Since its launch in 2005, YouTube has become synonymous with online video. And for good reason — before YouTube, sharing a video on the web typically meant:
- Figuring out how to import a video file from a camera to your computer
- Uploading that file to your own website, FTP site, or some other network
- Making the link to that video available for others to find and use
And that was just on your part. Since online playback was virtually unheard of, your viewers had to download the video in full (which took an eternity on a 6 MBPS dial-up modem), then convert it so that it could be played on whatever specific media player they had installed.
Anyone old enough to remember a time before YouTube will recall how much effort it actually took to find and watch a video online, much less host and share one.
But YouTube’s video platform changed everything.
The launch of YouTube made it simple to share, discover, and stream video online. In fact, these days, sharing video online is so easy that the true complexity of what YouTube’s platform actually does is often overlooked.
When a user uploads a video to YouTube, it is automatically converted into broadly accepted formats, hosted at no charge, and broken up into tiny segments that can be dynamically delivered with minimal buffering and maximum quality, even on weaker internet connections. In addition to enabling creators to add machine-generated captions to their videos, YouTube also indexes a fair amount of information about each video, from its title and tags to comments left by viewers, allowing others to easily search and browse YouTube’s ever-growing public library for relevant or interesting video content.
Related Reading: 7 Things That Define Modern Video Streaming
Now, more than a decade after the introduction of YouTube, people of every generation expect to be able to share and watch videos on their laptops and smartphones with just a few taps on the screen.
In 2019, a staggering 93 percent of Internet users watched online videos at least once a month. And while Facebook narrowly bested YouTube in total active users last year, YouTube remained the most active social platform, with people watching more than a billion hours of videos every day — that’s more than they watched Netflix and Facebook videos combined.
When it comes to getting new information, learning something, or being entertained, the majority of people today now prefer to watch a video over reading text. And watching online videos has never been more popular. Over the last 5 years, online video viewership has also started to eat into the total time Americans spend watching television.
YouTube Isn’t Always the Best Option
Although it was the pioneer and remains the largest online video platform today, YouTube is no longer the only platform out there for video sharing and streaming. A host of alternatives have sprung up to challenge YouTube, each offering customers new mixes of features and functionality.
And perhaps even more importantly, a number of other online video platforms have evolved to meet the needs of businesses and academic institutions — organizations that often need a means to support video in ways that are different from what consumer-focused YouTube has to offer. Consider the following video trends:
- Businesses increasingly create videos for internal communications, employee training, social learning, remote collaboration, and even for referencing recorded meetings — often covering information far too sensitive to risk uploading even ‘privately’ to YouTube.
- Media companies, meanwhile, look to circumvent telecommunications companies in order to stream and monetize their own video content online.
- And educational institutions are now reliant on both synchronous and asynchronous video solutions for delivering high-quality hybrid learning experiences to diverse populations of students whose lives and education have been disrupted by a global pandemic.
The good news is, whatever your needs are, today there is a video platform out there for you. But how do you know what to look for?
What defines a video platform?
A video platform is an asynchronous video technology for creating, hosting, searching, and streaming videos online. It enables the easy capture, management, and viewing of video content for the purposes of communicating, educating, or entertaining. Different from synchronous real-time video conferencing technologies that support live, two-way video conversations, video platforms offer a range of solutions for on-demand video and, increasingly, live, one-to-many streaming video.
Today’s top video platforms vary widely in terms of their capabilities. Some are more consumer-oriented, while others are built for institutional use. Some are primarily libraries for video content, while others include native applications for recording, live streaming, editing, and more. Some are intended to stand alone, while others will integrate easily with other business systems. Some are built to be comprehensive systems right out of the box, while others are sold as individually-customized deployments.
With so many differences between video platform technologies, it can be daunting to unpack and compare all the various features and plans. Let’s start by breaking video platform features down into a few basic categories so you can get a sense of your options.
What A Video Platform Can Do
Understanding the potential range of capabilities a video platform can offer will help you evaluate the best long-term solution for your needs. The most flexible and comprehensive video platforms can do a mix of the following:
Viewing & Productivity
So where to start? We compared information from independent analyst reports, customer reviews, and the platforms themselves to help you begin comparing the top video platforms on the market today.
The 10 Best Video Platforms of 2021
- IBM Watson Media
- JW Player
- Media Platform
- Microsoft Stream
Recommended for: public-facing video content, monetizing video content, and building a large, engaged audience online
When it comes to hosting and sharing public-facing video content, there is no better library to maximize potential public viewers. YouTube remains the second most popular search engine online, trailing only parent company Google, and offers a free platform for uploading on-demand video content and live streaming. If you’re trying to get your video content out to the world or grow an engaged following around your video content, YouTube is your platform. YouTube gives users the option to pay to promote content on their platform to gain more visibility, entice subscribers, and, of course, enables the discovery of your videos through both its platform and in Google search results. It can even help transcribe videos and produce machine-generated captions.
Of course, if your goal is to ensure your video content is shared privately and securely with a restricted audience of your choosing, YouTube may not be your best choice. While YouTube does allow users to make their videos unlisted or to share them privately with individual users, for most organizations, these options won’t be secure enough. Another potential security concern lies in YouTube’s Terms of Service (TOS), which state that you turn over intellectual property rights to your video when you upload it to YouTube, and that you grant YouTube a royalty-free license and right to copy and redistribute your video content.
Recommended for: securing and sharing videos and meeting recordings, secure live streaming, remote video communication & collaboration, employee learning and development, online and blended learning, and it’s the only out-of-the-box platform priced to scale and grow with your changing needs
When you don’t want your videos shared with the world, or even with people inside your organization for whom they were not intended, Panopto provides the most complete and secure video solution. And unlike YouTube, you maintain ownership of every video asset you store in Panopto.
Panopto was built to support the rapid, secure sharing of detailed information and knowledge through video. It is a comprehensive video platform that comes out-of-the-box with a complete set of tools for video management and video creation that enable even the most novice users to produce interactive videos that are optimized for comprehension, retention, and engagement. Panopto also includes a large number of video integrations for the systems that businesses and educational institutions already use, including unified communications solutions, learning management systems (LMSs), content management systems (CMSs), collaboration tools, and more.
An all-in-one platform, Panopto can be used to record and live stream video, as well as to centrally manage an entire video library. The platform automatically takes care of backend production, including video compression, transcoding, and streaming optimization, and indexes every word spoken or shown on-screen in every video for search, so viewers can quickly find relevant content inside videos, right to the point in the timeline when the word was mentioned or displayed. Panopto also includes extensive viewer permission controls, making it a strong solution for sharing private or confidential video content securely (or behind a paywall), while still enabling public one-to-many video sharing as desired.
Panopto is an ideal solution to enable more effective communication, collaboration, and learning within business and higher education environments. Organizations with a specific need for monetizing online video content through dynamic ad insertion, or those looking for a video marketing solution, should check out the next video platform on the list.
Recommended for: building OTT video experiences, video monetization, and content marketing
Brightcove’s video streaming platform empowers companies to broadcast high-definition live and on-demand video to large audiences, with additional support for building OTT (over-the-top) video experiences, enabling dynamic ad insertion, and video analytics. Unlike on YouTube, companies maintain full ownership of their video content by using Brightcove for hosting and streaming.
Built first for external video distribution, Brightcove’s video platform caters largely to sports and media companies, as well as marketing and communications teams. The platform integrates with platforms such as Marketo, Eloqua, and Google Ad Manager, providing a broader range of data to inform marketing strategies and tactics that can help deliver better ROI.
Because Brightcove’s video management solution is designed for streaming video to anonymous external viewers, it lags behind other platforms when it comes to supporting organizational and academic collaboration and learning needs. Brightcove is all-or-nothing when it comes to securing video content — it does not have the advanced security controls for limiting access to specific internal video content at scale. In other words, all of your employees or students will have access to all the videos in your library. Brightcove also lacks technology that enables viewers to search the content inside videos, and it does not offer an immersive video playback experience that is essential for learning and collaborating with video. Furthermore, you’ll need your own solutions for producing video content since Brightcove does not include any video recording or editing tools.
Recommended for: monetizing creative video content, creative video production and collaboration, and content marketing
Vimeo began as a niche video platform for film and digital media that, thanks to a highly engaged community of creators, has grown substantially to become perhaps the second most well-known video platform after YouTube. Unlike YouTube, however, on Vimeo you won’t find ads popping up everywhere. That’s because in 2018, Vimeo pivoted from being a video viewing destination to a distribution solution for video creators.
Today, Vimeo’s freemium business model offers basic video hosting and streaming solutions for indie content creators as well as video tools that will appeal to creative teams, freelancers, ad agencies, and media companies — still with a focus on customers looking for external-facing video content solutions. Vimeo offers Vimeo Stock, a royalty-free, stock-video-for-purchase platform that’s similar to Getty images or Shutterstock. Vimeo Stock enables its creator community to license their video collections for sale alongside Vimeo’s user-generated video content.
Vimeo’s tools include a video player that can be customized for brands, video monetization solutions, collaborative tools and workflows, live streaming, video analytics, and some private video sharing options. Of course, available solutions will depend on your subscription level — live streaming capabilities and certain privacy settings, for example, are only available to premium subscribers.
For those looking for a video platform that supports organizational productivity and knowledge-sharing applications, Vimeo falls short. Vimeo’s creator tools are designed primarily for marketers and won’t be as effective for recording training, tutorials, lectures, demonstrations, and presentations. What’s more, people cannot search within the content (the words spoken and shown) inside videos stored in Vimeo to find specific bits of information. Vimeo still requires creators to manually tag videos to support discoverability. Additionally, Vimeo lacks an immersive video playback experience that is essential for learning and collaborating with video.
Recommended for: OTT video streaming, video monetization, live streaming, and video intelligence
The platform now known as IBM Watson Media began life as a peer-to-peer live streaming platform called Ustream. Acquired by IBM in 2016, the solution would eventually be renamed IBM Video Cloud before again being re-branded with its current name in 2020. Today the Watson Media platform is geared towards streaming media such as news, sporting events, and other entertainment online, as well as streaming live corporate events.
Though still primarily a platform for live streaming, Watson Media has changed quite a bit from its peer-to-peer origins. Much like Brightcove, IBM Watson Media offers cloud video streaming and hosting solutions that include support for subscription and pay-per-view content, OTT, as well as secure, on-demand internal video hosting and streaming for enterprise businesses.
Organizations looking for an all-in-one video solution that can enhance internal collaboration and training may find that this video platform is missing many key features such as integrations with other business applications, multi-camera recording and multi-feed playback, searching within video timelines, and in-video collaboration tools.
Recommended for: OTT video streaming, video monetization, and creating a customized video platform with components tailored to your needs
Kaltura’s video platform as a service ( VPaaS) is designed less for those who want a comprehensive video platform out of the box, and more for those who would prefer a build-your-own, highly customized solution. Kaltura customers select video recording, webcasting, storage, and sharing options à la carte, assembling a platform for implementation by Kaltura’s Professional Services team. Designed primarily for media companies, Kaltura customers can also purchase add-on partner solutions, or use the Kaltura API and/or Kaltura’s open-source developer network for even more customization.
With OTT solutions that enable media companies to monetize their own video content, multiple live broadcasting modules, and several plug-ins for video recording, organizations will find a wide number of feature choices in Kaltura. As with any highly customized solution, however, Kaltura customers should have a well-defined long-term plan in place for how they’ll use video, or may risk needing to rebuild significant portions of the platform in order to support future use cases.
Recommended for: public-facing video content, building OTT video experiences, and video monetization
Built by and for developers, JW Player began as an open source HTML5 video player that allowed people to embed self-hosted videos into web pages without requiring Flash for playback. Today, JW Player offers a broader video platform with tools designed for building streaming ad-supported video experiences meant primarily for public audiences. JW Player’s platform offers a customizable streaming video player, video content management tools, an intelligent video recommendations engine, as well as video monetization solutions.
As a video player, however, JW Player’s playback experience is comparable to YouTube’s. Videos are presented in a single-source video player, without support for viewing multiple concurrent video streams, which may make certain demonstrations and other materials more difficult for viewers to fully see. Also not included in JW Player are in-video navigation options such as a table of contents or video thumbnails, which would make it easier for viewers to quickly jump to relevant moments in the longer videos that are now common to organizational training and academic lectures.
Recommended for: securing and sharing internal videos, secure live streaming, and corporate video communications
Qumu is an enterprise-focused video platform offering solutions for capturing and securely sharing both live and on-demand videos within corporations. It’s an end-to-end platform that is often used for executive webcasting and corporate communications.
As a corporate learning and development solution, Qumu does not provide some of the key capabilities found in other platforms. For example, multi-camera recording requires all devices and hardware to be connected to a single PC, and does not allow for distributed, cloud-synced recording, making multi-feed videos harder to produce, especially in larger conference rooms and event facilities. Additionally, any recording beyond basic video capture requires the purchase or lease of Qumu’s proprietary video capture appliance hardware, which will increase total costs with scale.
The platform does not include built-in integrations for 3rd party learning management systems (LMSs) or video conferencing, which will add complexity to the workflow for organizations planning to use their video platform to create and share more training content. Finally, Qumu’s video search capabilities are less advanced than other platforms listed here.
Recommended for: secure live streaming for events and media, corporate video communications and events, and creating a customized video platform with components tailored to your needs
MediaPlatform is an end-to-end video platform built for broadcasting large-scale events and media, as well as enabling the secure exchange of ideas and communications through video within a business. Primarily used by organizations as a one-to-many live streaming solution for all hands meetings, keynote engagements, and customer/partner events, MediaPlatform has received recognition from analysts for its flexible deployment options.
MediaPlatform offers software and services for businesses to build a customized video platform to meet their needs — it does not come with a single out-of-the-box configuration. Instead, customers choose tools from the MediaPlatform suite of video products that includes WebCaster for live streaming, PrimeTime for on-demand streaming, live video streaming and engagement analytics apps, video delivery and WANop solutions, as well as their meeting capture product, SmartBridge.
As with other customized platforms, organizations should plan ahead for potential use cases to ensure the solutions they purchase will best meet their long-term video needs. MediaPlatorm’s video recording options offer fewer capabilities for remote and automated recording, and video playback does not include as many features for users to collaborate and to customize their viewing experiences. Their component solutions also provide less support for mobile users compared to other video platforms.
Those looking to maximize ROI should compare the total cost of ownership of their MediaPlatform solutions to other all-inclusive video platforms, while also considering the additional complexity in implementing and managing integrations with other hardware and business systems.
Recommended for: private video sharing and collaboration (internal only)
Having grown out of the service that used to be Microsoft 365 Video, Microsoft Stream is an enterprise video hosting and streaming solution limited to Microsoft Office 365 customers. Microsoft Stream integrates with other Microsoft Office apps, including SharePoint, Yammer, and Teams, but integrations with non-Microsoft systems are limited.
Assembled from a suite of apps for uploading, encoding, securing, delivering, and streaming video content in the cloud, Stream is primarily a video content management system designed for internal collaboration. Stream does not include options for public video sharing — every viewer is required to be licensed and authenticated via their Office 365 login in order to access content, which can create headaches when sharing videos with other divisions, channel partners, or other external or quasi-external audiences.
There are quite a few features missing from Stream that can be found in other video platforms. Stream lacks support for recording videos longer than 15 minutes. It also lacks analytics for measuring viewing behavior and engagement. And while Stream does offer live webcasting, you need to bring your own encoder. Finally, while Stream may seem “free,” because it’s often bundled into Teams, there are hosting costs that will increase as your video library grows. Stream charges for the amount of video storage used, which means pricing can be unpredictable and difficult for organizations to accurately budget.
In September 2020, Microsoft announced the formation of a new Microsoft Stream product and the end-of-life (EOL) of the current Microsoft Stream, now renamed Microsoft Stream (Classic). Microsoft Stream (Classic) will sunset and no further product investments will be made. The new version of Stream is not yet available, and does not have an announced date as of this writing.
Enterprise-grade video solutions are now mission critical tools for communication, collaboration, learning, and productivity inside organizations.
Today’s video platforms offer a wide range of options that go beyond what real-time video conferencing solutions can do, from video capture and production tools to secure video management and sharing, video monetization, and more. So whether you need a YouTube for reaching mass audiences, a “private YouTube” for internal videos, or a streaming platform for monetizing video content, there is a video platform that can meet your needs.
The Industry’s Most Comprehensive, Secure Video Platform
Independent analysts and customers agree that Panopto offers the most complete enterprise video solution on the market. Flexible recording apps, fine-grained video management and security solutions, the best support for video search, and an ever-growing offering of out-of-the-box integrations are all included in one system with all the tools your organization needs to put video to work, both now and in the future.
Updated February 15, 2021