If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to VOD and a ranking of VOD platforms, you have landed on the right post. As content and streaming continue to proliferate online and remain essential to businesses, your choice of a VOD platform will count for a lot. Let us guide you through the fundamentals!
- What is VOD (video on demand)?
- How Does VOD Work?
- How To Choose A VOD Platform for Your Company
- Important Features to Consider in Your VOD Platform
- Top 5 VOD Platforms
- Final Thoughts
What is VOD (Video on Demand)?
OK, the heading is a bit of a spoiler! VOD stands for “video on demand” if you weren’t already aware. Essentially, Video on Demand allows viewers to watch video content instantly, anytime, anywhere, and on any device.
VOD was a term coined in the Old Days of broadcast television when you had to be waiting attentively at your TV set when a program or event was scheduled or miss it. Digital video recorder (DVR) devices such as the TiVo emerged in the consumer market of the early 2000s so the average person could record TV broadcasts and play them back…whenever (and also avoid buying tape-based storage media). Cable providers also got into the act, providing options for watching shows, movies, and other programming “on-demand” through their subscription gear. Pretty soon VOD became a common delivery feature. (Note to techies: Yes, we hear you, DVR and digital video definitely existed elsewhere around that time but it was more likely a tool for professionals and enthusiasts rather than something accessible by everyday consumers.)
Nowadays, VOD is more or less everywhere; you’ve probably watched a video “on-demand” today. High-speed internet and portable devices exploded its use from a premium-priced feature in a cable subscription (or hotel TVs, in-flight entertainment, etc.) to online entertainment services like Netflix, on to internet-hosted content created by brands, professionals, or everyday users, all the way to TikTok videos on your kids’ preferred social media app. It’s any prerecorded video on the internet that starts as soon as you click the “Play” button; streaming technology ensures you won’t even have to download the entire video file first.
For the most part, when discussing VOD in the present day, we mean prerecorded video content streamed over the internet.
How Does VOD Work?
Great question! To give you a quick and high-level overview, VOD allows users to choose and playback videos they want to watch, so long as they’re connected to the internet. As we may have indicated in the above section, VOD is different from live streaming as the content is pre-recorded.
Some VOD is powered by OTT (over-the-top) technology that compresses and decompresses video files to stream them over the internet. To make a long story short(-ish), your video files are compressed to remove non-essential information and create a smaller file size. It’s then encoded or transcoded into a format suitable for an online video player, and then is stored, most likely on the server of your VOD platform. It’s then packaged into a video “container” file, and when a user presses (or clicks) play, it’s encrypted and sent over the internet via a streaming protocol. It finally reaches the video player facing the user and is decoded back into video content.
How To Choose A VOD Platform for Your Company
We’ve mentioned in other posts that there are three main features to an Online Video Platform (OVP): fast time-to-market, flexibility, and monetization. And as always, only you can best gauge your own business’s needs, so VOD platforms are not one-size-fits-all.
Flexibility is equally important, as your company needs to adapt to ever-changing viewing habits in streaming. Make sure the platform you choose can adequately evolve over time, minimizing the dependencies on “rigid” platforms that don’t leave much room to grow or integrate with other technologies along the way. You want a platform that’s flexible enough to do it all and run reliably behind the scenes. And you’ll need enough tools and features in your VOD platform to achieve your plans and goals for video content, so check the options carefully.
Finally, there are a few key features to always bear in mind. Continue to the section below and we’ll lay things out.
Important Features to Consider in Your VOD Platform
Key features to be aware of in a VOD platform include the following. You might not need ALL of them for your specific use case, but it’s good practice to be familiar:
Video CMS: Keeps your videos organized and tagged for searches. Helps viewers find what they’re looking for, which gets them watching longer and gives your content more impact.
VOD Media Preparation: Professional level VOD platforms allow users to automatically view videos at the highest quality suitable to their gear and internet connection. Bulk ingestion/uploading and a quality transcoder feature are always well worth it.
Monetization Features: Depending on your business or organization, you may want to monetize the content you’re hosting. Make sure the platform has monetization and advertising capabilities (Ad delivery, playback, and integration with ad servers and paywall platforms) for on-demand video that fits your needs.
Appropriate Video Players: Not all video players are alike. A video player which can deliver optimal video quality for on-demand and live content is a must. The player should also have an easily customizable UI, wide device reach, and multi-language subtitles and captions.
Privacy and Security: You’ll want to protect your video content and customer data across all devices. At minimum look for a platform with good Digital Rights Management (DRM) software to control the use, modification, and distribution of your copyrighted works everywhere. Additionally, you might want to integrate password protection for exclusive, safe access to subscription services.
Top 5 VOD Platforms Today
Join our count-down to number one:
If your focus is marketing, Wistia is a solid VOD-only platform. However, due to its specialized nature, it is very good at what it does, but at the same time doesn’t include many of the less marketing-specific features offered by other VOD platforms. Wistia does provide some innovative and unique features such as its project organizational structure and powerful analytics tools. It also has a free-tier price plan; this can be a good opportunity to take the platform for a spin without overcommitting to a product that might not be right for you. Again, if you are laser-focused on marketing video, Wistia’s advantages may overshadow its limitations.
PROS and CONS: Adaptive video player, cloud encoding, analytics tool with “heat maps”, video API included.
On the “CON” side Wistia doesn’t offer any live-streaming capacity or native monetization capabilities.
- IBM Video Cloud
IBM is a huge corporation with a long history of providing technology and tech solutions. As you might expect from an enduring industry player, it provides a reliable VOD platform with a unique content delivery network (CDN). IBM Cloud Video is fully loaded with features that are a good match for large organizations and expert broadcasters. Over time it’s also built-in or included an increasing number of sought-after improvements for pros, such as excellent security, phone tech support, Hong Kong (i.e. China) video hosting, and additional professional services.
PROS and CONS: VOD hosting and live streaming, cloud encoding, live transcoding, an adaptive video player, and support for multi-bitrate streaming. Full video API is included, and security features are significant. Tiered and custom price plans can accommodate somewhat diverse use cases.
As you might expect from such a “Swiss Army Knife” of tools, the downside is that sometimes features can be difficult to navigate and overkill compared to what you actually need. Additionally, we’ve pointed out a few times that IBM Video Cloud tends to be best suited to very large-scale users. It gates off some important features in higher-tier subscription plans.
Vimeo started as a platform for independent content creators (more “indie filmmakers” than “YouTube influencers”) before diversifying fairly impressively into professional services in 2017. Now one of the largest VOD video streaming platforms on the web, Vimeo is a great solution for small businesses and video creators interested in launching a VOD channel to grow their user base on a small budget. However, Vimeo lacks a few key features and the service reliability to properly support professional-grade services wanting to launch an online video platform.
PROS and CONS: Vimeo is a VOD platform and they do on-demand streaming well, as well as additionally providing capability for live streaming in premium subscription plans. It also provides access to easy API and is comparatively affordable, even on the professional tier.
That said, bargain-priced solutions don’t always guarantee the best deal. Vimeo has a complicated user interface and can prove difficult to use. On a more technical side, it’s not ideal for companies embarking on bringing their TV services to the cloud. It may present challenges with integrations and does not come with all the appropriate features for professional-grade services. Lastly, Vimeo doesn’t seem overly invested in providing advanced security features, so let the buyer beware.
Brightcove is one of the oldest online video platforms, founded in 2004. As a platform with a long history, Brightcove also has a stake in remaining a major player among VOD platforms, so they combine tried and true features with an eye to remaining current. Their platform includes features such as batch uploading and simplified content library management and supports most monetization and revenue generation models for online video. What you get depends on a variety of price tiers and custom (high-) priced streaming plans, and interested broadcasters frequently need to deal through Brightcove’s sales department rather than being able to order plans “a la carte.”
PROS and CONS: Multi-bitrate player and adaptive streaming; VOD, live streaming, and cloud encoding; thorough security features; custom video portals.
However, getting the full set of features comes at a high price point. Despite general user satisfaction, things are not all hearts and rainbows when it comes to tech support: Brightcove’s ticket-based system is known for being slow.
No surprise here. Our VOD platform takes an entirely flexible and customizable approach to video. Whichever of our solutions are best suited to your needs, we’ll ensure it’s a vehicle for quality VOD and comes equipped with best-in-class video, media management, and monetization and engagement features. Our mission is to enable virtually any company to bring its services to the cloud! From broadcasters to media companies, digital publishers, or sports clubs, all should have an easy time setting up and streaming content from a Kaltura VOD platform. Our customization options and features will also enable you to set up your content streaming to be as polished, or as lo-fi, as you want. The platform will offer you a lot of flexibility, especially to custom-fit your content and brand!
PROS and CONS: Kaltura features a fast-loading video player that automatically delivers the best-quality video for your on-demand content as well as broad support for multiple devices. Additionally, we support live streaming, offer powerful video monetization tools, advanced DRM protection, full video API access, and high-quality transcoding, video hosting, and content management and organization.
The only caveat is that while Kaltura’s solutions are designed for virtually every media use case, you’ll still want to make sure our VOD platform is the right fit for your operation, business, or organization. That’s why we’ve made it quick and easy to request a demo and give you the full tour!
There are many high-quality VOD platforms with contrasting features on the market today. We’ve given you some selects to consider, but always bear in mind your target audience and the content you want to deliver. Make sure the platform you choose provides the features you’ll need to achieve your broadcasting goals!
Ready to launch your VOD service? Kaltura can help!