The Best Live Streaming Platforms for 2023 [Updated]

Blog 1 min read | Nov 13, 2023 | JW Player

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Live streaming platforms have made it easier for broadcasters and publishers to reach viewers, brands to engage with customers, and communities to connect with each other. With so many platforms available, it’s important to choose one that offers the streaming quality you desire and lets you seamlessly reach your audience.

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.

We’re helping make that decision a little bit easier by comparing the most popular live streaming platforms. You’ll learn:

  • What a live streaming platform is
  • Why your business needs a live streaming platform
  • The benefits of live streaming tools
  • 11 of the best live streaming providers

Let’s get started!

What is a Live Streaming Platform?

A live streaming platform is an online service that distributes live videos in as close to real time as possible. Audiences can tune into fitness classes, sporting events, makeup tutorials, and more as they’re happening. These platforms make live streaming easy and affordable for broadcasters and accessible to audiences.

Live streaming platforms work by taking video footage and compressing it so it’s small enough to transmit. Then, these files are converted for output through a process called encoding. Next, the videos are segmented into smaller pieces and sent closer to viewers through content delivery networks (CDNs). CDNs cache and decode footage to make it ready for playback in as close to real time as possible.

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 are the benefits of a live streaming platform?

Live streaming platforms offer a number of benefits. By broadcasting in real time on one of these platforms you can:

  • Create content that’s more engaging than videos on demand.
  • Go live from anywhere in just a few seconds, and with very little equipment. You don’t need a professional camera. Instead, you can go live with just a smartphone.
  • Repurpose live content for marketing and business opportunities. The best live streaming services offer replays almost instantly to extend audience engagement and let you upload the footage as a video on demand to increase its lifespan.
  • Live stream for several hours. The top platforms let you stream for up to 12 hours.
  • Stream to various platforms, such as web players, iOS, Android, mobile apps, and social media platforms.
  • Monetize live streams with ease and circumvent ad blockers.
  • Simplify workflows with user-friendly technology.

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.

How to Choose a Live 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.

What Businesses Need a Live Streaming Platform?

Broadcasters immediately come to mind when live streaming platform use cases are under discussion. However, they aren’t the only entities who could benefit from live streaming platforms. The following industries have a lot to gain from this video dissemination tactic:

  • Broadcast
  • Publishing
  • Media-driven organizations
  • Event organizers
  • Retail
  • Marketing agencies and ad networks
  • Fitness
  • Education
  • Faith

Broadcasting

With more and more people cutting the cord, broadcasters need to offer live streaming functionality to keep up with viewers. By offering live-streaming packages as alternatives to traditional packages, broadcasters can future-proof their businesses and meet viewers everywhere they are.

An end-to-end live streaming platform is the perfect way to scale video from ingest to delivery.

Publishing

Publishers, including media companies, content creators, and influencers, can greatly benefit from live streaming. Live streaming engages audiences and gives publishers a number of ways to monetize their influence.

Social media algorithms favor videos, especially live streams. TikTok pays creators for producing popular live streams.

Live streaming platforms, like Twitch, also help creators get rewarded for attracting audiences. In fact, 70% of people donate to Twitch streamers whose content they enjoy.

Media-driven companies

Enterprises and companies can greatly benefit from utilizing live streaming (and not just Zoom). Live streaming is ideal for broadcasting in-person events, like town halls, workshops, and company-wide announcements, to employees who are unable to attend the event. Remote attendance options increase employee engagement and your event’s impact.

About 55% of companies already use live streaming to share internal information, according to a survey by Haivision.

Events

Live streaming is ideal for sharing live events like conferences, music festivals, and sports games. Live streaming makes your event more accessible by making it available to people who aren’t physically present. With live streaming, you can share what’s going on in real time to engage viewers. This cutting-edge technology gives those tuning in at home an equitable experience to in-person attendees.

Selling access to event live streams is also a notable revenue stream. According to a survey by Livestream and New York Magazine, 45% of people would pay to watch a live stream of an entertainer or sports team they enjoy.

Retail

For retailers looking to engage audiences and sell things online, live streaming is a smart solution. Take inspiration from Amazon, who partners with influencers on QVC-style live streams in which they show off their favorite products.

It’s predicted that in 2023, live stream shopping events will generate $25 billion in revenue for retailers on the cutting edge of this sales channel.

Marketing

For marketing agencies and ad networks, live streaming videos are a new tactic to use to get your clients’ brands out there. It’s proven that live streaming is a more engaging and effective way to market than long standing strategies.

Research shows that four in five people would rather watch a live video from a brand than read the brand’s blog, while 82% of people would rather watch a live video from a brand than see a social media post from it.

Fitness

Gyms and fitness studios can live stream classes and workshops to give existing members a new way to join in and attract new customers. With live streaming, fitness brands can expand their reach without having to spend more on studio space.

And, live streaming gives fitness enthusiasts a way to participate in classes all over the world, without leaving the comfort of home.

Education

Schools, universities, and education-focused companies can fulfill their missions while keeping students engaged by live streaming classes. Live streaming platforms transmit videos in real time to send the classroom experience anywhere.

Educational institutions can even integrate live streams into iOS and Android apps to support mobile learning and increase student access.

Faith

A hybrid model isn’t just for work. Congregations can offer both in-person and live streamed services to deepen community connections and accessibility. You can configure live streams to make them easy for community members of all ages to use. And, built-in analytics help you understand which part of services viewers found most engaging.

The 11 Best Live Streaming Platforms

We’ve rounded up the best live streaming platforms and are giving you the scoop on what they’re known for, their best features, and how they can be improved.

1. JW Player

JW Player‘s complete video platform provides live streaming solutions as part of its comprehensive offerings. Admins can go live from anywhere in less than 30 seconds and repurpose replays in less than a minute. JW Player gives you complete control of video player setting, latency options, and monetization methods and lets you stream videos to a web player, mobile app, OTT app, and social media platforms. Broadcasters can even use the platform to host 24/7 live channels.

Pros

  • 12-hour event streams and 24/7 live channels
  • Convert live streams instantly into on-demand video content
  • Integrate live streams into practically any app or digital location
  • Monetize your content with AVOD, SVOD, or TVOD

Cons

  • The backend requires a bit of a learning curve
  • No podcasting solutions yet

2. Twitch

Amazon-owned Twitch is one of the best-known live streaming platforms out there. While this pioneer began as a platform for streaming video game playing, it’s becoming popular for all kinds of content.

Pros

  • Built-in audience of more than 45 million active users
  • Customization opportunities through API
  • Reviewers applaud Twitch’s chat features as a good way to engage with audiences
  • Strong sense of community on the platform

Cons

  • Association with younger demographic and video game live streams can be limiting
  • Moderation rules can get you banned for accidentally breaking terms and conditions
  • Reviews cite a lack of promotional opportunities for streamers with small audiences as problematic
  • Reviewers complain about dropped streams

Source: G2

3. Facebook Live

Facebook Live is the popular social network’s live streaming platform. Broadcasters have the option to co-stream with fellow Facebook users and make their videos available to the public or only to Facebook users. They can go live from the Facebook app, a computer, or streaming software.

Pros

  • Free live video streaming platform
  • Can collaborate on streams with other Facebook users
  • Privacy options give you some control over your audience

Cons

  • No capabilities to record live videos
  • High-quality streaming is reserved for gamers
  • Reviewers with slow internet connections complain about poor streaming quality

Source: G2

4. YouTube Live

With almost 3 billion monthly active users, YouTube is the most popular video platform in the world, which makes YouTube Live the biggest live streaming platform in the world. You’ll find all kinds of content being live streamed on YouTube, from live broadcasts from major media networks to videos from influencers who have made a living from their YouTube channels.

Pros

  • Easy streaming with webcams or mobile devices
  • Professional live streamers can connect an encoder and multiple cameras and microphones
  • Brand recognition with built-in audience
  • Opportunities for monetization

Cons

  • Reviewers note there are limited customization options on live streams
  • G2 users say there is a lack of customer support
  • Reviewers complain about limitations on video topics

Source: G2

5. Vimeo Livestream

Vimeo’s live streaming platform makes it easy to stream to a remote team, manage subscription-based livestreams, and virtual events. With users like LinkedIn, Deloitte, and Nikon, you’re in good company.

Pros

  • Multistreaming lets you broadcast to other live streaming platforms, like Facebook Live, YouTube Live, LinkedIn, and others
  • Various monetization opportunities, including paid subscribers
  • Dedicated phone support for live streams
  • White label video player and branded apps

Cons

  • Reviewers say they want more chat functionalities
  • G2 users complain about a limit of three simultaneous live streams
  • Reviews note customer service could be improved

Source: G2

6. Dacast

Dacast boasts 15,000 clients including Kellogg’s, the Weather Channel, and Lenovo. This live streaming software comes with an encoder built in, but also gives you the option to use your own encoder.

Pros

  • Monetization options, including pay per view, subscriptions, paywalls, and group pricing
  • Full control with secure video hosting capabilities, geographic restrictions, and other ways to manage who can and cannot access your videos
  • White labeled HTML5 video player that you can embed anywhere and access on all kinds of devices
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Live countdown to generate excitement for and interest in your streams

Cons

  • Need to pay more for advanced streaming features, like pre, mid, and post-roll advertising monetization and phone support
  • Reviewers say customer service is hit or miss
  • G2 reviews say the user interface isn’t user friendly

Source: G2

7. Brightcove Live

Brightcove’s live streaming platform boasts 99.99% uptime thanks to 16 secure data centers around the world. With more than 500 million videos streamed on the platform each week, reliability is the name of Brightcove’s game.

Pros

  • Monetization opportunities that include ad-blocker-proof technology
  • Live analytics let you see total views, unique viewers, average view time, total viewed time, and number of ads started. You can also access more in-depth analytics after the stream has ended.
  • Cloud-based DVR allows for instant replay and on-demand video capture
  • End-to-end encryption for secure live streaming
  • Can live stream directly to your favorite social media platforms to meet your audience where they spend the most time
  • Live redundancy for a seamless streaming experience

Cons

  • Not transparent about pricing
  • Reviewers want a more updated user interface
  • G2 user says public streams are simple to execute but intranet streams are more challenging to set up

Source: G2

8. IBM Video Streaming

IBM’s live streaming platform is powered by Watson, IBM’s AI innovation and business solution. With clients like Airbnb, Sony, Mazda, and BBC America, IBM Video Streaming is a popular option for all kinds of industries.

Pros

  • Powered by IBM’s industry-leading artificial intelligence, which helps with features like caption generation
  • Options to stream to both external and internal audiences
  • Multi-CDN streaming makes live streaming to large global audiences possible
  • Multiple features for audience engagement, such as moderated Q&As, polls, breakout rooms, calls to action, and chat rooms
  • Customizable channel paged with live playlists and looping
  • Live analytics give you insights into what your viewers like in real time

Cons

  • Reviews note you can’t embed your live stream for users who aren’t logged in
  • G2 user says the chat function is difficult to access and doesn’t work well when there’s a large volume of comments
  • Reviewers complain about slow buffering and crashing streams

Source: G2

9. TikTok LIVE

Mobile social media platform TikTok is known for viral, short form videos based on dances and trending music. Beyond posting videos, content creators can live stream to engage with audiences in new ways. Like with regular TikTok videos, creators can access all of TikTok’s fun filters and effects. Creators need to be at least 18 years old to go live.

Pros

  • Built-in distribution opportunities bolstered by the potential to go viral
  • Monetization opportunities through Diamonds, TikTok’s currency
  • Can add up to 20 moderators to a TikTok LIVE stream
  • Can connect to an encoder for greater production quality

Cons

  • Restrictions on who can go live
  • Reach limited to TikTok’s audience, which skews younger

10. OBS Studio

OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) Studio is a free open-source live streaming platform. What it lacks in features it makes up for in ease of use and pricing. Users can broadcast using OBS Studio with support for multi-camera and audio sources, chroma-key (green screens), webcams, and capture cards.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Open-source community of plugins and support
  • Free to use

Cons

  • Some users on TrustRadius complain about the limited interface customization
  • Some users on TrustRadius mention a glitchy backend and occasional software crashes

11. LinkedIn Live

LinkedIn is the go-to social media platform for professional networking. LinkedIn Live lets its users live stream to other platform members. Publishers can use LinkedIn Live’s preset live capabilities or use a third-party broadcast service to manage their streams. All live streams are available to the public and are recorded.

Pros

  • Opportunity to use turn key solution or connect an encoder service
  • Can schedule live streams and promote them
  • Videos available for playback after the live event has ended

Cons

  • Need to be evaluated for LinkedIn Live access before you can take advantage of the platform. In order to be evaluated, you must have at least 150 connections or followers, follow LinkedIn’s policies, and be located outside of China.

Wrapping up: Best live streaming platforms for 2023

As you can see, you have lots of options when it comes to platforms for live streaming. If you want to engage audiences in new ways, share experiences in real time, and monetize your content, live streaming can help you achieve those goals. We hope our guide to live streaming platforms will help you find the best fit for your needs.

If you’re looking for an all-in-one video platform that comes with top-of-the-line live streaming capabilities, JW Player may be the solution for you. Learn more today.