Online video streaming is a booming industry. Online video streaming makes the viewer feel updated, informed, and like they are part of an event. This increased viewer engagement is valuable; countless businesses, schools, and other groups are working to get in on the action. Of course, doing so requires an online video platform (OVP). In this article, we’ll consider Wowza and several Wowza alternatives for online video streaming.
There are a variety of Wowza alternatives providing online video streaming services. At the simplest end, you have platforms like YouTube Live and Facebook Live. These free, consumer-grade video services provide some basic features for personal use.
However, broadcasters who need greater functionality will usually want to opt for a professional online video streaming platform. Wowza is one such example. JW Player, UStream / IBM Cloud Video, and Dacast are the three Wowza alternatives we’ll compare. Before we dive into the various platforms, let’s consider why online video streaming with OVPs is on the rise!
Why online video streaming?
Viewers love live streaming! The average smartphone video viewer spends an average of 2.8 minutes per standard video, but 5 minutes on a live stream. On desktops, this ratio becomes even larger: 34.5 minutes on live streams, compared to 2.6 minutes for video-on-demand.
This points toward a simple conclusion: live streaming can be highly successful across multiple fields and industries. Whatever your goals, live streaming can probably help. Some of the most popular uses of online video streaming include:
- Corporate training
- Concerts and live music
- Education and classes
- Political gatherings
- Religious events
- News media and talk shows, and
- and many more!
Using an online video platform
To get started with online video streaming, you’ll want to use an online video platform (OVP). An OVP is like a Swiss Army Knife for internet video, providing an array of tools and features.
At their core, OVPs host videos-on-demand and (sometimes) provide live streaming services. OVPs can also include features for:
- Video security and access control tools
- Monetization tools to build revenue streams
- Branding and customizability
- Video player software for your embedded videos and multi-device support
- Analytics to track your users and their activity
- CDN (Content Delivery Network) to minimize buffering issues
- APIs to integrate features into custom-coded apps and services
Now let’s dig into our review of online video streaming platforms by looking at Wowza, then a few Wowza alternatives.
Wowza Media Systems is a streaming-focused company that released its first products in 2007. Originally Wowza Media Server existed as an alternative to the Adobe Flash Media Server. In 2014, the product name became Wowza Streaming Engine. Today, Wowza provides products and services that are widely used in the streaming video industry.
Wowza’s OVP offering is Wowza Streaming Cloud. Features of the platform include:
- Live streaming video delivery
- Support for 4K streaming
- Low latency streaming
- White-label service
- Security access controls, including encryption, tokenized access, and geo-restrictions
- RESTful API to integrate with custom applications and automate services
Wowza offers three versions of its service. “Live events” is Wowza’s offering for one-time streamers. The “24/7” plan allows for constant live streaming. Developers will probably prefer the third option, Wowza’s API-based service.
Wowza pricing for live events plans comes in three tiers:
- The Standard Plan, for $199 per month, starts you at 3 TB of bandwidth.
- The Plus plan, for $499 per month, increases bandwidth to 7 TB.
- Finally, the Premier plan, for $999 per month, includes 15 TB of bandwidth
Wowza also offers a number of other services. These include the popular Wowza Streaming Engine, a self-hosted media server. This software lets you set up your own live streaming server. It may have advantages for some broadcasters, but the process can be very technical. You have to have the resources to set up and maintain such a system, and even then there are risks inherent.
Now that we’ve looked at Wowza is a little detail, let’s take a look at some Wowza alternatives. There are many online video streaming services around; these Wowza alternatives are just some of the available OVPs. As we’ve already mentioned, some of these platforms are much more professional than others.
Today we’ll take a look at three of these professional-grade Wowza alternatives: JW Player, UStream / IBM Cloud Video, and Dacast.
1. JW Player
The first of the Wowza alternatives we’ll consider is one of the newer players in the live streaming market: JW Player. JW Player first existed in 2005 as an Open source project. In early development, YouTube videos were streaming over JW Player. In 2016, JW Player released a new and simpler version of its product, called JW Showcase.
As you can see, JW Player has a lot of video experience. But all that experience has been with video player software for websites. Live streaming is a newer niche for them.
Here are a few of the top features highlighted by JW Player:
- Easy setup
- Adaptive streaming up to 1080p full-HD
- Native integration with the capable JW Player video player
- Simulcast live streams to Facebook as well as JW Player
- Real-time analytics
One major drawback of JW Player is that it cannot currently support constant, 24/7, around-the-clock live streaming. The length of any single broadcast is limited to six hours. That’s plenty for most users, but can be a deal-breaker for multi-day events or continuous streamers.
Additionally, JW Player only offers one stream monetization option: advertising. This limits usability for some streamers.
JW Player pricing comes in three tiers. Notably, live streaming is not offered at the Starter plan level. Pricing for the highest-tier Enterprise plan requires you to negotiate contracts on a customized basis. This is a major barrier to streamers who want to test out streaming before committing to an expensive plan.
2. UStream / IBM Cloud Video
The second of the Wowza alternatives under review here is UStream, or the online video streaming service formerly known as UStream. Now owned by IBM, UStream is gradually transitioning to IBM Cloud Video. We’ll use the terms interchangeably here.
Originally, soldiers involved in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan used UStream. Back then, this platform allowed them to communicate with their families. Today, it’s a full-service live streaming company.
UStream’s headline features include:
- Ad-free broadcasting
- Phone support
- Basic security functionality
- Automatic stream recording
- All-device video player
The IBM Cloud Video business spans a few main segments. Basic UStream plans to target small and medium-scale streamers. These plans have no bitrate or resolution caps and offer varied functionality for $99 to $999 per month.
- The Silver plan, for $99 per month, offers 100 ad-free viewer hours, 50 GB of storage, 1 channel, and no white-label service (Ustream branded).
- The Gold plan, for $499 per month, includes 2,000 viewer hours, 250 GB storage, 2 channels, and advanced live analytics.
- The Platinum plan bumps users to 5,000 viewer hours, 3 channels, and 500 GB storage at $999 per month. This plan also includes full white-label branding control.
Enterprise plans add additional features. This includes the Streaming Manager online video platform. However, all customized plans do incur additional costs.
The last of the Wowza alternatives we’ll cover here is Dacast. This is our own platform. Billed as a “streaming as a service” provider, Dacast is the prototypical Swiss Army Knife for video. It has a wide range of features.
Our service includes hosting for video-on-demand as well as live streaming. Broadcasters can use the Dacast platform to upload or stream video as well as an embed on social media. They can also easily monetize content, and track interactions via analytics. There are also options for expanding this functionality. The broadcaster API allows integration of Dacast’s tools with the apps, platforms, or services of your choice.
First, headline features of the Dacast online video streaming service include:
- White-label service (ad-free and custom branding)
- Uses the Akamai live streaming CDN, the largest in the world, to ensure fast and reliable delivery
- Built-in paywall for monetization via pay-per-view streaming or subscription
- Robust security controls
- Support for full-HD streaming
- 24/7 customer support
- Unlimited channels (simultaneous numbers of streams)
When compared to Wowza, IBM Cloud Video, and JW Player, Dacast is a compelling option. As the above data shows, the price-to-features ratio seems to tilt in Dacast’s favor. Dacast’s live streaming pricing plans are as follows:
- The Basic Plan ($19 per month) includes 100 GB of bandwidth, 20 GB of storage, and most Dacast features.
- The Pro Plan ($165 per month) includes 2 TB of bandwidth and 200 GB of storage. It also adds phone support and broadcaster API access.
- The Premium Plan ($390 per month) includes 5 TB of bandwidth and 500 GB of storage.
Event pricing, which lets you purchase bandwidth in a “bucket” that you can use at any time, is also available. Bandwidth won’t expire until 12 months after purchase. This is ideal for occasional and one-time live streamers.
Today, online video streaming continues to become more and more popular. Given that trend, a professional video platform is essential for anyone who wishes to stream. This post has looked at four popular online video streaming services, including Wowza and three Wowza alternatives. We hope that the information outlined here can help you make the right decision for you.
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Thanks for reading, and as always—good luck with your live streams.
By Max Wilbert.