Live stream player – the most popular video players compared

Live streaming is becoming more and more common as internet technology continues to make what used to be expensive and complex, simple and cheap. This means that more people are watching video online, and the need for a live stream player becomes more essential to web publishers.

Part of the puzzle is using a compatible video player that is able to playback the video format being sent, in the case of live streaming this could be either HLS or MPEG-DASH.  One of the most popular HTML5 video players is the JW Player. It supports both HLS and MPEG-DASH playback, making it a great choice for streaming videos.

However, JW Player is not the only go-to player.  It might be one of the oldest and most popular video players on the market today, but there are many more video players available that support both HLS and MPEG-DASH for live streaming playback.

Introducing the live stream player

The most popular players that support both HLS and MPEG-DASH are JW Player, Flowplayer, Video.js, and Brightcove. They all have different features, so you need to decide which one is best for you.

JW Player is the most popular player, but it’s expensive. Flowplayer is a good free alternative, and Video.js is also free. Brightcove is the most expensive player, but it has the most features.

There are two main live streaming playback formats – HLS and MPEG-DASH. You need to decide which of these formats you need to support in order to ensure your player of choice is able to support it.

Other features that might be important is customisation and if you need the player to fit in with any brand colours or design. Other considerations are whether or not you need an API to integrate third party services such as analytics or registering playback events to trigger other processes.

Which also nicely rolls into the topic of player analytics. These vary in terms of what metrics the player tracks. You need to decide what metrics are important to you and if the player supports your metrics of choice.

Some of the players compared in this post are also considered as video platforms. They also offer hosting services for your videos and can even facilitate the live stream itself and create a recording of your live stream. This might be important, but will come at a cost.

Compare the most popular HTML5 video players

HLS.js

This free HLS video player is one of the most popular HTML5 players available today. Its easy to get started and supports everything you need right out the box.

Although there aren’t any UI components like buttons and video controls, you are more likely to build your own custom video controls using the HTML video element.

Plyr.io

This is also a free and open source video player, although it’s not really a player more of a video UI for the HTML5 video element. It doesn’t support HLS, but you can use it in combination with HLS.js.

Video.js

If you are looking for a all in one solution that is both customisable and supports HLS, then this player is what you need. It’s free and open source as well and very easy to get started.

There is a whole ecosystem of plugins to extend the functionality, for example to create playlists, quality selector controls and more.

JWPlayer

JWPlayer is a commercial HTML5 video player. The cost comes with quite a lot of benefits and if you have the budget its probably worth it.

For example, it supports both HLS and MPEG-DASH, you can host all your videos with JWPlayer and manage live streams and assets through the extensive admin dashboard.

You get content protection with its built in digital rights management (DRM), you can monetise your video content with advanced programmatic video ads and get detailed video analytics.

To be honest, while this player is a great player, it’s probably not what you need if you’re just starting out. But great to grow into.

Brightcove Player

Similar to JW Player, Brightcove is a commercial player and offers much of the same features. It’s unique selling point is easy customisation, incredibly fast to load videos and the video player and integrates with many popular CMS’s that enable you to pull in video assets from external sources.

This player was actually built off the back of Video.js and offers 360 video support, live DVR and supports multiple platforms.

Bitmovin Player

Bitmovin offer three main products, the player being one of them. Its a fast, slick looking player and works across multiple devices.

The reason why it loads so quickly is because of its small files size and buffering times are minimal. Bitmovin offer encoding and video analytics which make it a great all in one package for your video streaming needs.

Some unique features include, server side ad insertion, modular player so you only load what you need, DRM and mobile SDKs.

THEOplayer

This all in one video platform offers everything you could possible need, including real-time video. You can upload all your assets and use their CDN for video delivery. The player is very customisable and integration is seamless offering copy/paste code samples that just work.

You can use Theoplayer across every platform including Roku, React Native and FireTV. All the most popular analytics platforms slot in like a glove, including Adobe, Comscore, Telium and many more.

And thats not even touching on the amount of features there are for monetisation. From ad pods, overlays, scheduling and all types of ad formats.

Theoplayer is probably the most comprehensive video platform that has absolutely everything you need out the box, but at a cost.

Benefits and drawbacks of each player

As you can see, if you have the budget, you can buy a very extensive and customisable player that supports almost anything you can think of.

Interestingly, most of these players are all based off of Video.js. The legend player is still the most popular open source player and with good reason. Its looks good, its well supported and the community have built a massive array of plugins that extend the functionality.

However, which player you choose really depends on the goals in mind. For simplicity, you can go for HLS.js. Its more of a Javascript library than a player with just a few lines of code, you have a HLS player up and running.

However it does use the native HTML5 video elements controls it doesn’t look particularly pretty. But if pretty is what you need, then Bitmovin is for you. Out the box it looks stylish and sleek which might be the kind of branding you want.

Player recommendations

Most of these players are either free or offer 30 days free trial. Go and sign up to a free trial and test it out. You’ll be surprised how different each player is and the different kinds of features that are offered.

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