Usually when folks think of live streaming they think of brands and creators going live on such platforms as Facebook, YouTube, Twitch or Periscope. One of the problems with these public platforms is that you can't always get what you want for your streaming needs. In fact, one of the major takeaways from the 2018 JW Insights conference was that you need to take control of your content and not just rely on Facebook and YouTube to increase your audience.
In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of using private streaming solutions that allow you to live stream to your own personal website or apps. We'll also discuss the options and costs of some of the most common ways to do it.
Streaming to your own site can be a great tool and business model. This type of solution is ideal for content creators that want to follow a Netflix or Hulu model where people have to pay for access.
It’s also the only option for those who want to stream controversial content - and controversial doesn't just mean adult content. Many of the free platforms have begun shutting down creators who talk about anything not “advertiser friendly” in their videos. Content creators with unpopular political opinions have also been shut down, in some cases with no prior warning. Using a private solution to stream to your own website protects creators from this type of censorship and demonetization.
Here's a rundown of the pros and cons of a private streaming solution:
Free Platforms - Pros
Free Platforms - Cons
Streaming to Your Own Website - Pros
Streaming to Your Own Website - Cons
The two biggest downsides to using a private solution are the high costs - which we’ll discuss more on below - and the fact that you won’t get the opportunity for new organic viewers. Those are the folks that stumble upon your content on a free platform while searching or watching related videos. To be successful while streaming to a private site, you need to already have an audience that you can direct to your site.
To be able to stream to your own website you’ll need to use some backend video technology. Quickly let’s recap how live streaming works: First, there's the ingest server, which is the piece that receives the video stream you’re broadcasting. From there your video needs to be transcoded - this is a process where multiple copies of your live stream are made for various screen resolutions and connection types. Then your feeds have to be distributed across a network to the site(s) it’ll be viewed on. A player on that site then decodes the data and turns it into a video you can watch. On a free live streaming platform, all of that is provided for you. In a private solution, you’ve got to build and pay for all of it.
There are three main ways to implement private streaming:
1. Use a turn-key solution
This is typically the most popular option for most private streaming endeavors. What you’re doing here is paying a fee for a turn-key service as easy to use as YouTube but with more control, security and privacy.
Providers (prices and packages subject to change)
One thing to note, while these services are much less restrictive on what you can stream they do still have some rules that ban adult, gambling, violence, and other types of extreme content. Always read the fine print before buying.
2. Build your own server farm
This is where you basically build all the infrastructure to stream video. This would require your own data centers in multiple locations with massive internet connections and hundreds of physical servers.
To do this would cost millions of dollars. Skip right by this one. Not even Netflix uses this type of solution. (They use option #3 below)
3. Lease the infrastructure & build your own solution
This is the option many of the biggest streaming companies use. It allows the most flexibility and control of every aspect of the experience, but it’s also the most technical and complicated. This option typically comes with usage style pricing. That means your costs will increase with the size of your audience.
The most popular provider for this type of solution is Amazon Web Services (AWS), which allows you to fire up all the individual parts needed to create your streaming solution, and let it scale to almost any level.
AWS costs can vary widely and are based on usage. Although for a basic configuration Amazon states:
"As of the date of publication, the cost for running this solution with default settings in the US East (N. Virginia) Region is approximately $2 per hour for the AWS services."
One thing to note: While almost anyone can stream to YouTube or the services in option #2, AWS requires an advanced technical person or team. Don't forget to budget for that help when calculating costs of this option.
The nice part about any of these solutions is that once the setup is complete, they’re very easy to stream to and use. For most, you’ll end up with the standard Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) server and stream key, just like YouTube. You pop that into your streaming encoder and you’re live!
A private solution also works very well with multi-streaming services like Switchboard Cloud, which will send your live video to multiple locations simultaneously. Many creators use it to stream to the free platforms as well as their private site, or distribute live video to multiple private sites at the same time.
All told, with the right option and some planning, live streaming to your own site can provide you the amount of control, security, and flexibility you’re looking for.