The TV industry is changing rapidly. After more than a half-century of dominance, traditional TV broadcasts are fading in popularity. Starting in 2015, young millennials (ages 14-25) began watching more video on digital devices than on television. This trend is only accelerating since then. In response, many TV stations are shifting to the use of a video live streaming solution.
This article will focus on how TV stations are making that switch. Specifically, we’re going to review some of the key features that television broadcasters need in a video streaming platform. Then, we’ll compare 5 top video live streaming solution options.
One poll found that 59 percent of respondents prefer live videos online vs live TV. Are you prepared to shift with the industry? If so, you’ll need to move into internet distribution. This article will show you how.
Staying ahead of cord-cutting as the industry shifts
As people are cutting the cord, TV stations are shifting to live video streaming on their website. This is being done in multiple different ways. There are many technical decisions to be made regarding distribution channels, access rights, bitrates, and technical formats, and so on. The use of internet-connected Smart TVs is rising rapidly. But people are also watching on phones, computers, tablets, and other devices.
However, any course of action will require one tool: a system to upload and distribute content to viewers. Some networks are choosing to deploy their own server networks for this purpose. However, many others are choosing to work with partners in an IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) model. In this approach, a TV station purchases access to an existing server distribution network.
This approach has many advantages. For example, it offloads responsibility for maintenance, security, staffing, upgrades, equipment purchasing, monitoring, and other duties. This reduces cost and (critically) complexity of operations, allowing you to focus on business decisions and content.
Key features for TV stations broadcasting online
When it comes to choosing a video live streaming solution, there are a variety of options available. It’s important, then, that you learn how to differentiate between them. This means assessing the features necessary for your operations, plus the associated costs.
Most TV broadcasters have feature needs that are relatively similar. Let’s look at a few of the key features now that we’ll use to compare our top 5 videos live streaming solution.
An API (Application Programming Interface) provides professional integration that’s essential for TV stations. Video APIs allow you to create custom video portals, web, and mobile apps, and more—all while minimizing effort and expense. They also allow you to easily integrate new web publishing alongside traditional broadcast feeds—without having to invest in new infrastructure.
Another key factor for many TV stations is monetization. For subscription-based services, you’ll need to set up some sort of authorization program. Alternatively, you can set up a new monetization subscription plan for your live streaming solution. Some estimates are that more than a third of professional broadcasters monetize their OTT content via subscription models.
Another method is pay-per-view. This monetization method is common these days and is often used in the online video industry for premium content.
The third common monetization method is advertising. This is very common at TV stations of all sorts. Online advertising is typically implemented via a video player API plus an ad-serving system like VAST or VPAID. Look for a solution that supports these tools.
Professional broadcasters need content to be protected. Piracy costs the U.S. economy more than $20 billion per year, and you don’t want to be part of that statistic. Look for a robust suite of security features to ensure private content remains private. This could include:
- HTTPS delivery
- Secure paywall
- Password protection
- Referrer and geographic restrictions
The final essential feature we’ll look at here is bandwidth cost. TV stations generally broadcast 24/7 using high-quality video streams. This means a higher bitrate, which leads to larger data consumption. TV broadcasters can suck down a lot of bandwidth, which means that reducing per-GB bandwidth costs is an important factor in keeping costs in check.
Top 5 video live streaming solution comparison
Now that we have a list of key features, let’s examine how some of the top video live streaming solution options compare to one another. Given that we’re focused on TV broadcasters here, we’ll focus on high-end features on the top-tier plans.
IBM Cloud Video
Media/Enterprise plans (the most expensive) on IBM Cloud Video include a “Channel API” that provides full programmatic access. This allows users to easily create mobile and web apps, integrate workflows, and more. The IBM Cloud Video API is also a RESTful API. Access starts with plans costing more than $999.
IBM Cloud Video’s Enterprise plans support monetization via a subscription model. Advertising monetization can be integrated via API. However, these features are only available in very expensive plans.
The IBM Cloud Video platform includes a number of security features. These include password protection, embed controls, and more. Features are not available with cheaper plans.
The IBM Cloud Video business provides basic plans for small and medium-scale streamers. These plans offer varied functionality for $99 to $999 per month. At $999 per month, you are provided with 5,000 ad-free viewer hours. Additional bandwidth costs 20 cents per hour.
Enterprise plans add additional features, including OTT features. This includes the Streaming Manager online video platform. However, all customized plans do incur additional costs, and these contracts must be custom negotiated.
The Brightcove platform includes a number of different APIs. This includes a video API, and other APIs allowing you to extend, customize, and integrate the platform in a variety of ways. These are only included on plans costing $499 and up.
Video Cloud includes monetization tools, but only for advertising and with plans costing more than $499/month.
Brightcove’s security features include content protection, domain and IP restrictions, authentication tools, and more.
Brightcove’s Marketing services package includes video marketing tools and analytics and starts at $199 per month. However, this plan does not include live streaming. Their Enterprise Communications package starts at $499 per month. Custom plans are also available and include up to unlimited bandwidth for live streaming at custom prices.
Kaltura provides a range of APIs, including a video platform API, to help you integrate their service.
Kaltura doesn’t have built-in monetization tools, but you can integrate external tools for monetization. This type of simplicity with extensibility defines the Kaltura platform.
Kaltura’s security tools include various encryption options, watermarking, DRM, IP and geo-restrictions, and more. You can also host the service locally if you wish to avoid a cloud-based option.
Kaltura pricing for their pay-as-you-go services started at $0.17 per GB for outbound traffic, plus $0.25 per minute live streamed. Plays are also priced at $0.001 per play. There are additional costs for storage, transcoding, and so on.
Livestream offers a video playback API and content management API to users on their Enterprise plans ($999/month and up).
Monetization options, including subscriptions and advertising support, are included with Enterprise plans as well (at $999/month and up).
Security features include privacy settings, password protection, embed restrictions, registration portal support, and more. However, most tools are restricted to the $999/month and up plans.
Livestream includes unlimited bandwidth, viewers, storage, and playback for Enterprise users. Enterprise plans start at $999 per month and range upwards, depending on the features you need and the nature of your business.
Dacast’s RESTful video API provides full, programmatic access to every feature of the service. Comprehensive documentation makes it easy to use the API to create custom web apps, video portals, mobile apps, integrated workflows, and more. This feature is included at $125/month and up.
Dacast has a built-in paywall that supports subscriptions and pay-per-view. It also supports external paywall providers such as Cleeng and InPlayer. Advertising monetization is supported as well. This feature is also included at $125/month and up.
Features for security on the Dacast platform include password protection, geographic and domain restrictions, payment security, tokenized access, HTTP delivery, and more. These features are included in all plans.
TV stations are most likely to be more interested in Dacast’s Premium ($125/month) and Enterprise ($289/month) plans. These plans include all professional features, plus 2 TB and 5 TB of bandwidth. Additional bandwidth costs $0.0625 per GB on the Premium plan and $0.0578 per GB on the Enterprise plan.
Custom plans are also available if you have greater needs.
Hopefully, this article has educated you about choosing a video live streaming solution for online TV broadcasting. Feel free to let us know if you have any questions. We love to hear from readers and will get back to you as soon as we can.
Looking for a video live streaming solution with a proven track record of working with TV stations? Try our 30-day free trial (no credit card required) to test all Dacast features. It’s a powerful platform with very competitive pricing per GB.
For exclusive offers and regular live streaming tips, you can also join our LinkedIn group. As always—thanks for reading, and good luck with your live streams!