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Prosper Otemuyiwa
Prosper Otemuyiwa

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Live Streaming As A Service

Live streaming as a service offers a video-hosting platform for real-time broadcasting at events like concerts, conferences, webinars, sports games, and corporate functions. The various solutions up for grabs feature professional broadcasting capabilities, such as cloud-transcoding tools, white-label video players, air-tight privacy and security, global delivery, and monetization.

This article delves into these topics:

  • Live Streaming Platforms Comparison
    • Cloudinary’s Live streaming
    • IBM Cloud Video
    • Brightcove
    • Panopto
    • Kaltura
    • DaCast
  • What Features You Should Consider When Choosing a Live Streaming Platform?
    • Ease of Use
    • Optimized for Varying Internet Speeds
    • Security
    • Scalability
    • Should Include Interactivity
    • Built from the Latest Technology
    • Deployment Options

Comparison of Live-Streaming Platforms

Following are six popular live-streaming platforms.

Cloudinary

Cloudinary’s video API live-streaming solution supports both Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) and Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), outputting adaptive bitrate streaming.

  • WebRTC enables live streaming of on-the-fly video effects and transformations through a dedicated JavaScript library for a maximum duration of one hour. Ideal for device compatibility, this protocol is perfect for embedding in web or mobile applications so that viewers can start streaming from any device on a web browser.

  • RTMP, which can be initialized with an API call to Cloudinary, returns an RTMP input URI for use with dedicated streaming software and hardware. This protocol is ideal for delivering video content to viewers through multiple platforms.

IBM Cloud Video

Previously known as Ustream, IBM Cloud Video facilitates video and live streaming. Pricing is on a subscription basis with Silver, Gold, and Platinum options. You pay between $99 to $999 per month according to the hours viewed.

Usage might exceed the allotted number of viewer hours if an event runs longer than planned or becomes more popular than expected. In that case, additional fees might apply. Large enterprises and institutions that hold townhalls or product launches might incur unexpected, large fees.

A key advantage of IBM Cloud Video is that it secures sensitive content by authorizing access through single sign-on and vigilantly protecting passwords. However, even though the platform also offers dedicated support and production services, it does not provide hands-on, in-person training.

Brightcove

Brightcove focuses on live streaming, cloud encoding, and hosting of video on demand (VOD). The platform comprises these modular products:

  • Cloud-based video hosting
  • One-time ad insertion on the server side
  • Tools for monetization
  • Liftplay video player
  • Live streaming of video
  • Zencoder for transcoding of cloud video
  • Over-the-top (OTT) flow for internet TV

In addition, Brightcove is highly known for its detailed analytics and video-marketing tools, which help organizations understand their audience and capture leads.

Panopto

Panopto specializes in video solutions for businesses and universities with capabilities for live streaming, recording, managing, searching, quizzing, analyzing, and sharing video content. On top of all that, the platform’s content management system (CMS) centralizes video playlists, playback, and streams. Impressively, Panopto boasts over five million end-users in the e-learning arena.

Panopto’s primary focus is on online education for the internal audience through a wide range of tools with which you can create an β€œinternal YouTube.” You can also integrate the platform with learning-management systems.

Kaltura

A free platform for managing cloud-based, open-source video, including hosting and distribution for live streams as well as VOD, Kaltura is an alternative to the self-hosting model. However, the platform requires an infrastructure of servers for hosting and distribution.

Kaltura enjoys enthusiastic support by a user community that creates and shares many integrations and add-ons. On the flip side, the many features can overwhelm beginners, making for a steep learning curve.

DaCast

As a provider of live-streaming and video-management solutions, DaCast’s capabilities are fewer than those from enterprise-grade vendors. A plus is the platform’s customization options through API, which, however, adds complexity for teams tasked with building a branded viewing experience.

Features to Consider

Of the many features available from live-streaming platforms, below are the key ones to ponder.

Ease of Use

An adaptable and intuitive user interface is a must. Ideally, even newbies can quickly learn the nuances and get up to speed in order to do their job.

Optimization for Various Internet Speeds

Issues related to internet connectivity and playback inevitably lead to poor user experience. Unfortunately, many live-streaming platforms do not optimize playback.

Hence, look for solutions with which you can transcode video to come up with various quality options. Your viewers can then pick their option or invoke automatic processes with adaptive bitrate streaming.

Additionally, to avoid overcrowding the network, a content delivery network (CDN) would be desirable for intelligently routing videos.

Security

Organizations must be able to secure live streams and restrict access to only authorized individuals, which is critical for videos that contain confidential data. A breach could lead to violation of regulations, damage in reputation, financial loss, and deprivation of competitiveness.

Scalability

With scalable video content, you can allow access by more people to a live stream and accommodate random surges in viewership. An ideal live-streaming platform would automatically and intelligently balance the content load to scale up servers as viewership rises.

Interactivity

Ensure that you can create engaging and captivating video content on the live-streaming platform. Features like Q&A windows, notifications, surveys, and live chats that work well during live streaming are desirable.

Technology

Find out if the platform leverages the latest streaming technologies to ensure compatibility with all streaming servers and devices. Preferably, the platform adopts the HTTP (HLS) protocol, MPEG-DASH for video streaming, or Microsoft Smooth Streaming, all supported by most devices and infrastructure.

Deployment Options

Specific deployment options are crucial for enterprises that operate under strict security and compliance provisions. Also, determine if you would like to directly manage the cloud services. If so, you need a live-streaming platform for hosting data and the streaming infrastructure in cloud accounts or for streaming on premise in your data center.

Next Steps

When planning a live broadcast or stream, companies often overlook the redistribution phase, but live-stream videos are useful well beyond initial streaming. Why? Because not everyone watches the first run. For a wider audience, you can upload recordings of the live content with Cloudinary’s media upload API, after which Cloudinary stores them in its Media Library. You can then serve the recordings as VOD.

What’s more, you can serve on your site and other social networks the recorded and uploaded videos. Leveraging features such as Cloudinary’s content-aware cropping, video transcoding, and transformations helps deliver the content as VOD seamlessly to your audience.

Why even think about VOD if live streaming is the hot trend, you ask? That’s due to the fact that VOD uniquely contributes to business success in post-event engagement, content reuse, and monetization, propelling you to connect with customers and grow your bottom line. Be sure to incorporate VOD into your marketing strategy.

You’ll find these Cloudinary articles on VOD informative and helpful:

Top comments (0)

In defense of the modern web

I expect I'll annoy everyone with this post: the anti-JavaScript crusaders, justly aghast at how much of the stuff we slather onto modern websites; the people arguing the web is a broken platform for interactive applications anyway and we should start over;

React users; the old guard with their artisanal JS and hand authored HTML; and Tom MacWright, someone I've admired from afar since I first became aware of his work on Mapbox many years ago. But I guess that's the price of having opinions.