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12 min read

Comparing the 8 Best Live Video Streaming Platforms of 2021

By Azfar Saleem & Shahan Zafar
A woman conducting a live stream

According to Conviva's 2018 State of the Streaming TV industry report, the viewing hours of live video content rose from 65% between 2017 and 2018. That percentage is increasing each year, and more rapidly because of the dreaded COVID-19

Two of the largest countries in the worldThe USA and China; have seen immense increases in the number of people using live video solutions as a means of delivering content. 

You too would want to benefit from live streaming and would be looking for such a platform. Chances are, you are probably overwhelmed and asking questions like: Why should I not use Zoom for carrying out my live stream? Why go for a broadcast-level live streaming platform? How do I carry out a secure live stream for my organization's internal employees, or live stream secure confidential information while making sure no one intercepts it midway. 

Or maybe simple questions like what is an encoder, and what benefits does it have? We'll cover all of this is in this guide and compare 10 options across two types of live streaming platforms; webinar solutions vs. live streaming platforms.

Ready to go on-air?

A woman conducting a live video session

 

Table of Contents

What is a Live Video Streaming Platform?

Features to Look in Such a Platform

The 8 Best Live Streaming Platforms

Webinar Solutions

 

 

 

What is a Live Streaming Platform?

Live streaming is when you create and share videos with your audience to watch in real-time. A live video streaming platform has the complete infrastructure to allow you to deliver videos in real-time from a recording device to a player at the user's end.  

Cloudfare defines it as a video that is sent over the internet in real-time, without being recorded or stored first.

Though, this definition may not reflect its true form, as modern live-streaming platforms also record these videos and make them available as on-demand videos for later viewing. 

In essence, live streaming is the process of delivering video in real-time. But unlike video conferencing, in live streaming, the communication takes place one way

Learn more about the process behind video streaming in our blog on video streaming.  

Or read our blog on what live streaming is, how it works and the process behind it.

 

Live Video Streaming Infographic

More on Live Streaming in VIDIZMO

 

What Features You Should Consider When Choosing a Live Streaming Platform?

There are various types of live streaming platforms out there, and to compare them, here's a list of the features that we think are important:

Ease of Use 

One of the most important features to consider when choosing a live video streaming platform is that it must have an easy and adaptable user interface. So that even a newly inducted user, can orchestrate the capabilities he or she needs.  

Optimized for Varying Internet Speeds

We went over to G2, TrustRadius, and Capterra and looked at the poor reviews. Interestingly we found out that most of the low-rated reviews were complaining about internet connectivity issues, playback issues etc.

Most live-streaming platforms don't offer capabilities to optimize the playback experience. It's important to look for video transcoding capabilities, where multiple quality options are created for users to choose from or automatic selection using adaptive bitrate streaming (just like YouTube). For corporate networks, it's important to look for a solution that intelligently routes videos through means of an eCDN or else your network will be overloaded.

A screenshot of VIDIZMO live video streaming platform

Security

Cybersecurity Ventures predicts cybercrime will cost the world in excess of $6 trillion annually by 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015. 

Source: Herjavec The 2019 Official Annual Cybercrime Report

It is important to secure your live stream to certain authorized people only. This is if you are live streaming a video that has confidential data, a breach of which could lead to breach of compliance, loss of reputation, competitive disadvantage etc. 

The US State Department Uses VIDIZMO for Secure Internal Live Streaming - Read More on This Story

Scalability 

It is entirely possible, for your company or organization to increase the number of people it wants in the live stream. There could also be random surges in viewership. Therefore, it's important to look for a platform that uses intelligent load balancing to scale up servers as viewership increases. All being done automatically, without you having to break your head.

"Stream to 10s or 1000s, Your Platform Should Be Able to Do it All"

 

Should Include Interactivity 

Being able to create engaging and captivating content should be possible with live video solutions as well. To create interactive content, you must be able to include Q&A windows, live chat options, notifications, add surveys, etc., as the live stream proceeds.  

 

Built from the Latest Technology

It's important to look for a live video streaming platform that uses the latest streaming technologies to ensure compatibility with all devices and streaming servers. An important thing to look at here is a live streaming platform that uses HTTP (HLS) protocol, Microsoft Smooth Streaming or MPEG-DASH for video streaming as this is supported by most infrastructure and devices. 

 

Deployment Options (Not for All)

This is not an important consideration unless you are a large enterprise that operates under strict compliance and security requirements, or prefers directly managing cloud services. In that case, you would want to look for a platform that allows you to host data and the streaming infrastructure in your Azure, AWS or any other cloud account, or allows for on-premise video streaming in your datacenter.

Read | AWS Services for Live Streaming

 

Before we compare: Generally there are 2 ways to do a live stream, where you can either opt for a live streaming platform - one where you connect an encoder and broadcast your stream. Or you could use a simple webcast solution - like the one offered by Zoom.  

 

The 8 Best Live Streaming Platforms of 2021

Based on the criteria mentioned previously, we have compiled a list of the best 8 live streaming platforms. These are platforms that stream using modern streaming protocols and you need to push or pull a stream through means of an encoder. This helps you show the feed from multiple cameras, insert a video during a live stream, or stream a live meeting between panelists. 

VIDIZMO

VIDIZMO offers a Gartner-recognized enterprise video platform, with live streaming capabilities. This means that organizations can use the same platform for more than just live streaming. 

VIDIZMO Live Streaming Platform

Within live streaming itself, the platform offers a breadth of options, as well as the ability to stream securely inside an organization or stream to large audiences publicly.

Pros  

  • Offers scalable live streaming in the cloud, with automatic load balancing to handle random surges in viewership. This makes it a good option if used to stream video to large audiences - even in 1000s.
  • You can set access permissions to ensure that the stream does not get watched by restricted parties. You can set access to specific individuals, groups, entire departments, the entire organization, or the public. The identity of users within the organization is synced with your SSO or IAM system through integrations and SCIM.   
  • VIDIZMO utilizes leading technologies such as the compatible HLS protocol, adaptive bitrate streaming, transcoding, and CDN to ensure smooth playback on all devices under all bandwidth conditions.
  • It offers an eCDN technology, where you can cache videos on internal servers and distribute them locally, thereby reducing the load on your internet connection.
  • You can Live stream online meetings through Zoom, Cisco Webex, etc. through RTMP.
  • It offers live chat, Q&A, and interactive elements such as quizzes, handouts, and surveys
  • You can set up backup live streams, for your users to switch to if the main live stream fails by any chance. 
  • Supports live streaming from drones and CCTV cameras.
  • Live streams can be recorded and made available as on-demand videos within the same platform. 
  • It offers live transcription and closed captions.
  • All live streams are end-to-end encrypted with FIPS 140-2 standards.
  • Offers low latency HLS for live streaming.
  • Provides live streaming, both on cloud and on-premise.
  • For on-premise streaming, you can stream internally without the need for users to be connected to the internet.
  • It offers a video portal, where you can host multiple live streams and users can join the ones that they want. You can also brand this portal and the player through which the stream plays.
  • You can play a stream from an incoming HLS URL or schedule pre-recorded webinars or on-demand videos to stream live at a particular time.

Cons

  • Does not offer monetization features by default, and to enable monetization, you need to integrate with 3rd party tools.
  • Is not recommended for a small use case where you need to stream to a few bunch of people. You'd be better off using a webcast solution like Zoom in that case. 

More on Live Streaming in VIDIZMO

 

The good part of VIDIZMO is that it offers a complete enterprise video platform as well. So it's good for your organization if you want to stream on-demand videos (say for training) and conduct frequent live sessions (such as a town hall), record these sessions and then publish them to your on-demand library. These on-demand videos can be restricted to an internal audience, to specific users or groups, or can be set anonymous. 

You can choose to use VIDIZMO as a separate live streaming platform as is. Or in combination with on-demand streaming.

VIDIZMO Live Streaming Case Study

VIDIZMO helps XcitED, one of the biggest EdTech startup events to go live virtually in 2020 - Read the Complete Case Study

 

YouTube

YouTube Logo

With immense market penetration, YouTube has become one of the most popular video streaming platforms in the entire world. Being the second most visited website globally, it allows your live stream to reach a large audience. This makes it highly suitable for public broadcasts; eg., for corporate communications or marketing.   

With all the significantly positive qualities mentioned below, YouTube also comes with drawbacks of latency issues, privacy issueslimited analytics features, compliance issues, limited scalability, and limited live streaming time. 

Pros 

  • It is free to use.  
  • Monetizing a YouTube live stream is also possible by allowing ads to be run during the live streams.  
  • If your video is featured on YouTube live, it can be recommended to viewers if YouTube’s algorithm deems it worthy of their interestsThis increases the possibility of reaching out to a larger audience. Great for a marketing use case!
  • Live streams can be recorded and made available as an on-demand video for your audiences. 
  • If offers live DVR, such that those joining midway during a stream can rewind back and view what they missed.

Cons  

  • Latency issues have been reported by some users, which may cause live streaming to progress very steadily. 
  • It can be viewed by anyone out there and the streams aren't the most secure. This is not a good option if you need to stream confidential information to an internal audience.
  • there are third-party websites that allow viewers to download your content. This means your content files can exist in someone else’s database.  
  • It only supports basic video analytics such as the number of views, direct engagement, etc.  
  • According to YouTube terms and conditions, when uploading content on their site; you are giving them rights to essentially distribute and make countless copies of your content too. 
  • Compliance with laws of governmental organizations proves to be difficult, such as YouTube videos not being obedient to Europe’s GDPR(General Data Protection Regulation). 
  • Scalability is limited to small audiences. 
  • Backup recording is not provided, for the live video streams you produce. 
  • Quality is compromised on when there is an increasing number of viewers. 
  • Live streaming time is limited.  

 

Vimeo

Vimeo logo

Vimeo is a video streaming platform, which initially marketed itself as a platform for creative professionals. As its lifecycle progressed, it came to be preferred by businesses to disseminate their videos too.  

There are a few drawbacks of the platform though (listed below). With just a 2.6 rating on a 5-point scale on Trust Pilot, it is certainly expected not to get the most optimal experience from VimeoIt does, however, have lots of public users and has proven to be one of the most popular platforms for UGC (User-Generated-Content).  

Vimeo is also a simple live streaming SaaS application, with no options to choose where your data is stored and how it's handled – no cloud deployments or on-premise deployments. This may be required by large organizations. 

Pros  

  • You can run your live streams on multiple social platforms simultaneously through SimulCast 
  • You can keep your viewers engaged with the interactivity provided with live Q&A, live polls, audience chat, email capture and custom calls to action.  
  • You may even keep track of everything with the advanced analytics of each video you stream live. 
  • Grant specific viewers with specific permissions to access your organization's videos.  

Cons  

  • As mentioned previously, there have been many bad reviews and their support is not exactly top-notch either for their live streaming functionality.  
  • You are forced to subscribe to the highest-paid plan if you wish to store a considerable number of videos. 
  • According to some reviews on TrustRadius, users might encounter slow streaming of their videos.
  • Each live stream is limited to only 12 hours. 
You can learn more about Vimeo and its alternatives for both live and on-demand streaming here.

  

Kaltura

Kaltura Logo

Using Kaltura at its full capability requires technical knowledge, and organizations must develop solutions to the problems they face themselves. This, however, does not mean that Kaltura offers limited out-of-the-box functionalities.  

Kaltura offers scalable live streaming with enterprise-level security. It includes rich content creation tools and also supports third-party encoders for live streaming.  

Pros  

  • The interface is straightforward to use.  
  • Integrates well with third-party software.  
  • Live streams can be distributed to many screens 
  • Private live streams within an organization’s admissible screens are also possible. 

Cons  

  • Difficult admin panel navigation.  
  • Support services are usually delayed.  
  • The deployment process is very slow-going.  
  • If live streams fail, Kaltura’s portal cannot automatically shift to a backup of the live stream being shown. 

  

Dacast

Dacast Logo

Dacast offers the essential capabilities needed to carry out live video streams. It’s a great platform if you need to stream to large public audiences or monetize your content through integration with a paywall.  

It does lack the features to securely stream videos internally and is also not the best for recording and streaming your recorded sessions as on-demand videos later. It also lacks certain live streaming features such as a live chat and the ability to set up backup streams.  

Dacast is also a simple live streaming SaaS application, with no options to choose where your data is stored and how it’s handled – no cloud deployments or on-premises deployments. This may be required by large organizations. 

Pros  

  • This system proudly provides its organizational clients, with advanced analytics to keep track of their videos.  
  • Embedding live streams is possible, using Dacast URLs and their exact paths with parameters. 
  • For monetization, you can integrate with a paywall. There are multiple features offered as well to include advertisements in your live stream.
  • Low latency live streaming 

Cons  

  • Event scheduling is not possible with the system. Neither is the usage of engagement techniques like Q&As available.  
  • It does not provide a live chat feature with its platform,  
  • it does integrate with 3rd party live chat providers. This might be a bit of a problem since this might require organizations to deal with an extra party.  
  • If live streams fail, Dacast too cannot automatically shift to a backup of the live stream being showed. 

 

Brightcove

Brightcove logo

Brightcove offers a live streaming platform that it used mostly by media, broadcasting, arts, and entertainment. The platform offers capabilities to enable organizations to carry out live streams of videos successfully and efficiently. 

Brightcove, too, doesn’t give you the option to choose where your data is stored and how it’s handled. It also doesn't offer the option to securely stream videos to employees in your organization. 

Pros  

  • Can give organizations the capability of integrating Q&A functionalities and surveys. 
  • The advanced analytics allow user admins to measure the effectiveness of their videos too.  
  • Scalability in terms of how many viewers can watch live streams is expertly offered with Brightcove's live video streaming service. 
  • Monetization such as paywalls before being able to access live streaming content is offered. 

Cons  

  • This system's video platform services are very steep in terms of price too.  
  • The only way you can restrict access is by controlling the registration of users on the platform. 

 

Panopto

Panopto logo

As a platform being used by educational and business organizations, it offers various high-tech features to aid you; in performing live streaming of videos too. Marketing their platform, as an extremely secure option; Panopto is used by many respected companies and institutions.  

Pros  

  • Offers the capability for adding a live chat possibility in live video streams. With that, users can interact with the host of the video, ask them questions, and give suggestions too. 
  • You can assign users with specific permissions, for viewing certain content.  
  • You can record streams and make them available as on-demand videos. 

Cons  

  • Modifying user access permissions is generally difficult.
  • Their platform primarily focuses on supplying solutions for educational institutions, and it is more tailored towards institutions of that type.  
  • Few monetization features – current monetization offered through InPlayer integration 

 

IBM Cloud Video

IBM Live Streaming Platform Logo

IBM has been one of the top tech firms of the world for most of the last century. Founded in 1911, they have been innovating for quite a while and are also proficient in the live video streaming industry. It comes as no surprise; they have managed to make an efficient live streaming video platform as well.  

Pros  

  • With its AI (Artificial Intelligence) driven platform, you can reach audiences via embeds, open URLs or password-protected channels.  
  • This platform also offers live chat, which is important for viewers to actively interact with the hosts of live streams. This allows them to ask questions, give answers, give suggestions, etc.  

Cons 

  • Polling is only a part of the paid plan.  
  • The paid plan only offers admins the capability of Q&As.  
  • The free plan lacks tools for adding interactivity.  
  • SSO integration is not available, leaving the system vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks.  
  • Dividing content into separate user groups is not possible. So, segregating content among a considerable number of users is not achievable 

   

All the various software mentioned above share the typical characteristics of the top live video solutions today. It just seems sensible to pick one out of the software's brought up above, depending on your organizational needs. 

Learn more in our blog on IBM Cloud Video and its alternative.

 

The Best Options for Conducting Webinars

 

Zoom

Live Streaming in Zoom

Zoom offers a webinar solution to allow you to host up to around 1000 meeting panelists and about 10,000 viewers. The panelists can talk amongst themselves and the viewers can only watch the meeting. The advantage of using Zoom is that it is super easy to conduct a live stream. There's no need to set up an encoder and you can easily get started. You can record webinars and make them available as on-demand videos. However, managing on-demand videos is as not good in Zoom. 

Read More | Managing Recorded On-Demand Webinars in Zoom

When looking at Trustradius, we found that a few users were complaining about video playback issues when their internet speed was low or on certain devices. This happens as Zoom doesn't offer transcoding and the latest technologies that most live streaming platforms do. 

GoToWebinar

Gotowebinar logo

This is an alternative to Zoom for conducting a live stream, where you can stream with up to 1000 participants and 3000 viewers. It offers live polling and QnA for interactivity. You can also schedule pre-recorded live events or webinars for up to 20,000 attendees.

Similar to Zoom, it does not offer transcoding, HLS delivery and eCDN support, which may be required to optimize delivery for various bandwidths and devices.

 

VIDIZMO- A Complete Solution

Looking for a platform that offers more than just live streaming - video content management, video sharing, recorded meetings management, and on-demand streaming as well? VIDIZMO EnterpriseTube is a complete enterprise video platform that eliminates the need to use separate platforms for separate video use cases. 

Enterprise Video Platform Infographic

Learn More

Live streaming platforms are just one type of video platform. To understand more, visit our detailed guide on video platforms.

Tags: Live Streaming, Webcasting, Webinars

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