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Best Live Streaming Services

1. Introduction

Live streaming is the most cutting-edge form of video promotion. It is an inexpensive virtual event webcasting service for the Promotion, Motivation, Education, and Celebrations markets. With advances in technology and virtual event webcasting services, it is possible to view live-streamed events on most internet-connected devices. This is a very convenient way to broadcast events to friends or business associates who cannot attend in person.

For example, “Livestream” offers a free and paid service. The free package only allows recording and storing video for 30 days. If a user wishes to have the video longer than 30 days, they must use a paid package. This method is also similar to the methods and packages offered by written platform services provided by the same website.

The video material can be added to and stored on the website in a similar way to their written platform counterparts. There are many internet live streaming service, and some of them are free while they also offer their users various packages.

Live streaming is a service that is offered by various social networking websites, where a user can broadcast live footage via the internet. The term “live streaming” usually refers to the non-recorded part of the service, and the audience is able to view or listen to the video.

1.1. Definition of live streaming services

The basic concept of live streaming is “visual” radio. Livestreaming allows people to view events over the internet as they happen in real time. This allows a large audience to view an event, even if they cannot physically be there. In its simplest form, live streaming is the act of transmitting media from a particular source to a receiving PC or other device. The media available to be streamed varies from live video to audio. Live streams can be distributed over virtually any internet connection which has enough bandwidth to support the streamed data. A recent development in live streaming has allowed the transmission of live 360-degree footage, allowing viewers to have an experience more immersive than ever before. Live streaming has many uses, such as broadcasting an eSports competition, the launch of a new product, or a live vlog. It has also been recently used to document the social injustice experienced by protestors at various rallies around the world.

1.2. Importance of live streaming in today’s digital landscape

It’s also a cost-effective type of media. Live streaming a show costs the same as if a person were to privately stream it to themselves, so there is no additional cost for the streamer. On the other hand, a viewer would typically need to pay for a service if they wanted to watch a show or sports event. Marketing does not cost extra either as it is generally easier to get a time slot for online media than television or radio, and advertising for a show can just be one simple social media post with a link to the stream. Advertising in the stream is also more effective because unlike TV or radio ads, it’s there at the time you are advertising, meaning that you can get feedback on the advert right away.

Live streaming is also an effective way of presenting information and holding events. With tools like screen sharing and webcam, a person can be very interactive in their presentation, which is not only easier to informative to them but also more entertaining for the viewers. With webinars hosted on streaming services, it’s also a way of creating a more casual environment for what would usually be a formal meeting, and the webinar can be viewed by anyone wanting to participate.

Chat interaction is available on most every streaming service and is a fun and effective way to build a community around the content. Viewers are able to talk to the streamer in real time, which is both entertaining for the viewer and useful to the streamer. This is especially good for businesses trying to get feedback from customers or viewers on their product. This feedback will be more direct and reliable than say an email, and it makes the customer feel like they are being listened to.

A great advantage from both a business standpoint and one of personal interest is the ability to reach a global audience. People all across the world have all different things going on and free time on their hands. With the VOD (video on demand) service requiring someone to download the episodes, it can be weeks between the time the recorded episode has aired and the time the viewer has seen the content. With live streaming, it’s DPS (data per second) instead of waiting for a file to download or go onto an external site to view content and the time the episode airs. This makes it easier and more reliable for existing subs and new viewers to be there and view the content.

Live streaming has gained massive popularity among digital users in recent years. This comes as no surprise with the steady increase and reliance on technology in our society. This new and innovative way of sharing content has several key benefits to it as viewers can tune in live to view the content, utilize services such as chat while viewing the content to the live streamer, and it is a way of media that is rapidly gaining traction. Keep in mind knowing these benefits when considering between different platforms and services to use for Polycasters Live Streamed Show.

2. Factors to Consider when Choosing a Live Streaming Service

Determining the primary goal and content of your stream could be helpful in ultimately deciding on a live streaming service. Certain platforms may be better suited for your needs and may offer services to help promote and grow your channel. If you want to live stream an event with the goal of sending viewers to a specific URL, like a crowdfunding page, then you may be interested in a live video platform such as DaCast that offers paywall protection and the ability to embed your live stream onto a specific web page. Consideration of the future of your video content is also important. If the main goal of your video is to keep a record that can be accessed at any time or edited into shorter clips, then live streaming may not be the best option. Videos on live streaming platforms often become unavailable or deleted after a certain period of time. In this case, it may be better to simply use a video hosting platform such as YouTube.

When looking for the right streaming platform for your live video, there are several factors to consider. First, you will want to think about the quality and reliability of the stream you intend to have. Next, you will want to consider which features are most important for the long-term goal of your videos or broadcasts. Different live streaming services offer various custom features, co-streaming abilities, channel customization, chat moderation, video on demand, etc. It is important to lay out a list of features that you absolutely must have, as well as the features that you would prefer. You can use this list to compare various platforms and find the service that best accommodates your needs. The last factors to consider are the accessibility and customer support. The accessibility should offer ease of use, and the customer support should include quality of service and response time.

2.1. Quality and reliability of the streaming platform

When it comes to selecting the best live streaming platform, you want to ultimately make sure your audience can view your broadcasts without interruptions. The most important factor when it comes to the quality and reliability of a live stream is the viewer’s experience. Factors such as buffering, stream resolution, and dropped frames all affect the quality of a stream. While not all live streams are created equal, many viewers compare the production value of a broadcast to that of the streamer’s in-game skill. If the quality of the broadcast is lower than what the viewers expect, they will often times go watch a different stream. Because of the importance viewers place on stream quality, a streamer’s priority should be to broadcast at the highest quality possible. High quality can be achieved on a Twitch recommended bitrate of 3-6 Mbps and 1080p resolution at 60fps. If your internet connection cannot handle these settings, it may be best to try and find a community lower quality which still provides a good viewer experience. Once you have a good idea of the quality you want to broadcast at, it is important to do some testing to see which server will provide the best quality for your viewers. In the broadcasting section of OBS, you are able to select the server you want to stream to. Do some test streams on different servers and ask your viewers for feedback on the stream quality. Different viewers will have different results on the same server so it’s good to get a rough idea of where your viewers are located so that you can select the best server for the majority of your viewers. Overall, quality and reliability is the most important factor within a live streaming platform. High quality, reliable broadcasts will keep your viewers coming back, while poor quality broadcasts may turn viewers away.

2.2. Compatibility with different devices and operating systems

As internet-capable mobile devices continue to spread progressively across the globe, there are different devices used to watch the content. A study in 2011 found that over 40% of internet traffic watching video was from non-computer devices, which might not have support for the same Flash or Silverlight players that are used on desktops. For content providers, this is a problem as the viewers using the different devices might not be able to access the content. Apple’s mobile devices do not use Flash, but instead use HTML5 for video. However, there are many different versions of HTML and not all devices support the same formats. For Apple devices, videos using HTTP Live Streaming, a format compatible with iOS work best, but HLS is not supported on Android devices and in general. For the broadest compatibility it is good to find services that offer transcoding features to convert the video into different formats suitable for different devices. This way, the same content can be accessed from a wide range of devices. An aspect of compatibility tied closely with different devices is the operating system. Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and others are all different operating systems and not all video content players are developed for each one. It is important to consider which operating systems the viewers are using. An example is Twitch.tv which has a desktop client as well as Flash players, but no application for iOS or Android devices, limiting the access on mobile devices where an increasing number of users watch content. This also ties in with the issue of apps. Some viewers may prefer content viewed through an application compared to a web browser to avoid clutter and to have easier access. Find a service that has a player or app suitable for the target operating systems in order to maximize accessibility.

2.3. Customization options and branding opportunities

This will be the last of the more general factors addressed in this guide. We have now covered a variety of categories including both essential features for general video playback and more specialized features catered specifically to live content. After reading through these points, one should have a good understanding of the variety of technical issues that can affect a streamed event, and what categories may be most relevant to the specific needs of any given event. At this point, it is a good idea to make a list of relevant services and begin to compare their feature sets in these categories with the needs of the event in mind. This guide will continue with a more specific set of tips for comparing and contrasting the features of different services in the next section.

Customization and branding are key to establishing a company as a unique and reliable brand in the streamed content world. This is especially true if catered to a company looking to use live events as a method of exposing new viewers to their product, as live events have the potential to expose a company and its brand to a large number of new customers. Customization can also allow for a more unique and engaging viewing experience by making the event and interface more memorable for the viewer. Customization can come in a variety of forms, some common examples include the ability to modify the appearance of the video player, adding in interactive elements such as polling or integrated social media, or the ability to arrange and prioritize content on the webpage. Branding opportunities are typically a more specific form of customization, but given their direct connection to marketing they are worth addressing as a separate point. Branding opportunities give the company a chance to directly advertise their brand and product within the context of the video content itself. This is typically done in the form of overlaid images or video advertisements. The most important thing to note about customization and branding features is that their implementation and effectiveness can vary greatly from one service to another. Due to this, it is important to take advantage of free trials or test accounts in order to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of these features on any given platform.

2.4. Pricing plans and affordability

While most organizations may want to simply opt for a free streaming service, this is not always the most cost-effective option. One option is to use a service like Ustream, Justin.tv, or Livestream that offer free live video streaming and embedded players, as well as live ads during the stream. These sites do not mean the service is free, however, as the ads placed on your video may be too distracting for your viewers and lower the production value of your video. Simulcast advertising is also not useful for a personal event such as a wedding. In these cases, it is best to use a premium service from these providers without the ads. If you must use a completely free service, the previously mentioned providers do offer best-in-class free plans with the ability to remove advertising and use ad-free embedded players by spending virtual currency earned from site activity or microtransactions. This may still save the organization some money as these plans and up to 720p HD are able to be run for free and still offer better quality streaming than other services. A service like on365 offers a free-to-use platform but compensates for this with higher prices on streaming bit-rates than market value. The quality on these streams may also not be any better than what is offered on Ustream, and a premium plan may be necessary. Therefore, when considering price, it is often a good idea to compare bit-rates and video size limitations between plans to approximate the best value for your organization.

3. Top Live Streaming Services in the Market

Cons: No video archiving on the free plan, no ads = expensive, lacks poll and survey tool.

Pros: Most reliable, high viewer traffic, saves video for later playback, allows event scheduling, best event/brand marketing tools, event management system. High-quality video.

Ustream is a very popular live streaming service that has been at the top of the market for years. They offer a wide range of package plans, the most basic of which is free with ads. The ad-free version is available to non-profits for a small monthly fee. It has the most viewers of any live streaming site and is easy to use. It offers a lot of flexibility in terms of features, such as live chat, Twitter integration, and an event management system. They also have a very interesting feature called Ustream on Demand where the user can save recorded live streams for later playback. This is convenient for the event host and for those who missed the event. This feature is only offered with the pro and pro-broadcast accounts. All in all, Ustream is a good choice if one is looking for reliability and quality features. However, the free version is quite limited in terms of features, the most notable of which is that video archiving is not available in the free plan.

3.1 Service A: Features, pros, and cons

There are several key players in the live video streaming game, most of whom offer their own unique platforms complete with various features and pricing. It would be impossible to compare them all, but it is possible to examine the most popular. Ustream, Livestream, Justin.tv, and Stickam are four of the biggest and most successful live streaming services, each with their own pros and cons.

When it comes to live video streaming, choosing the right platform is crucial to the success of the event. However, not everybody knows what features to look for and may not be sure of the differences between services. Knowing the top live streaming services in the market and comparing their features is the first step to making a wise decision.

3.2. Service A: Features, pros, and cons

Service A is a popular live stream hosting platform that offers features like live chat, a watermark on streams, and paying 10 bucks a month at the minimum to begin streaming. The best part about their chat is the ability to read what viewers have said while the stream was offline. In order to broadcast in higher resolutions, viewers will have to join their ProAmateur or professional plan, which require monthly payments. A basic understanding of the site and computers in general should make this an easy service to use. Its support staff is known to be very responsive and excellent at their jobs. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the community support, as numerous popular games have incorrect listings for what players are officially said to be supported by the site. Pros: Great support, Account will remember users’ browser settings to make the experience easy, Good chat with the ability to see what others have said before the stream went online.

3.3. Service B: Features, pros, and cons

Service B, a relatively new live streaming service, is unique and unlike the other services you can find. What it does is stream the input of your computer, meaning any activity made on the computer while streaming can be captured into the video. Being primarily game-streamers, this service is perfect for them. In other services it would only show the game application, and not the activity within the game. This is also excellent for tutorial makers. Any activity made on the computer will be seen and tutorial goers can learn how to do your specific activity. Just like a game, but in real life. The quality and speed of the stream is quite good and works off both xSplit and FFSplit. The viewer count can be monitored through a viewable browser, and there is the option to add a chat for viewers to communicate. Unfortunately, after introducing these new premium features, the free accounts may have difficulty finding available server to broadcast from, which in turn may cause more stress using this service for free users. Service B is perfect for what we need, but it’s important to compare this service with others and see what else is on offer. With most of the premium features introduced, it would be best to take up a premium account. This will avoid any added stress of trying to stream with a constantly unavailable server, and will also give us access to features that other premium service offer, such as channel customization and emoticons. After comparing with other services, it is highly likely we will change to Service B in the near future.

3.4. Service C: Features, pros, and cons

Cons: – YouTube’s chat is absolutely terrible; it’s better to use an IRC client and a chatbox on the stream – Many are used to the higher standards of dedicated live streaming platforms and don’t really realize the potential of YouTube Live – Compression is all over the place and sometimes quite bad

Pros: – Event scheduling gives more structure to maintaining an audience and gives easy notification – Hangouts integration can be used for split-screen stream (such as for a podcast), having a conversation with viewers, or even interviews with a simple transition between hangout/video broadcast (great interviewers) – Control room/backups can be great for a more professional production value and can recover from a stream disconnection – Best mobile support – Great if you’re already using YouTube for VOD

Service C is YouTube Live. This is the top dog when it comes to sharing video content; everyone knows about it and has probably used it at some point. Because of that, the barriers to entry are incredibly low – any YouTube account holder can begin streaming content right from their channel’s video manager. This makes it a great platform for those already using YouTube’s free video hosting. YouTube Live has some of the best mobile support with their YouTube app to instantly start a mobile stream. There is also more to it than just an RTMP stream and chat; YouTube Live events can have scheduled streams, integration with Google Hangouts, higher production values with live control room and stream backups. YouTube Live is actually quite good but often overlooked in comparison to other providers simply because it’s more known as a video on demand platform.

3.5. Service D: Features, pros, and cons

Service D being considered is DaCast. DaCast is very versatile and enables a user to deliver streaming content in a variety of different ways. The first big positive with DaCast is its adaptability. DaCast not only allows the user to stream live content, it also allows for the creation of a 24/7 linear feed (DaCast, 2016). This is a great tool for music streaming services, or those hosting a TV network with continuous content. As well as this, DaCast gives the user the option of setting up a Video on Demand platform. This is particularly useful for educational content, or for internet marketers selling digital goods. Another notable feature of DaCast is its multi-bitrate streaming. This in essence means that the user can deliver the content in different quality levels. DaCast automatically transcodes one set of video files to multiple bitrates, adjusting video quality and streaming rate dynamically according to the speed of the end users’ connection (DaCast, 2016). The capability to stream in different quality levels is particularly useful for those delivering content to countries with varying internet speeds. A downside of DaCast is its price. Even for the basic live streaming package, DaCast is one of the more expensive options on the market. This costs $25 a month which is limited to 100GB of bandwidth and moderate viewership. To operate a system with the linear channel and VOD set up, one would need to purchase the Premium package ($125/month), which for many independent broadcasters is a substantial investment. Additional costs would be incurred for the Multi-Bitrate and secure video access features, due to the increase in data usage and the requirement of an SSL certificate. An extra downside is that DaCast recently removed its entry level package, thus if one exceeds their data limit the excess usage is charged at a rate of $0.15/GB this price can quickly accumulate and can lead users to switch services.

4. Conclusion

While the primary focus of each service is to offer live TV, every service still has flairs of UI design and integration which can take time to get used to. It is wise to take advantage of free trials and promotional offers for each service to get a feel of the user experience and various features provided. Always remember when choosing a live streaming service, the quality of internet service that you are paying for will have an overall effect on your satisfaction.

The live streaming industry is still young and developing to provide a comprehensive and reliable service to customers. Many of the mentioned services still have a long way to go before they can outperform traditional cable TV. In addition, every service still experiences a small amount of buffering and disconnection issues. As the live streaming industry continues to grow, a breakthrough in speed and connection reliability will be the turning point for cord cutters.

However, if you enjoy original content and exclusive streaming access to popular cable TV shows then Hulu TV is the right choice for you. It is still a developing service so there is always room for improvement. Hulu TV offers the most versatile content bundle for a great price, however their recent addition of the 7-day free trial could prove to PlayStation Vue’s advantage in the long run.

There are numerous live streaming services available on the market offering different features and customer service. Every user is different and finding the right service can take time. Overall, the best live streaming service in terms of channel package and value is PlayStation Vue. Their affordable and extensive channel packages are enough to sway any prospective cord cutter. Another feature that puts it ahead of Hulu TV is their inclusion of streamable movies and a bigger cloud DVR storage at no extra charge.

4.1. Summary of the best live streaming services

Service: JW Package: Pro Key Features: VOD, White Label, CNAME. Known widely for their video player, JW offers a simply quality service for live streaming. Their package features are limited, but since white label is available for any package, it isn’t much of a problem. Offering many of the same features as vzaar, JW’s live streaming service is much cheaper on a platform that is just as reliable. An added bonus is the price for extra monthly viewers, only five dollars for every additional one thousand.

Service: DaCast Package: Event Key Features: White Label, Paywall, Ad supported Because DaCast is more known as an OVP, their live streaming service is nothing short of excellent. Its clean and user-friendly interface has ease of use to set up any live stream in minutes. The features provided with the package, for the price, are probably the best-valued live streaming solution in this review. White Label being available for any package, including the twenty-dollar starter and pay-as-you-go plans, is an added bonus. Although it’s limited to one channel, DaCast’s ad-supported monetization method can easily justify the cost of the services and bring in well over the projected profits for any event stream.

Service: StreamSpot Package: Premium Key Features: VOD, Podcast, Media hosting, and clean pricing. Overall, StreamSpot offers a premium live streaming service with just about everything anyone could want. The only downfall is the price and the fact that anyone can get a 30-day trial with any package; it doesn’t specifically show that they have anything special to offer with the premium package.

4.2. Final considerations for choosing the right service

Platform Integration and Servers: This is important if you are just a Twitch streamer, then it’s good enough. But for anyone else, you need to make sure you can get an RTMP link to stream to a custom server. The reason for this is, as a partner with a multi-game organization, I had to stream on a specific private server to certain viewers and could not disclose server info. So, you need to be able to do that or you might need to stream to social media platforms. Which brings me to platform integration. If you are streaming to YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter, you need to find a service that will integrate the chat features for those platforms. Otherwise, your chat will be isolated to your stream window and you will not be able to communicate with viewers from different platforms.

Price: This will always be a major factor as most people who are streaming are not making money at it or, let’s be real, will probably never make money at it. So, you can get great quality broadcasting without the high cost that will likely turn into profit. Just avoid monthly plans or contract services. You do not want to get into a situation early on in your streaming where, say, you had to stop your payments due to a financial burden, and then all of a sudden you have no way to connect with your followers without a drastic drop in quality. Also, you do not need to stream in 1080p or 4K quality, as fantastic as that would be, it is an unnecessary drain on your PC performance and internet bandwidth, and the marginal increase in quality is not worth what you would be spending.

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