How to Choose the Best Online Video Platform for Your Live Events
If you’re reading this article, you probably already know quite a bit about live streaming. This article aims to help you choose the best online video platform for your needs.
Online video platforms are like the Swiss Army Knives of video distribution. They come with a wide array of tools and can be used for a variety of different tasks. They can also be custom-made and come with many different designs.
In this article, we’ll lead you through a simple, feature-based process to choose the best online video platform for your needs.
Step 1: What is your project?
Before we dive into helping you select a platform, it’s important to reflect on what you have already done. Are you streaming primarily live content, or on-demand video, or a mix of both? How often do you upload content? Are you broadcasting continuously, or rarely? What kind of content are you broadcasting?
Take a few minutes and reflect on past programs. If you have time, go back and watch some of your previous live streams. Ask yourself, “how could we take this to the next level?” Jot down a few notes—you can refer to those later. Don’t expect to come up with all the answers in this stage.
The idea here is simply to reflect on previous experiences to inform your choice of online video platform.
Step 2: Is your audience worldwide?
Ok, let’s get into the more meaty part of this analysis. The next question that you should consider as a broadcaster is the size, composition, and distribution of your audience.
This concerns two major areas. The first is around the CDN, or Content Delivery Network, that your online video platform uses. There are a lot of different CDNs out there, and some are better than others.
It’s better to target an online video platform that has a partnership with a powerful CDN, such as Akamai, which is the largest CDN in the world. They have a network of more than 216,000 servers globally. That means that wherever your viewers are located, there is going to be a server close to them to minimize buffering and lagging.
The second area is about audience security. In the last few years, we’ve seen a lot of problems in the digital media industry, and in general regarding security. With the right online video platform, you have tools to help prevent these issues.
Two great tools that will help you improve the security of your OTT video content are Geographic and Referrer restrictions. Geo restrictions allow you to whitelist countries that can watch your live streams, and block everyone else. It’s highly accurate and adds more security. Referrer restrictions only allow your streams to play on certain websites of your choice. This is another tool that you can implement to protect against piracy, breach of contract, and other privacy issues.
Step 3: Do you want to custom-brand your stream?
The next question you should consider is around branding. As I’m sure you already know, you can live stream for free on Facebook or YouTube. But streams on these platforms always include the corporate logo. To get that clean look with only your branding present, you need a “white label” online video platform.
White label service is available from most OVPs, but sometimes they charge an exorbitant fee (for instance, $999/mo at Ustream). A full white label system, such as DaCast, would give you the ability to insert your own logo, customize the integrated player or use your own, as well as the option to use your own domain.
Step 4: Are integrated workflows or custom apps important?
Advanced video streamers need more than the bare minimum of functionality. Often, they want to integrate streaming media into complex workflows that already exist. Or, they may wish to build web, desktop, or mobile applications around their video streaming content.
The best way to achieve these outcomes is via the use of an API, or Application Programming Interface.
A good live streaming API should allow you to quickly and easily integrate all the features of the OVP into a wide variety of cloud video applications, services and digital media workflows.
A strong documentation should be provided with examples to help you quickly understand how to use the API. You may also want to double check if a set of SDKs is available to make your use of the API even smoother.
Step 5: Do you need to stream multiple events at the same time?
In this step, you should consider how many live channels you will need. If you need the ability to stream multiple separate video feeds simultaneously, some online video platforms may charge extra. Be aware of any viewer limit on your live channels, and if there is any option to make sure your streams are not cut down if you run out of bandwidth.
Last but not least, working with an online video platform that is partnered with a top-tier CDN will give you the advantage of almost instant live channel provisioning and strong back up solution if there is any server issue on their network.
Step 6: Can you use playlists and packages to promote content?
People like options, which is one reason why playlists and packages are a great way to share your content. Packages are bundles of content that can include access to both live streams and video-on-demand. That way you can easily link a live event with a specific VOD (the recorded video from the previous day) or you can create a package with the recorded files from your entire live event.
Playlists allow you to pre-schedule a list of video and multimedia files to stream, including recordings of past live streams. This enables you to keep content flowing without having to constantly attend to producing live content. It also provides a more traditional TV-like experience. For instance, you can have video-on-demand running 24/7 in between your live stream with one unique link.
Both of these options can help you promote your content in a different way and maximize your revenue.
Step 7: Do you plan to record your live streams?
We recommend recording every live stream you produce. Content is just too valuable to let it slip away. There are multiple ways to do this. You can, for example, record locally to HDDs or SSDs via your encoder.
However, it’s often more convenient to have all of your content stored in one place. An easy way to do this is to use the auto archiving feature provided by an OVP. When enabled, this service will record your live stream and automatically integrate it as a video-on-demand directly into the platform. You can then download, re-broadcast, and use these recordings just like any other video content.
Step 8: Do you want to monetize your online video content?
Do you plan to make money off your live streams? If so, what method do you plan to use? How will you promote your channel or event? The most common methods are advertising, transactional (pay-per-view), and the subscription model. Make sure the online video platform you choose has simple monetization options, secured with bank-grade encryption, that you can quickly and easily put in place.
Once you have these in place, then you need to promote your content. You can do this with social media, search and banner ads, and increasingly with precisely targeted video advertising from platforms like AmpLive that can help people discover your content. Your platform should make it easy for you to share, promote, and work with 3rd party marketing platforms.
Pay-per-view and subscription might be the easiest ways to monetize, especially at DaCast with its integrated paywall and ready compatibility with social sharing and promotional platforms.
Step 9: Are you prepared for technical difficulties?
Finally, let’s consider what to do if things go wrong. Live streaming is getting easier all the time, but it’s still pretty complex. So who are you going to call if you get into trouble?
It’s worth researching the customer support options when you’re looking to choose the best online video platform. Some OVPs charge extra fees for customer support. However, others like DaCast offer 24/7 customer support at all plan levels.
Step 10: Choose the best online video platform according to your business needs
With the above information, you should be ready to make your final choice. Go ahead and sign up for your preferred online video platform at this point. You’ll need some time to set up all your preferences, integrate your workflows, and begin to populate the library with your content.
Selecting an online video platform can be confusing. There are a lot of choices out there, and a lot of features to confuse things. However, these 10 steps should get you on the right track to help choose best online video platform.
Also remember that when comparing OVPs, you can always test them out via their free trial. If you haven’t already, you can register here for 30 days of free streaming with DaCast.
About the author: Gregory Ellis, Vice President, Sales and Business Development at DaCast with 25+ years of technology sales management in video content delivery at Ipera, Intvo, Awind, NCP, Tellus, Macrovision.
Now that you’ve chosen your OVP, make sure to use third party distribution platforms to maximize your audience!