Live Broadcast streaming video is undergoing a renaissance.The value proposition of streaming video has never been clearer. As streaming becomes easier than ever, more people, businesses, and groups are flocking to the technology.
One result of this trend has been an increase in the number of live video hosting platforms. A decade ago, there were only a handful of businesses operating in this industry. Today, there are dozens. For this reason, we have spent the last few weeks working on a number of comparisons. These essays aim to provide you with accurate information about the features, benefits, and downsides of various live streaming platforms.
In this post, we’re going to look at three platforms: JW Live, Kaltura, and DaCast.
Anytime you’re comparing products, methodology is important. Information for this comparison has been primarily sourced from the websites of the providers. We’ve also signed up for free trials when possible, and consulted with other users and public reviews of these products.
The first platform we will consider comes from one of the top players in the online video industry: JW Player.
JW Player’s history and evolution
The software now known as JW video player was originally written by Jeroen “JW” Wijering. In 2005, Wijering was a student in the Netherlands. As a project, he wrote a small piece of open-source code to play audio and video files. This soon became the basic video player for the fledgling YouTube. YouTube used JW Player until it was acquired by Google.
Today JW Player is widely used. The JWplayer HTML5 video player is currently installed on more than 2 million websites, and streams billions of videos per month.
Live streaming — “JW Live”
In recent years, JW Player (the company) has expanded their video offerings. One of their newest services is JW Live, which is a full service, end-to-end live streaming provider. At the time of this writing, their service is in private beta and only available for Enterprise customers.
JW Live advertises itself as being simple to use. They outline a four-step process for beginning a live stream. This involves creating a stream, entering details, connecting a source stream, and going live.
How to use of JW Live?
Adaptive HLS: HLS is a live streaming video protocol that’s supported on both iOS and Android mobile devices. Adaptive means that the stream automatically adjusts to the internet speeds of the viewer. Those with slow connections will receive lower quality video. People with fast broadband will be delivered video in up to 1080p high-definition instead.Transcoding: JW will transcode your videos from a single to multiple bitrates to support different users. This minimizes your bandwidth and processing power requirements.
Simulcast to Facebook Live: This feature allows your stream to be linked to Facebook and automatically broadcast there, as well as in other locations.Real-time analytics: Access number of viewers, geographic information, device data, and more in real time.Based on JW Player: The final significant benefit of JW Live is that the platform is built around the reliable, feature-rich JW video player. JW HTML5 player supports MPEG-DASH playback, CSS skinning, DRM, and other advanced features.
JW Player and JW Live pricing
JW Player is priced in four tiers. Notably, live streaming is only supported by the Enterprise plan, which is priced as the name suggests. Other plans are quite expensive as well. Overall, JW Live seems to be aimed at the very large Enterprise market and other big-budget streaming operations.
The free plan is, well, free. It includes:
25 GB of monthly bandwidth,10,000 video plays per month, andaccess to the basic JW Player on your site
The premium plan costs $299 per year and includes:
250 GB of bandwidth per month,100,000 video plays per month,Full JW Player supportHLS adaptive streamingMulti-bitrate HD encoding, andAirplay/Chromecast
The platinum plan costs $999 per year and includes:
500 GB of monthly bandwidth,200,000 video plays per month,Support for HTML5 and mobile advertising via VAST or VPAID,Google IMA integration, Ad scheduling and waterfalling, and Mobile SDKs.
Finally, the enterprise plan is available with custom pricing for high-volume storage and streaming. This is the only plan to include live streaming functionality. It also includes:
A video recommendations engine,Real-time analytics, and DRM support.
Drawbacks of JW Player
JW Live is a great streaming option certain users. However, the platform has a number of downsides.
First, there are a number of features missing from JW Live. For example, geo-blocking and referer restrictions are not configurable for specific video players or content. This limits flexibility regarding rights management.
Users should also note that JW Live is designed for “event-based live streams only,” according to the service website. According to their documentation, JW Live does not support “24/7 broadcasts, real-time video chat applications, or other use cases.” In addition, events can only last up to 6 hours. After this period, they will automatically end.
Additionally, the service does not support a paywall for monetizing videos. It also doesn’t support iframe control, video playback in Facebook news feed, or any sort of video preview. We’ve also heard reports that phone support for JW Player can result in wait times of more than two hours. That’s an unacceptable delay when running a live event.
Kaltura alternative JW Live
Let’s look at a few alternatives to JW Live. First up is Kaltura, which was founded in 2006 and is based in New York City. Today, the company focuses on large users. These include enterprises, education, media companies, and OTT (Over The Top) television providers.
Kaltura video platforms (KMC and VPaaS)
There are a wide range of video services offered by Kaltura. For the purposes of this review, we’re going to focus on two main offerings.The first is called KMC, or Kaltura Management Console. KMC is a software package that allows users to upload, transcode, manage, live stream, monetize, and analyze video content.
This open source package is available to users in two different ways. Organizations with enough server infrastructure can install this software on their own machines for free. This approach may reduce costs, and supports full customization of the source code. However, it does require ongoing maintenance, increasing technical overhead. KMC is also available as a cloud-hosted video services platform. This version of KMC is comparable to JW Live, but offers many more features.
The second Kaltura offering is called VPaaS, or Video Platform as a Service. This platform revolves around API access to various Kaltura features. These include streaming, transcoding, hosting, and analytics.
API for Kaltura
API access is definitely one of the strengths of the Kaltura platform. Both the KMC (paid accounts only) and the VPaaS platform include access to the Kaltura API ecosystem. This includes full API access, documentation, and code samples. It also offers mobile SDKs to speed development and client libraries for JS, Ruby, Python, PHP, and more.
Review of Kaltura
The main benefit of Kaltura is its wide range of features and extensibility. Besides the API, the platform also supports a wide range of plugins. These can add functionality for advertising, payments, analytics, and social networking.
The platform is extremely complex. This means that you can change almost any option you want to customize. However, it can be a downside for some users. With complexity comes difficulty. Compared to other platforms, Kaltura is not easy to use.
Additionally, it seems that the breadth of features means that Kaltura hasn’t been able to create the most polished platform. Some users call the user interface “clumsy” and note that “there are a number of illogical omissions.” The same reviewer writes that some settings are “extremely difficult to customize.”
Pricing for Kaltura is different for each product. The VPaaS product uses a pay-as-you-go approach with monthly billing:
$0.10 per GB of bandwidth$0.20 per GB of storage$2.25 per GB of transcoding (output) $0.01 per media entry managed$0.001 per video play$0.05 per end user tracked in analytics$0.25 per minute of live streaming video
The VPaaS platform also offers bulk contracts billed annually.Kalura’s KMC offering is free to install if you use your own hardware and hosting. However, the cloud-based installation is expensive. As we said before, this offering is priced at $1000 per month or more, and is aimed squarely at large businesses.
This is quite expensive for a streaming services provider. Additional services like transcording are costly as well. As such, Kaltura is best suited for large enterprises and other major institutions.
JW Player alternative: DaCast
The final alternative that we will examine in this post is our very own platform DaCast. While we do think it is a superior option for many users, it’s not for everyone. Our goal here is to provide an honest comparison to provide you with the best possible information.
DaCast history and evolution
DaCast was founded in 2010 after two years of development. Between our San Francisco-based office and an office in Paris, we have served more than 80,000 live streamers in dozens of countries around the world.
DaCast video platform
The services offered by DaCast revolve around live streaming and on-demand video hosting. We also provide the same services for audio-only users, such as internet radio stations.The DaCast platform is built around an online management platform. From this hub, you can upload and manage content and start live streams easily. Content is delivered via the Akamai CDN (Content Delivery Network), a fast and global Tier 1 CDN.
Another great feature of the DaCast video platform is an integrated payment system. When users attempt to watch a video or stream that’s monetized, they’ll be presented with a payment option directly in the video player window. This makes it easy to monetize, even when embedded on many external sites.
DaCast is also a white label service. While JW Live and Kaltura are both white label as well, many free platforms integrate corporate logos. This is true with live streaming on Facebook, YouTube, and other social platforms.
DaCast API details
For users looking to create custom solutions and integrate video services with existing workflows, an API is ideal. The DaCast API uses the REST standard to allow access to all of the functions of the platform.This equips users with some powerful abilities. For example, some DaCast users resell the live streaming functionality they have purchased. These users could use the API to create an entire video hosting backend. This would rely on the DaCast infrastructure, but it would be invisible to the end user.
Other use cases for the API include coding custom apps including your video or audio content. The DaCast API is supported by several SDKs (Software Development Kits) to make it easier to use. There is also comprehensive documentation and a sandboxed testing environment available.
Using JW Player or other custom video players with DaCast Since we’ve briefly discussed JW Player, let’s mention the DaCast video player as well. The DaCast player includes both HTML5 and Flash functionality. It defaults to whichever is supported on a given device. The player can also be customized to match the colors and branding of your site.
However, many users want more control. Using a custom video player like JW Player, Flowplayer, Video.js, jPlayer, and others is simple with DaCast.
Best features of DaCast
The main attractions for DaCast fall under a number of different headers. First, the platform uses the lightning-fast Akamai CDN. Akamai uses a network of servers around the world to deliver content from geographically close to users. This ensures low latency, fast delivery, and reduced buffering. Akamai is considered to be the top CDN in the world.
Second, the platform supports most advanced video streaming and hosting features. These include monetization, white label service, geographic fencing, referer restrictions, DRM, and social integrations. All of this is offered at an affordable price. That makes DaCast highly competitive with other live streaming platforms on the market.
Finally, the DaCast support options are extremely attractive. The service offers 24/7 support (via phone for Pro and Premier users). Wait times on support calls are never more than a few minutes. That rapid response can be essential for live events.
Compared to other platforms, DaCast is very affordable. In fact, the platform is one of the most cost competitive in the entire video services marketplace.
DaCast’s Basic Plan starts at $19 per month and offers:100 GB of bandwidth, and20 GB of storage
The middle-tier Pro Plan, at $165 per month, offers:2 TB of bandwidth, and125 GB of storage.
Finally, the Premier Plan, at $390 per month, includes:5 TB of bandwidth, and250 GB of storage.
In addition, features that are offered at the base rate for DaCast are only added to the competitors’ plans at higher pricing levels, if at all.
Higher bandwidth options are available as custom plans. For users with one-time or irregular needs, this “event pricing” is the best option… Prices start at $0.25 per GB for 1-5 TB of prepaid bandwidth, and fall from there as the amount of bandwidth needed increases.
As you can see, JW Live is a solid video services platform. However, it’s got some significant competition. Depending on the user and their needs, DaCast or Kaltura could be a superior choice. This series of essays has covered a number of other providers as well.Of course, we do have some self-interest here! After reading this comparison, we hope you’ll give DaCast a try. We offer a 30-day free trial that allows you to test all our live streaming and video hosting capabilities.