How to Choose the Right Live Streaming Platform

Blog 7 min read | Apr 28, 2023 | JW Player

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Live streaming video can be an important part of your company’s goals, whether for marketing, consumer education, or employee training. Understanding how to use live streaming also means choosing the perfect live streaming platform for you.

What is a Live Streaming Platform?

A live streaming platform is an online service that is designed to distribute live videos in real time or close to real time. This is different from most online streaming platforms where you can upload recorded video, although some platforms do both.

The platforms take the video footage you are recording, compress it, and then encode it to send to viewers through a CDN. Some platforms will also add automated live captioning to your video. Users will be able to play the video through their web browser or through a desktop or mobile app.

Businesses that particularly benefit from live streaming include content creators and publishers, fitness brands and instructors, educational organizations, sports teams, faith organizations and advertisers of all types.

What Features do Modern Live Streaming Platforms Have?

At the basic level, a live streaming platform transmits your video content in a way users can access. However, modern live streaming platforms often do a lot more than that.

Features that you might find include:

  • Live captioning
  • The ability to broadcast at higher qualities
  • Text-based chat that allows audience communication and participation
  • Monetization options such as subscriptions, pay per view, etc
  • Automatic recording of live streams so they can then be posted
  • The ability to collaborate and combine streams from multiple users and locations

Not all of the services, however, have all of these features and benefits. There are also some other things you need to take into account.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Live Video Streaming Platform

Before choosing a live video streaming solution, you should ask yourself what your goal is, as well as thinking about your budget. Knowing what kind of content you intend to stream, and to who, can help you navigate the often confusing land of platforms.

Some questions you should ask include:

  • Am I streaming to an internal audience (e.g. employee training), external audience, or both?
  • Am I going to be directly charging for this content?
  • Do I need accessibility features such as live captioning or audio description?
  • How important is high resolution video?
  • Will I be recording this content for later?
  • Do I want a text chat available to audience members, and if so, what features do I need it to have?
  • How likely is my material to come up against content moderation, which can be an issue with some of the more public platforms?
  • Where will my audience be looking for this content? Do I need to broadcast to multiple locations?
  • What resources do I have for learning the ins and outs of the software? Will I have video professionals available, or am I doing this myself?
  • What hardware am I using to record?
  • What is my budget?

For example, if you are posting webinars, you might not need as high a resolution as you need if you are posting a product demonstration of your video game. If you are planning on charging for the content, you need a platform that supports subscription and pay-per-view. If the content is entirely for internal audiences, how does the platform control the audience and keep things from leaking?

Some of these questions might change over time. For example, a small business may start off recording using a smartphone but may later upgrade to a studio setup with a mixer. If this ends up being you, will you outgrow your live streaming platform? Or perhaps your budget will increase and you will want to look at more expensive options as your company grows.

Best Streaming Platforms for Different Purposes

So, what about various scenarios? Which platforms should you use?

If You Want Maximum Control

If you want the most control over your streams then your best option, hands down, is JW Player. JW Player is also the best deal if you want to do both live and recorded video. It is a purpose-built solution that is trusted by some of the biggest broadcasters and publishers out there.

With JW Player you can go live from anywhere at a moment’s notice and repurpose the recording in less than a minute. You can control all of the settings and stream the video to anywhere…a mobile app, the web player, an OTT app and all social media platforms. It works for 24/7 live channels too. The only downside is that it does have a bit of a learning curve to handle all of those options.

If You Want a Large External Audience

If your goal is to get your content in front of as many eyeballs as possible, such as for top-of-the-funnel marketing content, then you may want to use a platform that already has a built-in audience.

Three possibilities here are Twitch, YouTube Live, and TikTok LIVE. All three already have a built-in audience, with YouTube having the largest. YouTube Live videos can be automatically recorded and left up forever to continue to grow your audience. TikTok’s audience tends to skew younger, making it a great choice if you are trying to attract youth, but perhaps not the best if your target demographic is a lot older.

The downside is that with Twitch and YouTube there is significant content moderation. Twitch, in particular, has been known to cut streams for copyright violation…when the material was being broadcast by the copyright holder! YouTube limits the video topics you can use.

If You Have An Extremely Limited Budget

We get it, lots of companies have budget constraints. If you want to stream for free, your best choice is Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) Studio. This is a completely free and open-source video platform. It doesn’t have all of the features you might get from the higher-priced platforms, but it is very easy to use and it supports multiple sources, chroma-key, webcams, etc. While it is also free to stream to certain social media channels, OBS gives you more flexibility and control.

OBS Studio also integrates well with Zoom if you want to broadcast video into a Zoom room to a controlled audience.

The low price also makes this a great option if you only live stream occasionally and don’t want to shell out for anything specialist. However, again, it’s limited in features and as with everything else, you get what you pay for.

If You Want Text-Based Audience Participation

Integrated text chat is most useful for external audiences, as internal audiences can often use existing collaboration tools. If you want good text chat, Twitch and YouTube both work well. Vimeo has a decent integral chat, but it is somewhat limited in functionality and IBM Video Streaming’s chat function tends to fall down under a large number of comments. However, IBM Video Streaming also offers moderated Q&As, polls, and breakout rooms.

Most of the available platforms offer some kind of live chat, but the quality can vary. Also find out whether the chat will be preserved after the live session.

If You Need To Control Your Audience

If you are streaming solely to employees or to subscribers or members, then you need to keep control over your audience. JW Player is well designed for this. Dacast is also particularly secure, with geographic restrictions and subscriptions. IBM Video Streaming also allows for good internal audience security.

Brightcove has a feature some might be interested in, that is to say end-to-end encryption to prevent secure streams from being intercepted.

If You Want To Monetize

Streaming through YouTube Live or Twitch provides you with in-platform monetization options. If you want to monetize through ads and attract a large audience, these may be the best platforms.

Several of these platforms offer a paid subscription model, including Vimeo Livestream and Dacast. The latter is also easy to set up for pay-per-view and similar. JW Player provides monetization through video on demand models after your video has been converted into a recording.

Choosing the best solution can be a challenge. It isn’t always the best for every company. However, if you want full control over your live video streaming and to be able to stream to any audience, at any time, from anywhere, you should consider JW Player. It also has a comprehensive offering of other features for video recording and conferencing.