, check out our earlier essay on the topic. In that piece, I profile five businesses that are using live streaming in different ways. They’re worth mentioning briefly, once again:

  1. Apple live streams product announcements to an audience of millions.
  2. Microsoft has begun to adopt a similar approach. They now release XBOX updates and other news with live streamed events.
  3. Sierra Designs uses live video to demo products to salespeople and reps. This allows them to reach people in hundreds of locations simultaneously.
  4. VideoHub resells it’s streaming service to clients. This lets them offer a valuable service and strengthen their business model.
  5. Al Jazeera has been a pioneer in streaming news media. They were one of the first stations to broadcast all content live online, for free.

[Tweet “Live video is exciting, engaging, and drives traffic. It’s a great opportunity for sharing brand voice and showing, not telling.”]

Assessing Your Business-Specific Streaming Needs

It can be a daunting project to choose a provider, but it shouldn’t be. A simple assessment can help you determine what factors are most important for your needs.

Each organization will have different streaming needs, because each organization is different. So how can you assess your unique needs? Let’s look at a few questions you can ask yourself. We recommend writing down your responses to these questions as you go. The answers will help guide you in choosing a live streaming platform.

1. What is your goal?

Your streaming goal determines your parameters and necessary features. If you’re streaming sports, for example, you need a full-featured platform to integrate multiple cameras. You may need to consider monetization as well.

On the other hand, different issues apply if you’re in the media. Geographic restrictions may be critical for advertising and licensing reasons. Another consideration is website blocking. Many free live streaming platforms, like YouTube and Facebook Live, are commonly blocked. These sites are especially hard to access at schools and workplaces.

2. How large is your audience?

The size of your audience may help you determine which platform is right for you. A top-tier CDN like Akamai (which we use at DaCast) is able to reach millions of concurrent viewers. If you’re being charged by the viewer-hour, then you want an affordable platforms as well.

3. Are you streaming internally or to the public?

Whether streams are private or public-facing is important. It determines whether certain features, like password-protection, are important. It also colors the importance of a white-label service that can be custom-branded.

4. Where will you be sharing your videos?

Do you expect to primarily embed video on your own website? Will you be sharing on social media? Will you be streaming to TV and OTT internet broadcast? If so, you may need to consider a service with social sharing options. A full-featured video content management API enables integration with existing servers.

sports camera streaming operator5. Who will be operating your live streams?

Do you have a technical staff? If so, how well trained are they? A platform that’s confusing won’t help streams run smoothly. If you have dedicated personnel, a technically-difficult platform may be suitable. However, simplicity is always valuable.

6. What features are important to you?

Are you focused on making money from your live streams? Do you require geographic restrictions? If so, you should research which platforms include this feature. How about the ability to have many simultaneous live streams taking place? Many providers limit the number of simultaneous streams.

What about monetization options? If you’re interested in making money off your streams, there are a few methods. Look for a platform that supports pay-per-view, subscriptions, or ads. The VAST (Digital Video Ad Serving Template) is the standard for inserting ads into any video.

7. What is your budget?

Lastly, money is always important to consider. Live streaming is more affordable than ever, but certain platforms still charge a premium. At DaCast, we think that live streaming should be affordable and simple. We don’t believe in restricting high-end features to big-budget customers.

[Tweet “These are 7 questions to consider when choosing a #LiveStreaming video host.”]

Who Are the Main Providers of B2B Video Streaming Service?

There are a number of streaming providers on the market. Each one caters to a different audience. Many of the top platforms available are based on social networks. Facebook Live and Periscope, for example, are popular free live streaming options.

These apps have gone mainstream and are driving the rising popularity of streaming. They’re amazing platforms if your needs are simple. Millions of users find these platforms to be great, but there are some serious issues. Today we’re going to look at those issues for one platform in particular: YouTube Live.

About YouTube Live

YouTube launched it’s free live streaming service in 2013, instantly bringing the technology to more than a billion users. Streaming with YouTube has some major disadvantages, however.

Video host servers1. You lose control of your content

The YouTube content license that every user agrees to includes a provision that whatever you upload to the site can be used by YouTube. They gain rights to your content that are “worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sub-licensable and transferable.” It’s not an ideal situation for many video producers.

Source: section 6, clause C of the YouTube terms of service.

2. Content may be blocked

According to Time Magazine, YouTube is the third most blocked website in the world. Nearly 15% of all employers block the site as a matter of course. (Facebook and Twitter, which both offer live streaming platforms as well, are blocked even more frequently than YouTube).

3. No technical support

YouTube doesn’t provide any tech support to users—just a massive support forum where questions often go unanswered. Sometimes this causes problems. You don’t want the service failing right before an essential broadcast. Notably, many popular live streaming platforms such as UStream, Livestream, and Wowza don’t offer 24/7 tech support either.

4. Advertising concerns

Monetization options on YouTube live streams are mostly limited to advertising. Unfortunately, you don’t control what sort of advertising is shown. You may end up with products and services of competitors being advertised, or content you find objectionable.

5. Content is branded

On YouTube, all content features the YouTube logo prominently. This conveys a non-professional appearance. It’s not a clean look considering all content is basically advertising for them. Combine that with the recommended videos sidebar, and viewer attention is being taken away from your content.

Other streaming platforms

Other free live streaming platforms have similar limitations. Periscope, Facebook Live, and other apps aren’t ideal for business users for the same reasons. These platforms restrict your options, insert their own corporate branding, and provide no support for users.

Professional platforms like Brightcove and Livestream remedy some of these issues, but these platforms are often prohibitively expensive. They also tend to restrict many important features except to big-budget clients.

DaCast

One great alternative is DaCast, our own live streaming and on-demand video hosting service. Chris Awad, a digital marketing executive, says it well: “We were paying $500 a month for the same services DaCast offers… at a fraction of the cost.”

Here are a few comparisons to show how DaCast stacks up to the competition.

The streaming industry leader is five times as expensive as DaCast

Brightcove’s basic plan is five times more expensive than DaCast. Features are limited unless you purchase a more expensive plan.

UStream plans are pricey and offer limited support 

UStream’s support is only available for 12 hours per day. Their basic plan is expensive as well, and restricts features significantly for non-enterprise users.

Livestream restricts advanced features to big-budget clients

Compared to Livestream, DaCast provides better features at a lower price. These include unlimited channels, white-label service, analytics, paywalls, and password protection. All these features are quite expensive on the Livestream platform.

Wowza limits viewer hours

Wowza only offers 10 ad-free viewer hours on basic plans. They also doesn’t offer important features like Pay-Per-View, 24/7 support, or Akamai CDN.

[Tweet “Check out this comparison of top-rated #livestreaming platforms:”]

Matching Platforms to Service Providers

There’s a lot to think about when choosing a live streaming provider. However, if we had to narrow it down, these are the essential elements we’d have you consider.

Thankfully, switching to a new live streaming platform is quick and easy. The technology has evolved to the point where systems are simple to set up. It’s now possible to conduct a thorough assessment of your needs. Then, you can match a specific platform to your problem.

streaming game cameraHere at DaCast, we love to share case studies and examples. We have a whole library of them. One great example is the team from Wildlife Windows in the UK. This unique business works with private landowners and government agencies to monitor wildlife. They install weatherproof cameras in all sorts of outdoor locations. Then, they connect these cameras to the internet.

Some of their more amazing installations have been on the side of cliffs, or even underwater! That’s some complex rigging and cable management. Once connected, they can resell their live streaming service via DaCast to their clients. It’s a great way for them to generate revenue. It allows them to capitalize on the craze of watching wildlife live online.

A hypothetical case study in choosing a streaming video service

Let’s examine another example, this time a hypothetical one. Let’s say you’re in charge of a small semi-professional sports league. Your teams compete across the whole country. However, your staff is small; generally you only have one staff member present at each game.

In this case, your answers to the questions we posed above might look something like this:

  1. Goal: to partner with teams to live stream games to fans who cannot be present. Also, to generate revenue for both the team and league.
  2. Audience size: we expect between 30 and 100 viewers for most games. Perhaps 500-1000 viewers for the championship game.
  3. Public or private: streaming will be public.
  4. Sharing location: we want to stream on our website and on the team’s social media pages.
  5. Staff: there will be no dedicated technical staff, so streaming has to be easy.
  6. Important features: monetization and geographic restrictions are key for us. We’d also like to be able to insert our own branding.
  7. Our budget is in the ballpark of $100-$200 per month. We hope to recoup costs and then some by monetizing the stream.

In this example, we now have enough information to make our choice. This client needs an affordable platform that’s simple to use and offers monetization and geographic restrictions.

DaCast is a great choice in a situation like this. All required features are present, and the cost is affordable. Perhaps most importantly, the DaCast SaaS (streaming as a service) model and simple setup means that getting started is easy.

The league could set up each live stream from HQ prior to the event. Then, the on-location streamer would simply need to connect a camera to an encoder or laptop with a good internet connection. A few simple button presses later, and the stream can go online and begin generating revenue. Staff members could be trained to carry this out in an hour or less.

Conclusion

Selecting a live streaming service provider can be confusing. The array of features is so broad, and prices are so different, that it’s hard to compare apples to apples. Hopefully this article has helped simplify that process for you.

When it comes down to it, the choices are pretty clear. Does a service provide the features and ease of use you need, at a price you can afford? If so, you’ve probably found your match.

Let us know in the comments if we’ve missed any important elements in this process. We love hearing from our readers. Thanks for joining us!

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