On 23rd April 2005, the first-ever video on YouTube was uploaded titled “Me at the zoo” by YouTube’s co-founder, Jawed Karim. The Los Angeles Times described the moment as “playing a pivotal role in fundamentally altering how people consumed media and helped usher in a golden era of the 60-second video”. Today, YouTube is the second-most visited website after Google, making it one of the top video streaming platforms globally.
Video streaming platforms like YouTube have completely revolutionized contemporary society. People around the world can now instantly record and upload a video or start live-streaming from their phone, and someone half-way across the world can tune in to watch, all in a matter of seconds. While that may not seem like much of a big deal today, it wasn’t always this easy.
Today, video is practically everywhere. From communication to training to marketing, video has evolved to become so much more than when YouTube first came to us. There are now multiple video streaming platforms for sharing videos with their own set of similar and distinctive features designed for various use cases.
As such, it’s important to distinguish between each platform before deciding to choose a platform for your organization. So here are the top online video streaming platforms that think are the best of the best in 2021. But first…
What is a Video Platform?
A video platform lets you host, stream, manage and share videos online. Contemporary video streaming platforms allow you to upload a video from any device, encode it into a bunch of different formats for optimized playback on other devices, search and browse for videos on the platform, and enable a few privacy and security options, like password protection.
Other features commonly found but sometimes not available directly from the platform include closed captioning and video analytics. Live streaming is also a common, but not a universal feature for many online video platforms.
Before YouTube, sharing a video was much more complicated. You had to find a way to first import the file from your video camera into your computer, then upload the video to your own website or some other network, and then share the link somehow, such as through emails or hyperlinks.
And that’s just from your side. To watch the video, the viewer had to download the entire thing (which took forever due to relatively weak internet strength at the time) and then convert the video into a format that was compatible with the video player they had installed on their computer. Now, it’s as easy as tapping a few buttons on your phone.
Here’s a list of features commonly found across different video platforms. The feature set offered by a platform may vary accordingly.
- On-demand video streaming
- Live video streaming
- Secure video hosting
- Video management
- Automated processing and workflows
- Privacy options for internal and external video sharing
- Access and permissions management
- Video analytics
- Video editing
- Device & browser agnosticism
- Optimized streaming for different bandwidth conditions
- Flexible deployment options
- API and Integrations with other IT Systems
- Brand customization
- OTT and advertising
- Configurable video players and templates
- In-video quizzing & interactivity
- Closed captioning and video transcription.
- In-video search
- Multilingual interface and translation
- Artificial intelligence services
- Multi-source video players
- Bookmarking and favoriting
- Tagging, labeling and custom attributes generation
- Annotations and chapters
- Playback under variable quality and speed
- Camera and screen recording
- Scheduling and automated purge policies
Most video streaming platforms come with a feature set with a mix of these features. Based on these features and functionalities, video platforms can also be divided into two clear categories.
Simple Video Streaming Platforms
Simple video streaming platforms are focused on supplying basic video streaming services for external audiences, like public online video platforms. They are usually a bit cheaper and sometimes have a freemium version.
While they are adequate for streaming to public audiences and large external viewers, they lack the features necessary to securely share and manage videos for organizational use cases. They are heavily consumer-focused. YouTube is a simple video platform designed for the mass consumer market that is popular around the world.
Enterprise Video Streaming Platforms
Enterprise video streaming platforms are designed for organizational use cases that require more specialized features to manage and share videos, such as extra privacy options and integrability with a broad range of other IT solutions.
They are generally more secure and better equipped to meet the more complex demands of large organizations such as private businesses, educational institutions, healthcare facilities and government agencies in comparison to audience-focused simple video platforms.
Why Use A Video Streaming Platform?
YouTube was a major step ahead for video streaming technologies. Today, more than 500 hours (about 3 weeks) of content are uploaded onto YouTube every minute. The coming of YouTube paved the way for other video platforms, making it possible to stream and share videos online quickly and easily. The ease with which we can now share videos has encouraged modern organizations to increasingly use video for their tasks and operations.
Many articles like this one describe how video is the most effective and engaging medium for communication today. To that end, modern organizations have widely adopted video for their various corporate needs, from daily conference meetings to live broadcasts and virtual events.
This has created the need for more specialized video platforms that can offer the right set of features and functions for catering to the demands of large organizations. And while YouTube is the most popular video platform, it is not the best choice for everything.
Without further ado, here are the top online video streaming platforms of 2021:
The first five platforms on this list are enterprise video streaming platforms while the last five are simple video streaming platforms. Each platform comes with its own strengths and weaknesses.
The Top Enterprise Video Streaming Platforms
VIDIZMO is a corporate YouTube-like solution that provides live & on-demand video for streaming and management. The platform is heavily focused on privacy and security since its target market includes commercial and government organizations.
Noteworthy features include its comprehensive users and groups management, access, and permissions management and integrability with a large variety of other IT platforms, like CMS, CRM, LMS and video conferencing systems.
The platform is also notable for its flexible deployment options, including deployment on any public or private cloud, on-premises data center or in a hybrid infrastructure. It’s also available on the Azure Government Cloud and AWS GovCloud (US) for its government customers’ security and compliance requirements.
The platform supplies a complete enterprise video content management solution. However, unlike some of the other video streaming platforms on this list, the platform does not support OTT or monetization services whatsoever. For that you might want to check out some of the other video platforms on this list.
Kaltura stands in contrast to other top video streaming platforms as a solution that is crafted entirely based on individual customer preferences. Initially founded as an OTT solution, the platform has expanded its horizons to target other corporate sectors with live & on-demand video streaming services, though it still is focused on supplying solutions for the media industry.
In addition to OTT services, the platform offers monetization, platform branding and video analytics like most other enterprise video streaming platforms. The platform is also quite secure with a powerful API.
However, the platform’s design has raised certain issues. Expanding into other markets meant Kaltura had to break down its first solution for the sake of building other use case-oriented solutions, creating a highly fragmented solution.
This has created certain complications, such as the need for detailed technical and business coordination for extended periods of time during deployment and acquisition, and a complex pricing model with cost unpredictability. Kaltura’s customer support is also notoriously unpopular; not only do they not have any live support, but reviews also consistently suggest that they are responses are sluggish.
IBM Watson Media
IBM Watson Media was initially founded to introduce IBM Watson into video workflows. The current IBM Watson Media is the result of absorbing the IBM Video Cloud for a unified solution under a single brand.
In line with its origins, the platform is focused on supplying live video streaming services for the media and entertainment industry, like sporting events, though it does offer on-demand video streaming services as well.
Additionally, the platform also offers OTT with monetization, ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) and integrations with third-party billing APIs, such as PayTV, Google, iTunes, etc.
Overall, the platform is more suited for external live streaming, such as corporate or sporting events, but less suited for internal organizational use cases. The platform does not offer video interactivity, which is a highly demanded feature commonly found in other video streaming platforms. Interactivity such as in-video quizzing and polls are an important feature for several corporate use cases, such as training, onboarding, and marketing.
It also does not integrate with most common business IT applications and lacks multi-feed playback. The platform also lacks search within videos. Another issue several customers have reported is that the platform is technical and difficult to use for people without some degree of technical knowledge or help.
Panopto targets educational institutions and businesses, and its screen recording features have made it a favorite among colleges and universities. The platform provides in-video quizzing and annotations for making notes inside a video.
You can also integrate Panopto with a LMS and video conferencing systems to manage and share digital learning assets, such as recorded online meetings. The platform also allows you to search within videos for words or text. It’s also fairly secure with content encryption and permissions management.
While Panopto is sufficient for learning institutions, however, there’s still a lot to be desired for business use cases. The platform integrates with only a limited number of other systems that are fairly common among business organizations. For example, it does not integrate with any CMS other than Salesforce, or any CRM systems. It is also quite heavily oriented around AWS in terms of deployment, with the Panopto Cloud is only hosted on AWS.
In contrast, its marketing towards other deployment models such as on-premises data centers or other popular cloud providers such as Azure (if its posting on the Azure Marketplace is anything to go by) is almost negligent. This suggests that despite its availability, Panopto is less attentive or concerned with customers in the Azure market.
Brightcove mainly provides video streaming solutions for the arts and entertainment industry. The platform is heavily designed for live streaming and sharing videos to external audiences, with OTT video monetization and ad integrations using third-party systems. There are also a variety of in-video interactive elements, such as polls and CTAs, as well as add-to-cart for e-commerce capabilities. The platform also has extensive brand customization.
The platform is notably missing several privacy options; there is no way to control permissions for users registered on the platform. You can only choose to control whether someone is registered on the platform to control access.
Additionally, the platform doesn’t provide any kind of folders or categories for organizing content and is only deployable on the cloud. All these strongly limit how organizations can use Brightcove, especially since there are better platforms for internal video sharing use cases.
The Top Simple Video Streaming Platforms
YouTube has become practically synonymous with video sharing. The platform offers free live & on-demand video streaming, with several common features such as playlists, analytics, and automatic closed captioning and video transcription.
It’s an ideal solution for mass-consumer marketing; as the parent company, Google prioritizes YouTube results over others and the platform’s popularity makes it perfect for reaching public consumers.
As one of the first video streaming platforms, YouTube has heavily inspired other brands to such an extent that an enterprise video streaming platform is sometimes referred to as a ‘Corporate YouTube’.
But if you’re looking for a platform where you can keep your private content, YouTube isn’t the best choice. It goes without saying that storing your private videos on a public platform is a bad idea.
While there are options to control who you want to share your videos with such as individual users organizations need a lot more security to store their videos with confidential information. And there are other issues as well. The platform is mainly designed as a final good, meaning it’s not focused on serving organizations or businesses.
As such, there is no brand customization, third-party ads will tarnish your videos and YouTube might even suggest your competitor’s content under recommended videos. You might not even be able to use the platform in certain regions; YouTube is the most popular banned website in the world.
Another issue for many organizations is YouTube’s Terms of Service (TOC), which states that by uploading a video on YouTube, you automatically transfer your intellectual rights and grant YouTube a royalty-free license to copy, repurpose and distribute your content as they like.
Wistia specifically markets itself as a video marketing platform. Comparable to YouTube in terms of most features, while the platform does not have a free version, it comes without several of the latter’s drawbacks. As a private video platform, you don’t have to worry about third-party ads or suggested competitor content plaguing your videos.
The platform provides clickable CTAs within a video and analytics such as heat maps for monitoring engagement with different parts of a video. The platform also integrates with a wide range of marketing automation tools, such as HubSpot, Marketo and Pardot.
Surprisingly, however, the platform does not offer live streaming, which has become an important tool for modern marketing techniques like virtual product demos and announcements. Furthermore, while the platform is a better alternative to YouTube, the platform arguably has little to offer in terms of features compared to other video streaming platforms.
Dacast is one of the few platforms on this list that is primarily a live video streaming platform. The platform mainly targets the media industry, religious organizations, and some business use cases. Dacast also provides on-demand video streaming, video analytics, playlists and player branding. The platform is also offers OTT and video monetization.
Notwithstanding its target markets, however, the platform is still remarkably incomplete in terms of features. For example, despite being primarily a live streaming platform, the platform provides no features for interactivity in a live stream (though you can use third-party integrations for live chat).
There are no privacy options other than differentiating between a registered and unregistered user. The platform lacks several other features commonly found on other video streaming platforms, such as platform branding, interactivity and transcription. Finally, the platform is only deployable on the AWS cloud.
Primarily targeted towards media companies, JW Player also provides solutions for religious services and fitness classes. The platform provides both live & on-demand video streaming. Its strengths include external video sharing with ads and monetization features. The platform also integrates with ad insertion and OTT service providers. It’s also one of the few video streaming platforms to offer player bidding and viewer analytics for ads.
While not to the same degree as Dacast, the platform also lacks several features staple or important for a video platform. The platform only allows you to add closed captions manually, is largely missing privacy features and does not provide support for mobile screens. The platform is almost completely designed for simple external video streaming with a niche towards video ad monetization and largely excludes internal video sharing use cases.
YouTube’s slightly older and less popular cousin, Vimeo started off as a free consumer-focused platform for film and media, but changed course to try and distance itself from being compared to YouTube and began offering paid solutions targeted towards business customers, while keeping a freemium version.
The platform still retains a focus towards external streaming and offers many features such as live streaming with polls and chat, some private sharing options, playlists and analytics as well as features not found in YouTube such as player branding and video monetization (though the features available depend on the subscription plan).
However, a lot of features that you have to pay for are available for free on YouTube. For example, live streaming is only available under Vimeo’s premium plan, and there’s a limit to how many videos you can upload unless you upgrade to a paid plan. The platform’s tools are also heavily marketing-oriented, focusing on streaming to external audiences and minimal focus on video management.
The search isn’t very good either and you can only manually tag your videos. Additionally, unlike enterprise video streaming platforms that you need to pay for, Vimeo still lacks several features that are available on the other platforms offer, like search within a video.
This makes the platform rather ‘incomplete’ compared to others that are also targeted towards businesses. Moreover, a large number of customer reviews have complained about poor playback experience with long buffering and weak customer support.
While there are many video streaming platforms, each of them comes with its own strengths and weaknesses that make them unique and more likely than others to better suit the needs for specific use cases.
While video hosting and streaming remain the core focus for each platform, other features and functionalities largely differ from platform to platform. It’s important to carefully understand what each platform has to offer in order to ensure you make the right choice for your organization.