State of Live Streaming platform in 2019| How to start your own live streaming website?
This post looks into the past, present and future predictions of live streaming platforms and the technologies that power them. We will try to understand developments in the supporting technologies and various factors that inclined the growth of live streaming as a publically accessible medium. Post discussing the future scope of live streaming in the market, we will also shed a light on the big question –“how to start a live streaming business in 2019?”
Live streaming in 2019, barely has any resemblance to the scene it was five years ago. What used to be a luxury enjoyed by big corporations is now a publically accessible feature on the social media platforms.
What’s more exciting? Not only the accessibility has improved, but also the stream qualities have been uplifted with upgraded live streaming solutions and network advancements.
How was live streaming 5 years ago?
Five years ago, the landscape for live streaming software was not the same. They were inaccessible to the public; not even to the small and medium-sized organizations.
1. Setup and Cost
There were enterprise streaming service providers but were unaffordable to many small broadcasters. They would charge fortunes and still promote their own brands to the broadcaster’s audience. The concept of white-labeled live streaming solutions was far from reality.
5 years ago
The software alone was not responsible for conducting a live stream. There was a whole setup of complex software and paraphernalia like encoders, network connection, server, transcoders, CDN, and web-based video players. That means you did not only require software but also the skills to connect various hardware in a synchronized network to put up a show. This complexity made the streaming capability inaccessible to many, and each time an external live streaming services provider was required for help.
The development in cloud computing technologies helped live streaming solution providers to set up a fixed in-house infrastructure. Now the cloud acts as a hub where all the complex setups have already been done for once. They have to just install the required software on the client’s location to connect the local setup to the cloud for broadcasting the live stream. The reduction in the complexity and redundant setups saved a lot of cost and effort. Ultimately, the service providers too extended their cost benefits to the clients and started offering affordable live streaming solutions.
2. Live streaming and social media
The background for social media live streaming as we see today on YouTube, Facebook, Periscope, and Instagram was not even introduced 5 years ago.
5 Years ago
By that time, YouTube was experimenting with the live streaming feature. It was available in the US only and to only a few big creators via an encoder. The concept of social media streaming was not at all available for the public
In 2016, we saw Facebook Live making to the platform. Soon enough it became a trend and was adopted by the masses. It was not just the first publically available social media live streaming platform, but also an inspiration for the platforms like Twitter and Instagram to do something similar.
In the same time frame, Twitter has also acquired Periscope live streaming platform and introduced live streaming to its platform. The particular platform was however not very popular among the masses by then, but it made a great impact among the corporates and enterprises.
Finally, in 2017, YouTube made the live streaming feature available to the public via its mobile app. Initially, it was accessible to only the creators with 100+ subscribers, but soon it was unlocked for all. Today, live videos have become more stimulating and 82% social media users prefer to watch live streams from a brand than merely reading a blog.
3. The rise and fall of Flash
For years the Adobe-developed Flash was a standard to let videos and rich media interact with web browsers. The problem was Flash had too many codecs and container formats which were not supported by many browsers and devices like Apple.
5 years ago
Until 2016, live streaming solutions were purely dependent on Flash. Neither the players would work without flash nor does the live stream as the browsers didn’t support them. There were lots of security issues in addition to the battery drain problem.
Today, Google Chrome has stopped supporting Flash, and yet we can see live videos on Chrome and many other browsers. It’s because of the MSE (Media Source Extensions) that have become a standard these days. MSE can convert the HLS video streams to MP4 formats, which every browser supports like butter. Platforms like YouTube and Netflix also use MSE for VOD streaming as well.
1. Sports Streaming to e-sports
Not too many options were available. A single expensive enterprise live streaming service provider would play the jack of all. Be it church streaming, sports streaming, or event streaming, you couldn’t expect personalization in the user experience at all.
5 Years ago
The same setup was used to stream any live event. Due to the complexity and cost of the setup, only the world-class events with massive sponsorship could afford to stream live. You can imagine the cost and complexity by the fact that NBC had to rely on MICROSOFT to live stream Summer Olympics in high definition video quality.
As live stream solutions become simple and affordable, media platforms started covering even small events. Live streaming of video game tournaments was one of them. Platforms like Twitch and YouTube made fortunes and many gamers have now made their careers streaming live gameplay. The concept of e-sports is now well-known to many. Brands and media houses have started covering video game tournaments. We can now stream live video gameplays in full HD and 60 FPS quality.
2. Adaptive streaming and HD video quality
It was impossible to broadcast videos in HD quality. Even 480p (SD) quality video streams were hardly possible. Only a few could do SD streaming without any buffering, but only up to a certain geo-location.
5 Years ago
Most of the affordable video recording devices were of SD quality. The HD equipments were unaffordable by the common public. However, this was not the only issue. Even if someone could afford the HD cameras, the current network bandwidth and video encoding would hardly allow anyone to browse the stream without buffering for eternity. Moreover, most of the mobile phones and computers did not even support the HD playback.
Today, we can even stream in 4K with superior setups. The HD equipment has gone affordable and every device out there supports HD playback and streaming. CDN services have enabled video streaming services to speed up content delivery and extend their reach to the distant geo-locations.
Video players and streaming engines today support automatic bitrate switching, which allows devices to compress the playback to a corresponding quality according to the device’s capability and Network bandwidth. Of course, the internet has also become brisker. We are about to enter the world of 5G very soon.
What future holds in its trunk?
Looking at the current developments in software technologies, hardware networking, internet bandwidth, and browsing devices, the next 5 years are going to blow our minds. The live streaming industry is booming with cloud computing and software engineering and more affordable live streaming solutions for the public as well as corporations. Here the speculations we can make:
· The internet speed will increase drastically with 5G technology.
· Equipment and hardware will become more affordable.
· More companies with CDN and cloud services will join the market.
· Live streaming for marketing will become more popular than VOD.
· Technologies like HEVC will enable HQ streaming at lower bandwidth.
· With HEVC and 5G, seamless 4K streaming will be a common trend.
· We would be able to do 60 FPS streaming with 4K resolution.
· More organizations will adopt turnkey software solutions for live streaming.
· Personalized web applications will improve niched streaming experiences. E.g. church streaming.
You should take a look at this article “Things that define the future of Video Streaming & Benefits of Modern Video Streaming”. It gives a detailed explanation of the future of video streaming and its speculations.
Can you start your own live streaming website?
This is one of the finest benefits of the growth of web technology and networking. The live streaming solutions these days have gone quite affordable and so does the cost of web development. There are turnkey live streaming solutions in the market which you can use to develop your live streaming site without even coding one from scratch.
How to start a live streaming website?
To understand that, let’s first understand how a live stream works. When a video is streamed live, its media file is first converted into data packets and these packets are then transmitted over the internet to a user’s device.
Before that, the data packets are divided into several small chunks and each chunk takes a different path to reach the user, where they are accumulated in the buffer stream. Once the buffer has sufficient packets, the video player in the user’s device starts to play the live stream. The process continues throughout the stream.
Get the basic set of APIs
To incorporate the above-explained phenomena, your live streaming website must be equipped with the three main components:
1. A video encoder API: To encode the video feed as media files and push to the network for transmission.
Example: Flash Media Live Encoder, Microsoft Expression Encoder Pro, Telestream Wirecast, etc.
2. A media server API: A dedicated server to route the media files.
Example: Adobe Flash Media Streaming Server, Wowza Streaming Server, Microsoft IIS Media Services, Media Server on AWS
3. A video Player API: A program with audio-video codecs to decode the media files and play the buffered stream in video format.
Player: Flash media player, HTML5 video player, VLC player, JW player.
Video Codecs: VP6, H.264, H.263
Audio codecs: AAC, MP3)
So while in talks with a software vendor to build your live streaming site, don’t forget to ask if they have included the APIs for the above three components. However, if you are going for a ready-made live streaming software like StreamNow, you don’t have to worry as it comes inbuilt with all the three components. The flow diagram below explains how a typical suite like StreamNow for live streaming through the web, Android, and iOS devices work:
Once you have the basic set of APIs required to set up your streaming infrastructure, you can continue with the website development. Below is an explanation of how to develop a live streaming site or the features you should look for when going for a ready-made solution.
How to develop a live streaming site?
The user experience and the usability of a live streaming platform or website changes according to the goals of development. For example, if you are developing the platform for-
· Using in your organization internally,
· For covering and sharing the live events of your organization,
· Live video marketing on social media platforms, or
· Building a live streaming business like YouTube or Twitch.
Here are the aspects you should necessarily look if you are seeking an answer to how to build a successful live streaming website:
1. Access control:
Decide who would be using the site. It actively involves the back-end users to administer the site and the front end users to browse the content. Depending on your goals, the website must have a proper user authentication system:
· System to create sub-admin users from the super admin panel.
· Front-end user registration for video consumers and their database.
· Super Admin with All the access to the site and user data.
2. Features and functionalities:
Features depend on how you want to personalize the user experience on the site. If you are thinking about launching your own video streaming platforms like YouTube Live or Twitch, then do some competitive research and make a list of all the innovative features you can add:
· Live chat feature
· Live chat replay
· Dedicated channels
· Report abuse
· Paid live chat (Super chat)
· Channel subscription
· Ranking algorithm etc.
3. API integrations:
This is more like buying the subscriptions of all the required APIs explained above and integrating on the site with a personalized user interface. You might have to purchase a few more APIs based on the advanced requirements like Push notifications API, SMS API, Email API, Live chat API, and Payment Gateway API, etc.
If you are choosing a readymade solution, you don’t have to worry about the technicalities of the API integrations as most of these come inbuilt with the solutions. Moreover, the developers also offer customization services to add any new API as per the requirements.
4. Experience enhancement and expansion:
Though you can acquire the basic infrastructure with those three essential APIs, you should also focus on enhancing the stream quality and your reach with some advanced integrations as well. For example, if you plan to create a big site like YouTube or Twitch, you have to upscale everything for a massive amount of users at a time.
In such a case, the RTP and RTCP protocols alone cannot ensure a stress-free operation. Neither a regular media server can shed the load nor can a traditional web host can serve the request fast enough.
You need a CDN service for speeding up the data transfer and avoid any major latency. What is a CDN? The CDN ensures your site keeps serving the requests seamlessly from anywhere in the particular network. The localized data centers in a CDN enables the site to pre-cache the video files, share the load, and serve the requests faster without fetching them each time from the originating server.
Of course, you also need a powerful web hosting for your site. I recommend VPS SSD hosting as they are fast, flexible, scalable, and support almost every popular tech stack. There are many hosting providers who offer VPS SSD hosting, you can choose from any of the reliable names. For example, Digital ocean.
5. Optimized web design:
Be cautious while choosing a ready-made solution because some of them do not allow you to personalize the UI as per your custom requirements. To avoid this, choose a turnkey solution with source code access so that you can always customize the UI and make your site synchronous to your brand identity.
Of course, if you want to start a live streaming website like YouTube or Twitch, you would want to make money with it. You would want the site to support popular revenue models like subscription, transactional, and Ad-based revenue. This is where a ready-made live streaming solution like would cover everything for you. Such a live streaming software comes inbuilt with all the popular monetization methods like Paid Membership plans, Ads, and pay-per-stream. You can always think about making some good money with a solution with monetization features.
I hope now you have a complete comprehension about how to start a live streaming business with a competent software solution by your side. I don’t say you should only choose a ready-made solution, but a lot of work is reduced by just a single decision. Just think about the complexity of integrating all those complex APIs, building the back-end, adding monetization methods, designing the UI, and adding payment gateways.
If you think about doing all these from scratch, the whole work will take not less than 800 hours. Just think the cost of development for 800 hours. That’s why a ready-made platform with open-source code access is a wise choice. It won’t cost you even 1% of the actual investment.
The state of live streaming has come very far and anyone can afford to go live without spending fortunes. You just have to look for the best solutions according to your requirements and that’s all, you will have a live streaming website without any huge investment.