Video has emerged as the leading engagement channel, and the evolution of live streaming software has made it easier than ever for businesses to produce real-time content. Before the last decade, the only things you could watch live were the news and sporting events. Now, you can live stream everything from a Rocket League match to your Sunday morning sermon.
Live streaming software solutions have been on the rise, competing to meet consumer demand. Even social media networks jumped in on the action to empower users to live stream straight from their platforms. While the rapid growth in live broadcasting software has led to industry breakthroughs, it’s also made it harder than ever for businesses to find the right solution.
We’re here to help you break through the noise and avoid paralysis by analysis. Below, we break down the 12 best live streaming software solutions on the market in 2023 and explore each’s advantages and disadvantages. Before we get into the solution details, let’s get on the same page about what live streaming software is and why you need it.
Why Your Business Needs to Invest in Live Video Streaming
Video killed the radio star, and live streaming looks likely to be video’s heir to the content throne. While there will always be a need for video on demand content, live streaming satisfies an in-the-moment itch that consumers have to scratch.
Modern-day consumers don’t want to watch Taylor Swift’s concert a week later—they want to watch it live with everyone else. And sports fans that don’t get to watch their team live desperately avoid screens and social media feeds until they can hide and watch in complete scoreline naïveté.
Here are a few reasons your business needs to invest in live video streaming in 2023:
- Live video streaming will grow to 91 million subscribers by 2024
- Live video holds user’s attention an average of 10-20x longer than on-demand content
- Over 20% of US adults (aged 18 to 34) watch live stream videos several times a day
What Is a Live Streaming Software Solution?
Live streaming software works with your hardware to transmit video content in real-time to your viewers. This technology encodes and transcodes the video content into a variety of formats to ensure top-notch performance across geographic locations, bandwidth limitations, devices, browsers, and applications.
You also use live streaming software to piece together video and audio from multiple sources. For example, you might need to mix different camera shots while combining various audio sources. With the right live streaming software solution, you can do this in real-time rather than editing it together in the studio later.
Live broadcasting software use content delivery networks (CDNs) to distribute your live stream to different locations without sacrificing performance. Multi-CDN approaches let you broadcast reliably to an international audience without your remote guests experiencing service disruptions, lag, or quality issues.
Benefits of Live Broadcasting Software
Live broadcasting software comes loaded with all the features and integrations you need to create high-quality real-time content. Here’s how the best solutions can help your business:
- Improved Performance: Transcode your video content for optimal performance, regardless of your consumer’s location, device, or bandwidth.
- Rapid Conversion: Quickly repurpose live video recordings into video on demand.
- Latency Control: Lower your latency for more real-time engagement (great for live chats and interaction) or increase it to reduce playback buffering.
- APIs and SDKs: Integrate your video content into a website, iOS application, Android application, smart TV, or OTT app.
- Monetization Options: Choose how you want to make money from your content, whether that’s through AVOD, SVOD, TVOD, or a unique combination.
- Live Stream Controls: Empower your users to jump in live, start from the beginning, rewind, or pause the stream.
- Data Rights Management (DRM): Protect your content from prohibited consumption and distribution with DRM technology and best practices.
- Support: Get professional technical support when you need help building your live streaming solutions.
Who Needs Live Streaming Software?
Anyone that wants to launch professional-quality live streams should invest in live streaming software, whether that’s for recurring events or 24/7 live broadcasts. Here are a few industries that would benefit from it the most:
- Film and TV
The 12 Best Live Streaming Software Solutions for 2023
There’s no one-size-fits-all live streaming software solution. Each has its own pros and cons that make it the better choice depending on your business, audience, and live streaming needs. Below, we’ll explore the best options on the market and what makes them stand out.
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 the replays in under a minute. You have complete control of the video player setting, latency options, and monetization methods. Stream your 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.
- 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
- The backend requires a bit of a learning curve
- No podcasting solutions
2. OBS Studio
OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) Studio is a free-to-use open-source live streaming platform. It’s not the most feature-rich streaming software, but it makes up for what it lacks with ease of use and the lowest price point. Users can broadcast using OBS Studio with support for multi-camera and audio sources, chroma-key (green screens), webcams, and capture cards.
- Easy to use
- Open-source community of plugins and support
- Users on TrustRadius complained about the limited interface customization
- Some users on TrustRadius complained about a buggy backend and occasional software crashes
Wirecast enables businesses to live stream to mobile devices, websites, and OTT apps. You can add an unlimited number of video sources and audio inputs, allowing you to capture every angle at a sporting event or concert. It also features robust live video editing tools to quickly make changes on the fly and produce high-quality broadcasts. Wirecast also provides ISO recording and switchers to create the right experience in the moment and after the live stream. It’s simple to feature a replay or add a scoreboard and clock to your stream, improving the experience for your live viewers.
- Robust live video editing tools
- Instant replay
- Integrates with Facebook and Twitter on-screen comments
- Users on G2 complain that the software is “glitchy” and “buggy”
- Some users on G2 found Wirecast to have an overwhelming interface that’s difficult to learn
- A few users on G2 complained about the high pricing
Lightstream is an easy-to-use browser-based live streaming studio that empowers small businesses and streamers to create live productions with minimal experience and resources. You don’t need a strong computer to run Lightstream, and all the encoding happens over Lighstream’s cloud servers—meaning less demand on your devices. You can create unlimited projects and distribute your live stream to major platforms and custom Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) destinations.
- Demands less CPU power
- Web browser streaming (no download required)
- Smart, automatic encoding settings
- Some users on G2 complained about the limited features
- A few users on G2 complained about sound buffering issues
XSplit Broadcaster is on the high end of professional live streaming, offering advanced features, professional layouts, transitions, and granular control. Users will find plenty of add-ons and third-party plugins to customize video production to their liking, and XSplit has a reputation for providing top-notch technical support. However, beginners can get lost in the navigation and workflows, and the features might be overkill for some users.
- Robust add-ons and third-party plugins
- Free version with limited features
- Great technical support team
- A few users on Capterra complained about the limited customization options
- Some users on Capterra found XSplit Broadcaster to be too demanding on their devices, causing them to slow down or crash
Streamlabs is a free, open-source live streaming solution. It’s more user-friendly than OBS and features a more modern user interface, but it doesn’t have the same robust community of contributors that OBS Studio boasts (though that has a lot to do with Streamlabs’ relatively young age). Streamlabs provides social widgets, video editing tools, audio filters, multi-video inputs, and more, but users will have to upgrade to a premium account to unlock everything that the software has to offer.
- Free, open-source software
- Pre-built overlays, tools, and features
- Clean, easy-to-learn user interface
- Some users on G2 said Streamlabs puts heavy demands on their CPUs
- Users on G2 complained that some features are locked behind premium subscriptions
vMix is a live streaming software with features for full-time streamers. vMix offers synchronized streaming, recording, and output with support for various inputs such as webcams, playlists, capture cards, cameras, and photos. The number of inputs depends on which one of the five versions of the software is installed. Catering to diverse streaming needs, it is available at various price points, allowing upgrades according to requirements.
- 60-day free trial
- Several price points offered
- Broad selection of features
- Available only for Windows
- Relatively low bitrate streaming
VidBlasterX is a video streaming software for live and pre-recorded videos. An RTMP-enabled live video production software, VidBlasterX allows streaming to a range of live streaming platforms with the following capabilities: efficient video routing, flexible display options, allowing outputs on a monitor of your preference and convenient recording of streams directly to local disks.. However, due to its design and functionalities, VidBlasterX is more suitable for more experienced live streamers.
- Enables streaming to most live streaming platforms
- Plans for a wide range of budgets
- Not suited well for untrained streamers
SplitCam presents a live streaming software that caters to a variety of use cases, exemplified by: engaging live training sessions, dynamic webinars, and immersive virtual live streaming events. It proves valuable in scenarios where viewer interaction and multi-presenter interactions are necessary, boasting advantages including: effortless streaming to popular social media platforms, seamless integration with HD cameras and various video sources, and facilitating split-screen functionality with diverse applications. However, SplitCam does have some limitations, such as lacking encoding tools and not supporting mobile streaming.
- Free to use
- Split screen with different apps
- Lack of encoding tools
- Desktop-only streaming
Restream is a cloud-based live streaming solution, giving you the ability to broadcast simultaneously on several social platforms while tailoring your stream to your specifications. The solution provides a range of mixing and production tools including personalizing the video layout with professional logos, overlays, and captivating backgrounds, incorporating a call-to-action message overlay for added viewer engagement, and supporting peer-to-peer streaming.
- Free plan
- Windows, macOS, Linux, and gaming console compatible
- Peer–to-peer streaming support
- No encoding tools
- Video quality issues
Prism Live Studio is a free live streaming solution that enables the incorporation of unique effects into your video stream while simultaneously streaming across multiple platforms. It offers three distinct camera modes: Live stream, Video, and Photo. This software helps you create dynamic live streams, craft video-on-demand content, or elevate the visual appeal of your photos.
- Tools for simulcasting
- Desktop and mobile version
- Windows and Apple compatible
- Limited production tools
- Video quality issues
12. Ecamm Live
Ecamm Live is a live streaming and video production software for Mac. With effective editing and overlaying features, it has a variety of inputs available including DSLR camera via USB, HDMI, screen and audio capture, NDI and iOS. Ecamm Live offers you to stream to platforms like YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, and LinkedIn with custom RTMP streaming.
- Audio tracks recorded and saved separately
- Interview mode for inviting remote guests
- macOS only
How to Choose the Best Streaming Software
While we’ve narrowed your list down to 6, you may still be struggling to choose the right live streaming software for your business. Rather than comparing stars on review sites or creating a head-to-head features list, use the following criteria to make your decision:
Video content needs to be first-class, and that includes live streams. Users won’t stick around if they experience buffering or audio issues, which means you need to ensure your broadcast goes smoothly from start to finish.
Find a live streaming software that has a reputation for reliable, high-quality streaming. Ideally, it should be able to transcode to a variety of formats, but choose one that’ll enable 4K live streaming. Once your live stream is over, your software should make it easy to quickly convert into on demand video files and organize in playlists.
Decide where you’ll want your live streams to live. Do you plan on hosting them on your website or an OTT app? Do you want to also do multi-streaming to YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, and other social networks? Some platforms are more limited in their capabilities, so find a software solution that’ll meet your demands.
Take a forward-thinking approach when you consider distribution—while you might not have your own mobile application now, is that something you want to build out in the next 3 to 5 years?
Not every platform will give you the options you want to monetize your content. Some have monetization functionality built-in, while others will require third-party plugins and likely developer resources and know-how. Depending on your situation and technical expertise, you’ll want to find the platform that allows you to monetize content on your own terms—whether that’s AVOD, SVOD, or TVOD.
Pricing is going to be one of your biggest concerns when it comes to choosing the right live streaming software solution. You’ll find a handful of free, open-source platforms on the market, but these often don’t provide the support or features you need for more high-end, professional live streams.
However, they can sometimes be a good entry-level gateway to experiment with live streaming before you go all in on a more robust purpose-built product.
Leveling Up Your Streaming Game: Maximize Your Streaming Software
If you want to take your streaming to the next level, it is time to get your technical ducks in a row. Even the best streaming software can only take you so far without proper preparation. So, let’s dive into some key technical considerations that will help you get the most out of your streaming experience.
Network Bandwidth: Boost Your Connection
Picture this: you are all set to stream, but your Internet connection decides to be a party pooper. Avoid this nightmare by testing your network’s upload bandwidth. No matter how amazing your streaming software is, it’s all for naught if your Internet connection is not up to par.
A handy rule of thumb is to ensure that your streaming bandwidth is at least 1.5 times greater than your streaming bitrate. That way, you’ll have a smooth and uninterrupted stream.
Video Sources: Capture the Magic
To bring your camera or any other video source into your streaming setup, you’ll likely need a trusty capture card. Capture cards play a crucial role in live streaming as they bridge the gap between your video sources and your streaming software. By capturing the video signal directly from the source, capture cards bypass the limitations of relying solely on webcams or built-in computer cameras, which may not provide the desired level of video quality or flexibility. They provide connectivity options such as HDMI, SDI, or USB, ensuring compatibility with a wide range of devices and video sources.
Some advanced capture cards even offer features like hardware encoding, which offloads the encoding process from your computer’s CPU, reducing the strain on your system and improving overall streaming performance.
System Requirements: Know the Specs
Be sure to check out the streaming software’s website for the set of minimum system requirements. And here’s a little extra something to think about: Is your streaming machine sharing CPU resources with other processes like a backchannel chat messenger, browser, or email? These resource-hungry apps can steal processing power away from encoding, which is a demanding task on its own. To minimize the chance of stream failures and dropouts, it is worth considering setting up a dedicated machine solely for live streaming. Give your stream the processing power it deserves!
Components of Live Streaming Tools: Unlocking Your Streaming Potential
To make the most of your live streaming productions, it is essential to understand the key components that make up live streaming tools. Let’s take a look at the essential tools needed:
Capture Devices: Bring Your Vision to Life
Capture devices are the superheroes of live streaming. They allow you to capture video and audio from various sources and feed them into your streaming software. Whether you’re using a high-definition camera, a gaming console, or a screen capture from your computer, capture devices ensure that your content is captured in all its glory. From USB capture cards to HDMI capture devices, these tools transform your video sources into digital data, ready to be streamed to the world.
Encoding: Transforming Data for Streaming
Once your video and audio are captured, it’s time for encoding to step onto the stage. Encoding is the process of converting raw video and audio data into a format that can be streamed over the internet. This essential component ensures that your stream is optimized for different devices and internet connections.
Encoding tools come in different flavors, such as software encoders and hardware encoders. Software encoders use your computer’s processing power to handle the encoding task, while hardware encoders take the load off your computer’s CPU, providing a smooth and efficient streaming experience.
Streaming Platforms: Your Virtual Stage
Now that your content is captured and encoded, it’s time to take center stage on a streaming platform. Streaming platforms serve as virtual stages where you can showcase your live stream to the world. Whether you are streaming on popular platforms like Twitch, YouTube Live, or Facebook Live, or exploring niche platforms catering to specific interests, the choice of your streaming platform can greatly impact your reach and engagement. These platforms provide you with the tools to manage your stream, interact with viewers through chat, and build a dedicated community.
The components of live streaming tools work harmoniously to transform your ideas into captivating live streams. Capture devices bring your vision to life, encoding optimizes your stream for seamless delivery, and streaming platforms provide the virtual stage for your content to shine.
Picking the Right Equipment for Streaming
If you’re planning to engage in live streaming, whether it’s a conference or a simple chat in front of a camera, you’ll require several essential pieces of equipment to kickstart your endeavor. These equipment options vary, ranging from fundamental items like webcams and microphones to more intricate tools such as encoders, mixers, and audio interfaces.
Picking the Right Video Gear
Finding the perfect camera for your live video stream is super important yet it can also be a bit of a tricky task. But despite the overwhelming choices, the key is to find a camera that has the right features for you, just like any other tech product. If you are just starting out with live streaming, it is best to dive in with an entry-level video camera. These cameras are more affordable and portable compared to other models.
Now, if you are looking to take your live streaming game up a notch, consider going for a prosumer video camera. It is a sweet spot in terms of price and quality. You will notice a significant improvement in video quality, and features like HDMI and connectivity will be much better. Of course, if you are ready to go all out and money is no issue, professional video cameras are the way to go.
Finding the Right Audio Gear
Now, let’s talk about the audio equipment. Having good audio can make a world of difference for your video stream. Entry-level and prosumer cameras usually have a built-in microphone but the quality is nothing to write home about. If you are on a tight budget, you can still make it work by using your camera’s built-in mic along with some extra audio gear.
For better audio quality, you will want to look into devices like USB and 3.5mm microphones. Some professional live video cameras even come with built-in microphones that offer medium to high quality. But if you want the best of the best, go for professional-grade microphones. They can take your productions to a whole new level of professionalism.
The Scoop on Mixing Equipment
When it comes to setting up your live stream, mixing equipment is a must-have. This nifty gear allows you to record multiple audio or video streams and gives you the flexibility to switch between sources during your live broadcast.
So, what should you consider when shopping for video mixing equipment? Well, size matters. Make sure it fits your setup and does not take up all your precious desk space. Check out the input and output options too. You will want to make sure it can handle all your audio and video sources and connect seamlessly with your other equipment. User experience is key. Look for mixing equipment that is intuitive and easy to use. The last thing you want is to get tangled up in a complicated setup when you are trying to go live. And do not forget about internet connectivity and automation. You will want mixing equipment that can handle a smooth live stream and maybe even automate certain processes to make your life easier.
What Features to Look for in a Streaming Software
Live streaming software has come a long way the past couple of years so these modern tools are more advanced than ever, offering intuitive interfaces that cater to the diverse needs of the virtual world. So, let’s dive into the key features you should keep an eye out for when choosing your streaming software:
Multiview Feature: Keeping an eye on multiple camera angles has never been easier. The multiview feature enables you to monitor all your cameras at once and effortlessly switch between them with just a couple of clicks. It’s like having your own control room, giving you the power to curate captivating visuals.
Preview Editor: The Preview Editor is a handy tool that lets you take a quick peek at your video clips before going live. It’s your chance to make any last-minute edits or even create a brand-new clip on the spot.
Live Stream at Scale With JW Player
Looking to take your live streaming content to the big stage? Trust JW Player to deliver at scale. We’ve built our all-in-one live streaming software solution to handle everything from local live events to gaming to 24/7 live broadcasting channels.
Here are a few of the standout features that make JW Player the most versatile, industry-leading choice:
- Full Event DVR: Pause, rewind, rewatch, and repurpose content with ease.
- Streaming Distribution: Stream live events to your mobile apps, OTT apps, social media platforms, and web players.
- Ad Support: Monetize your live streams with built-in ad support and broadcast monetization options.
- 24/7 Broadcasts: Deliver high-quality video experiences every second of every day to global audiences at scale.
- DRM: Protect your content from theft and illegal distribution.
Extensive Themes/Templates: Personalization is key when it comes to live streaming. Look for software that offers customizable themes and templates, allowing you to create a unique and immersive experience for your viewers. From a captivating welcome screen to eye-catching interval fillers, make your live stream truly yours.
Real-Time Analytics: Stay in the know with real-time analytics. This feature is crucial for measuring the success and engagement of your live stream. Keep track of metrics like viewer count, new subscribers, and even engagement based on geographical and demographic data. By understanding your audience, you can tailor your live stream to their preferences.
API and SDK: For all you tech-savvy streamers out there, pay attention to the availability of developer-friendly mobile SDK and API infrastructure. These tools allow you to integrate your live stream with other services, cloud video applications, and digital media workflows. It’s like unlocking a world of possibilities for your content.
Social Media Integration: Take your live stream to the next level by leveraging extensive social media integration. Look for software that enables you to simultaneously live stream on multiple platforms. Expand your reach, engage with diverse audiences, and make a splash across different virtual stages.