Live streaming isn’t uncharted territory, but it’s been picking up steam over the last few years—and that’s primarily thanks to the evolution of new (more accessible) live streaming apps and platforms. Nowadays, businesses, influencers, and even your teenager can start live streaming from their computer or mobile device within just a few clicks.
Going live is just the beginning, though. You need to gather an audience, hold their attention, and keep them coming back for more content. And that’s easier said than done.
Fortunately, today’s best live streaming apps provide built-in features and functionality to engage your audience and monetize their clicks and views. They’re built to handle scale, delivering buffer-free streaming without sacrificing video quality. However, not every live streaming platform is made equally, and some will under-deliver and cause you to leave money on the table.
We’re here to help you avoid that.
Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to find the best live streaming app to support your business’s video content needs. You’ll learn the must-know basics about live streaming platforms before we dive into today’s best solutions—then, we’ll show you how to navigate the market to narrow down your options and find the most suitable solution.
What Is a Live Streaming App?
Live streaming apps provide the software and features you need to broadcast, stream, and record your video content in real time. At a basic level, these platforms let you stream live video and engage with your audience through built-in chat interfaces. Advanced solutions capture and record your live streams for video on demand (VOD) publishing and promotion later.
Some platforms only provide mobile live streaming, meaning you’ll need to go live from your iOS or Android phone. Others integrate with other computer software and hardware, allowing you to set up multiple cameras and audio inputs for different angles and voice capture.
The best live streaming apps don’t just connect you with your audience—they let you engage with them and monetize their viewership. This could be through paid comments, stickers, clickable links, and built-in signup forms.
When it comes to monetization, live streaming apps can help you make money through advertising video on demand (AVOD), transactional video on demand (TVOD), and subscription video on demand (SVOD). You might provide free content and make money through advertising or lock your livestreams behind a subscription paywall. The best live streaming apps and platforms give you options when it comes to delivering and monetizing your video content.
Most live streaming apps let you go live for a finite amount of time, which might be limited to 4 to 12 hours. However, you’ll need to be pickier with your application if you want longer streaming times, extended capture limits, or never-ending 24/7 broadcasts.
Why Does Your Business Need a Live Streaming App?
Video has become the go-to content for consumers over the last decade, but now live streaming is starting to battle it out with VOD. Consumers are spending nearly a quarter of global viewing time on live streams, and 44% of viewers watch less television because of how much live streaming content they consume.
Since 2019, around 5 million people have started to cut the cable cord annually. Cable and satellite TV are losing subscribers at a rapid rate as consumers turn to over-the-top (OTT) streaming applications and live-streamed content.
While there’s a hungry market for film, TV, and publishing content, consumers also want to see more video content from brands in general. Studies show that 54% of consumers would like to see more videos from brands and businesses they support—that’s why we believe every company needs to become a video company (to some extent) to compete and engage in the modern age.
Which Businesses Need a Live Streaming Platform?
Just about every business could benefit from using a live streaming platform. Some live streaming needs will be simpler, and basic social media applications can get the job done. However, more sophisticated businesses and those that want to invest more in live streaming content will need an advanced live streaming application.
Here are a few industries we think could benefit the most from a live streaming platform:
- Broadcaster: Consumers want to watch videos on their phones, iPads, computers, and smart TV—not through cable or satellite. Broadcasters that get ahead of the curve will keep up with demand and future-proof their business.
- Publishers: Media companies, influencers, and content creators can use live streaming to grow their audience, build awareness, and sell products.
- Enterprises: Live stream everything from workshops to webinars to conferences to engage with your customers and employees globally.
- Events: Share live events like music festivals, sports, and even plays through live streaming to engage your in-real-life (IRL)) attendees and remote audience.
- Retail: Sell products directly to your customers through live streaming reviews, unboxings, and demonstrations.
- Fitness: Engage your audience in their home with everything from real-time yoga classes to spin lessons to personal training.
- Education: Education companies, schools, and universities can live stream classes to grow their audience and create remote learning opportunities.
- Gaming: Live stream the newest games or your fine-tuned skills to an engaged and growing audience.
- Faith: Empower your congregation to join your services in-person or digitally with live-streamed sermons and scripture study.
8 Best Live Streaming Apps
Every live video streaming app has its own pros and cons that make it a better solution depending on your live streaming needs, business, and audience. You won’t find a one-size-fits-all solution, and that’s why we explored 8 different platforms. Below, we’ll walk you through each of our favorite applications and what makes them unique in today’s market.
1. JW Player
JW Player’s live streaming solution provides all-in-one features and functionality to live stream your video content to audiences at scale. You can use the platform to go live from anywhere in less than 30 seconds and repurpose your replays in under a minute. Broadcasts can use the application to host never-ending 24/7 live channels.
You can use JW Player’s APIs and SDKs to stream your videos to web players, mobile apps, OTT apps, and social media platforms. Robust integrations help you connect your tech stack and applications to ensure everything from your Google Analytics to your customer relationship management (CRM) tool is always up to date.
JW Player gives you a customizable HTML5 video player with high-quality delivery and buffer-free performance. Change your player settings to optimize the viewer experience with varying latency options, playback speeds, and resolution control.
- 24/7 live channels and 12-hour event streams
- Repurpose live streams instantly into video on demand content
- Integrate video streams into any application
- Monetize your content through SVOD, AVOD, or TVOD
- The backend and setup require a slight learning curve
- No podcasting or audio-only solutions
Tango is a social media application with calling, messaging, and live streaming features. The platform focuses on helping people connect with friends and like-minded individuals, making it an excellent location for influencers and brands. Tango provides built-in monetization features and gifting abilities for viewers to show their appreciation toward streamers.
While Tango has great community-building tools and engagement features, it limits your earnings potential with fewer monetization methods than other platforms. Plus, you won’t be able to integrate the live streaming videos into other locations, such as your mobile application or website.
- Social platform with an existing audience
- Robust engagement features to build your community
- Simple and easy to use
- Users on G2 complained about the lack of branding and customization
- A few users on G2 experienced minor glitches and capturing issues
Twitch is one of the most popular live streaming platforms, and gamers and developers primarily use it. Viewers can follow their favorite channels, subscribe, and even pay for premium unlocks to access content, stickers, and their favorite streamers. Twitch streamers get access to an easy-to-use application, simple monetization features, and a large pool of potential viewers already on the platform. It’s easy to download from the iPhone Apple app store or Android’s Google Play.
However, as with any social media platform, Twitch has complete control over your account. If they find you in breach of any terms of service, they can ban your account and delete violating content. In this sense, Twitch owns your audience—you don’t.
- Access to an existing audience
- Monetization options through subscriptions, ads, and donations
- Free option
- Hard to build a following in a crowded space
- Twitch can ban accounts and delete content
- Some users on G2 complained about customer support
4. YouTube Live
YouTube Live is a well-known platform with a massive viewer base for live and on-demand content. You can stream from your desktop or mobile device directly through YouTube Live or another streaming software solution. Since all audiences exist on YouTube, it’s a great platform to build awareness and help new viewers discover your brand and its content. YouTube Live also enables creators to monetize their content with Super Chat features, stickers, and channel memberships.
- Access to a massive audience
- Basic monetization features
- Schedule live streams to build awareness
- Easy to use
- Must have at least 1,000 subscribers to begin live streaming on mobile
- Hard to get initial traction on a crowded platform
- YouTube has control over your audience
Wirecast is a desktop streaming application (for Mac and Windows), and Wirecast Go is the product’s mobile alternative. You can use pre-recorded and real-time content in your live streams, personalize your player with custom branding, and stream to YouTube and other real-time messaging protocol (RTMP) servers.
- Customize the player with your branding
- Mix pre-recorded and real-time content
- Replay live highlights
- Stream from your desktop or mobile device in landscape or portrait mode
- Users on G2 complain that the platform is “glitchy.”
- A few users on G2 have a problem with the user interface and learning curve
Lightstream is a browser-based live streaming studio that’s easy to use and light on hardware demands. Simple computers can run Lightstream since all the encoding happens over Lightstream’s servers, putting less demand on your devices. Lightstream lets you create unlimited projects and stream your video content to major platforms and RMTP locations.
- Requires little CPU power
- Browser-based streaming (no download necessary)
- Cloud-based encoding
- A few users on G2 complained about buffering problems
- Some users on G2 wish there were more features
Streamlabs is an open-source live streaming app. It provides a modern user interface with user-friendly features that make it quick and easy to get up and running. Streamlabs’s free version includes video editing tools, multi-video inputs, overlays, audio filters, and social widgets, but you’ll have to upgrade to a premium tier to unlock more advanced features.
- Free, open-source solution
- User-friendly interface
- Relatively new product with frequent updates
- A few users on G2 wish fewer features were locked behind premium tiers
- Users on G2 said the software put a heavy strain on their devices
Facebook Live is a great live streaming solution if you already have an existing audience on the social media network. You can stream for free on desktop or mobile and monetize your content with in-stream ads and donations. It’s not the most feature-rich live streaming software, but it’s easy to use and familiar to your Facebook audience.
- Access to an existing audience
- Followers get a notification when you go live
- Easy to use
- No native way to record and repurpose live streamed content
- Some users on G2 complained that Facebook Live limits regular video quality for certain content
How to Choose the Right Live Streaming App for Your Business
With so many options to choose from it, it can be challenging to find the right live streaming app for your brand. The following criteria will help narrow down your selection and help you make the best decision:
Consider whether you will be livestreaming from your mobile device or a desktop setup. Will you want to have multiple cameras and audio inputs? Do you plan on streaming to a single application, or would you like to distribute your content to Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and other locations?
Advanced live streaming apps provide top-notch encoding and transcoding to prepare your video for playback on multiple devices, bandwidths, and settings. This ensures that all your viewers have a positive viewing experience, regardless of their internet connectivity or hardware limitations.
Ease of Use
Are you a beginner to video content or live streaming? Find a solution that’s easy to use and set up. It should be easy to navigate the backend of the platform and find the features you need without dozens of tutorials or hours of handholding.
Consider how the user experience will be for your viewers. Does the live streaming platform use an outdated video player, or does it have a modern look and feel? What features will your audience have access to? Can they easily adjust the volume, enable captions, or change the video quality?
Quality might be the most important characteristic when choosing a live streaming application. Ensure that the platform you use delivers buffer-free streams to your audience. They’ll want real-time video and up-to-date chat to get the full live streaming experience.
Consider your solution’s content delivery network (CDN). Multi-CDN approaches with points of presence (POPs) across the world will ensure flawless playback, regardless of your audience’s location or potential downtime on a single server.
Live streaming apps provide different features and functionality. For example, you might want to feature both pre-recorded and real-time video in a live stream, or you might want one camera input on your face and the other on your desktop monitor. Review the available built-in features and other integrations to see what’s possible with each provider. If chat is important to your stream, ensure you pick a platform with top-notch engagement and chat features.
The length of your live streams will determine which solution you use. Some live streaming services (like Instagram Live) only let you do video hosting for a live stream for up to 4 hours, while solutions like JW Player empower you with 12-hour streams and 24/7 video broadcasting options.
Choose how you want to monetize your video content. Do you plan to make money from in-stream ads, or would you prefer to gate your content behind a subscription paywall? Will you sell access to your live streams on a pay-per-view basis (such as with a sporting or esports event), or do you want to use your content for marketing and lead generation?
You’ll find plenty of free live streaming apps on the internet, but many impose limitations that’ll affect your videos’ long-term value and scale. For example, while you can use Facebook Live and YouTube Live for free, these social networks have the power to censor your videos, ban your accounts, and restrict your progress. Complete control over your live streams allows you to grow without fearing prohibitions.
Live Stream at Scale With JW Player
Take your live streaming to the next level with JW Player. Our complete video platform lets you deliver live streams and VOD content at scale with an all-in-one solution built to handle everything from 24/7 live broadcasting channels to esports to local live events.
Try it for yourself. Sign up for a 30-day free trial to get hands-on experience and experience the JW Player difference.