Comparison of the Top 7 Live Streaming Platforms: What You Need to Know [2020 Update]
Researching live streaming platforms can be overwhelming, as there are many factors to keep in mind when searching for the best solution for you or your organization .
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re weighing your options for whether it’s worth paying up for a live streaming solution. You want a live streaming service that can grow and scale with your needs, has all the features you want, and won’t break your budget — is that too much to ask?
As always, we’re here to help you sort through the noise and get clear on what matters to your business when it comes to finding the right live streaming solution. Here is our updated live streaming platform and pricing comparison for 2020.
What to consider when selecting a live streaming platform
If you’re using video for internal business communications, such as live town halls, all-hands, or trainings, it’s essential that your chosen video platform will keep your content (and users) secure. If you’re leveraging video as an effective marketing tool, you’ll want to make sure you’re delivering content where and how you want, within your company’s brand experience.
Important features for live streaming for business — like privacy, authorization, customization, embedding restrictions, and security — help define the content you stream and the audience that watches your live and on-demand events. Businesses looking to brand their content, for instance, will need the ability to white label web players, remove a platform’s logo from their page, and embed the videos on their own landing pages.
Of course, your needs will vary, but here are some factors to consider when conducting a live streaming platform comparison:
- Authentication: How can my audience access video content securely (and how can we ensure it will scale)?
- Authorization: How can my team manage their video content? What permissions do they have?
- Customization: How can I ensure my company’s brand will be front and center when people watch my video?
- Pricing: Is the value I’m getting worth the cost?
As live streaming has become more ubiquitous, so have the “DIY” options, like YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Periscope, and Instagram Live. We’ll touch upon those options in this article, but it’s worth noting that they will, by and large, pale in comparison to many of these platforms. Free live streaming tools are intended for consumers, not companies. They’re built with the intention of putting the viewer first, often forcing creators to juggle multiple platforms to manage their video content and distribution.
If you have deeper needs than just going live to an external audience, if your stakes are higher and you cannot experience any downtime, if you need a white label, branded, platform-agnostic video player, you’ll need to invest in a more robust live streaming platform.
Let’s recap some of the pros and cons of the bigger players in the professional live streaming space.
Live streaming platform comparison
We would be remiss to not include a mention of our video solutions, right? Today, Vimeo has multiple solutions to help businesses get what they need with video, no matter the strategy or infrastructure.
Launched in 2019, Vimeo Enterprise is the latest addition to our family of products, offering even more security and exclusive features that meet the needs of medium and large businesses. Vimeo Enterprise takes what our 90 million members already know and love about Vimeo — like a branded, beautiful player and customized embedding — with added security and features that businesses need to scale and grow, including:
- Single sign-on authentication
- Live streaming to secure Showcase pages
- User-level analytics
- Live production services
- Dedicated enterprise support and account management
- Uptime guarantees and SLAs
If your business requires advanced functionality, like multiple simultaneous streams, geoblocking and IP restriction (security and gating), monetization, API access, or eCDN, Vimeo Livestream can help.
And, if this all seems a bit much for you, our Vimeo Premium subscription includes unlimited live streaming, without some of the more advanced bells and whistles. Whatever your needs, we’re happy to determine which option is best for you.
2. IBM Cloud Video
IBM Cloud Video, formerly Ustream, offers live streaming and video solutions with all kind of advanced features. Silver, Gold, and Platinum subscriptions, which range anywhere from $99/month to $999/month, are based in part on “viewer hours,” or how much time users spend watching your content. If you surpass the allotted number of viewer hours, additional fees are tacked on.
This means if your event runs longer than expected, or is more popular than you anticipated, there will likely be an additional fee. For larger organizations holding town hall meetings or looking to promote a new product announcement, these overages can be an unwelcome – and costly – surprise. Fortunately, Vimeo’s enterprise offerings do not include any overages, making for a predictable pricing model, so you know what you’re paying up front.
IBM Cloud Video does offer user authorization (single sign-on) and password protection of events, to help keep your sensitive video content secure, as well as dedicated support and production services, should you need an extra helping hand either virtually or during an event. However, IBM Cloud Video does not offer hands-on, in-person training for your team, so unless you already have video experts on-staff, you’ll be left to learn the ropes on your own.
Boston-based Brightcove continues to stake its claim in the video space with its 2018 acquisition of Ooyala’s platform business. Today, Brightcove tackles three core areas for its business strategy: enterprise communications, marketing, and monetization.
Its enterprise solutions offers many of the same features as Vimeo Enterprise, including live streaming, branded video galleries, SSO, and domain restriction. A notable caveat is if your organization is new to live streaming and wants hands-on production support — whether it’s supplying the switchers and encoders or setting up a multi-cam event — you’ll be tasked with going it alone, or hiring various external freelancers to produce an event for you. Vimeo Enterprise includes exclusive access to our award-winning live production services and training for a no-fail event of any size
Founded in 2007, Panopto operates in five cities around the world with around 100 employees, and boasts about being a leader in video content management. This distinction promptly brings us to the sticking point: Live streaming is not its bread and butter. Video asset management is. We’ve heard that some companies opt to use Panopto as a video CMS, but pay for a separate service for reliable live streaming — not an ideal solution for scaling lean businesses.
Additionally, if authorization is top of mind, implementing single sign-on appears rather technical, with help guides topping almost 1,600 words and multiple steps. As with other streaming services on this list, Panopto does not offer live production services, again leaving you to your own devices to coordinate a no-fail event.
Even if on-demand streaming video is of greater importance for your business, Panopto lacks features that can help you get more out of them. Tools like email capture or cards are not available, for instance. This means if you’re looking to build in a post-event call-to-action, or use your video for lead generation, you’ll have to find other work-arounds.
Kaltura established itself in the video space over a decade ago for being open source, meaning developers could make it their own and expand upon it freely. While open source does mean more customization, it also requires more technical know-how to get it up and running.
Looking to customize your player? It’s possible with Kaltura, but requires knowledge of CSS coding. Vimeo’s player customization is built directly into our platform, with a user-friendly interface of a few toggle buttons and color palette selection to make it your own.
We’ve heard support can be hit or miss, as well. According to their website, Kaltura offers a knowledge base, video learning portal, and a ticket-based support center. When your company’s biggest moments are on the line, having your questions or concerns put in a queue is not an option. Vimeo’s enterprise offerings includes top-notch support that you expect and deserve, from our growing staff of friendly humans.
Qumu prides itself on offering a seamless CMS for both on-demand and live streaming. While its technology is powerful, Qumu is tightly aligned to internal communications use cases only. If you’re looking for an all-in-one, end-to-end solution for all your business needs — both internal and external — Qumu likely won’t make the cut.
Partnering with a service like Qumu can also require deploying hardware within your own internal network, which creates a fairly high barrier to entry and implementation. Not only is this process expensive, it also takes a fair bit of time to roll out.
What’s more, creating an on-brand viewing experience isn’t feasible with Qumu, as white labeling, password protection, custom branding, or embedding videos with domain restrictions is not available. Plus, features like email capture and video CTAs aren’t built in, either.
If you want to use video in your external marketing and communications (if it’s not part of your strategy yet, it should be!), you’ll require a separate subscription and system to manage them. Twice the implementation, onboarding, cost, and systems management for your IT team. Yikes!
A more entry-level option for live streaming for business, DaCast offers video management and live streaming solutions with fewer bells and whistles. What you’ll save in money, you’ll lose out with enterprise-grade solutions like SSO, eCDN, and tight security features. DaCast does offer customization options, although only through its API, adding a level of complexity for teams to create an on-brand viewing experience.
Social Streaming: Facebook Live, LinkedIn Live, YouTube Live, Periscope, Instagram Live
Over the past several years, major social media platforms democratized and commodified live streaming, with YouTube Live launching way back in 2011, and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others (R.I.P. Meerkat) following suit. Most recently, LinkedIn launched live streaming on its platform, too, so businesses and professionals can reach their network in new and engaging ways.
These free platforms are great for brands and businesses looking to dip a toe in the live streaming pond, but they are not viable solutions for long-term scale and growth of a video strategy. Why? While ease of use is a major draw, for sure, none offer onboarding or customer support. If your team hits a snag with an event, you’re left to your own devices to problem-solve in real time.
What’s more, streaming is only possible on a platform-by-platform basis. This means if you want to stream to Facebook and Twitter at the same time, you’ll need two cameras to live stream from each device — creating twice as much work (or more) and a less-than-ideal experience for the on-screen talent and viewers alike.
Finally, as with any social network, advertisements abound, including pre-roll ads on YouTube. It’s a challenge for any organization to create an on-brand experience for their audience with ads disrupting their content.
Learn more in our live streaming budgeting guide
Now that you have an understanding of the live streaming market, you’ll need to determine what your brand or organization needs to get out of a live streaming platform. With so many platforms and features to consider, it’s important to understand what factors you need to evaluate to make an informed decision.
Our Live Streaming Budgeting Guide can help you figure out how much to budget, what features are best for your streaming needs, necessary equipment to purchase, and essential questions to ask when evaluating your live streaming options.
So, what is the best live streaming platform?
Ultimately, only your team can decide what solution is best for your video needs. Ideally, your choice will support all sorts of video use cases — both internal and external — and offer the necessary security and customization features to keep your content safe and on-brand.
What we can say, though, is that Vimeo has been an industry leader in supporting people to do more with video for nearly 15 years. Vimeo Enterprise is the best end-to-end solution, for both live and on-demand video, to support businesses of all sizes.
We can help with:
- SSO-enabled Showcase galleries for live and on-demand video
- Access to our award-winning production team to make your live events shine
- Advanced video analytics to help your team better understand your audience
- Dedicated account management
- Technical support, online or over the phone
- Uptime service-level agreements (SLAs)