Google “video hosting platforms,” and you’ll get about 50 million results, along with several paid ads. How do you choose the platform that suits your needs?
There’s no single answer. The best video hosting platform varies business by business, depending on factors like:
- How often you’re uploading;
- How you plan to use the video;
- The viewing experience you want to give your audience;
- The analytics you need;
- The cash you have to spend.
Here’s a breakdown of the key features—and drawbacks—for eight popular video hosting platforms.
Table of contents
YouTube is an obvious and popular choice. You don’t pay to host videos on YouTube, nor do you need a license to create your own library of publicly available videos. Simply sign up using your Google account, create a channel, and upload your video files.
YouTube shines when it comes to brand awareness. It’s the second largest search engine in the world, and content from their platform reaches more 18–49 year-olds than any broadcast or cable TV network.
(“YouTuber” is now the dream job for 34% of children—beating traditional roles like athletes, musicians, lawyers, doctors, or actors.)
Since Google owns YouTube, videos rank highly in Google SERPs. Many occupy the Featured Snippet box, with snippets selected algorithmically. Here’s an example for “how to tie shoelaces fast”:
The basics of SEO (with some adjustments) apply to YouTube videos as well, giving YouTube publishers a chance to drive more awareness on Google and within YouTube.
All that said—YouTube has its downsides. The interface is designed to keep people on the platform. (The average mobile viewing rates are 40 minutes per session.) Suggested videos encourage people to increase their watch time not just on your channel but on the platform as a whole.
For example, my personal recommendations are a mix of business and pleasure. That makes it difficult to keep people focused on what you want them to do—like visit your website. As a result, YouTube works less well for engaging and converting users who are further down the funnel.
Recommendations can also be more than a distraction—they can highlight competitor offerings. As Kasey Bayne of DataTrue notes, “I love YouTube for the audience, but don’t love how they can show competitor or off-brand videos as suggestions afterwards.”
Pricing: Free, regardless of video upload volume.
DailyMotion reports 300 million active users; they watch more than 3.5 billion videos per month. Those figures look impressive upon first glance.
But DailyMotion’s geographic distribution of users doesn’t mirror YouTube, especially within the United States. Just 138 million video views happen in the United States despite a population of 329 million (0.42 views per person).
Compare that to views in other countries, like Turkey, which averages 1.13 views per person, or France, where Daily Motion is located, which averages 7.13 views per person. (According to SimilarWeb, only 15.7% of all DailyMotion traffic comes from the United States.)
Like YouTube, you can monetize DailyMotion videos with in-stream advertisements. (Enabling ads is optional.) But the smaller audience—and more intrusive ads—reduce the potential for profitability and user enjoyment.
Indeed, DailyMotion viewers have expressed frustration at the overload of ads:
DailyMotion is another distribution option for media companies seeking to monetize content, especially if they’re located in one of the platform’s top countries. Beyond that, the use case is less compelling.
Pricing: Free, regardless of upload volume. Video files are limited to 60 minutes. (There are time-based upload limitations to limit spam.)
3. JW Player
JW Player is often cited as an alternative to YouTube. In fact, JW Player was the technology that ran the earliest version of YouTube. It has continued to offer technical capabilities at the forefront of online video.
For companies who live stream regularly, JW Player can host the original video and simulcast it to Facebook Live. That allows some to escape the trap of hosting videos on Facebook, which locks content into the platform.
JW Player also offers real-time audience analytics, broken down by:
(In comparison, Facebook Live shows overview metrics like minutes viewed, average percentage completion, and unique viewers.)
The platform also hosts video using HTML5, which promises superfast download speed. This helps retain the 80% of online users who will click away if a video stalls while loading.
The technical features of JW Player have attracted enterprise-level publishers (e.g. Fox, BBC, Vice, Univision) who have the development resources to take advantage of JW Player.
Pricing: If you’re a small business, plans start at $12/month, with a maximum of 50,000 video plays. Anything over that falls into the Business plan, charged at $50/month for up to 150,000 plays.
Alternatively, there’s a six-month Developers Plan, whereby you get access to all features except live streaming. The plan targets data scientists and video engineers.
Wistia has been around since 2008. While it began as a hosting platform for individual videos, it has expanded its offerings.
The recent introduction of their “Channels” feature allows website owners to create a series of related videos and display the collection on their website—no coding required.
Here’s how Nextiny’s channel appears on their website:
Users can customize the look of a channel (e.g. video placement, landing page content), and—unlike YouTube—Wistia’s channels have no “recommended videos” or unwanted branding (for paid users).
As Wistia’s Phil Nottingham argued:
With Wistia, you can customize the look and feel, create branded Channels for video series, and measure impact rather than just impressions.
In terms of concrete features, it’s the look and feel of the video player, the speed and quality of video delivery, and ease of use of the platform.
Wistia’s analytics can help connect the dots between video consumption and conversions. They include features like engagement graphs and video-based heatmaps, and also integrate with Google Analytics and several CRMs.
Wistia has a paid upgrade for multilingual, searchable captions. Once synced with your video, Captions are interactive. Viewers can search captions and jump to a specific point in the video by clicking the text. (The automated captions may require editing.)
Of course, with Wisita, you must create the audience for your videos—there’s no inherent distribution network (unlike YouTube). You’ll get zero views unless you’re driving people to pages on your website with the embedded video.
Pricing: It’s free to host up to three videos, but you’ll have the Wistia branding overlayed on your content. You’ll need to upgrade to a Pro plan (starting from $99/month) for up to 10 videos and to remove the branding. Additional videos are $0.25 each.
Vimeo allows users to embed videos on their website (like Wistia). It works especially well for content that’s gated behind a form fill or paywall.
Vimeo can deliver video passwords within purchase confirmations while keeping content hidden from non-purchasers and search engines. It’s why Chelsea Baldwin of Business Bitch uses the platform:
I use Vimeo for paid-access content, and I love it because its security and privacy settings are really malleable and let you do a lot as far as who can view, password access, and select embedding.
CXL’s own Kyle Brodeur, who manages thousands of videos for CXL Institute courses, likes it for similar reasons:
Vimeo has the cheapest cost for storing our videos with the feature sets we require. Some of these features are privacy controls, ease of updating video content in place, and integrations with caption services like Rev.com.
So far, Vimeo has kept us pretty nimble as course content creation has developed over the years.
David Peterson, who uses Vimeo for HealthMarkets’ video hosting, offers an example of what “nimble” is for them:
We often have to make minor updates to our videos, and Vimeo lets us replace a video without having to generate a new URL, which helps us streamline our workflow and keep track of our analytics.
That feature might not sound all that important, but if you have to make a series of small edits to a handful of videos, it becomes quite significant.
Also similar to Wisita, Vimeo’s benefits focus on the technical aspects of video hosting, not distribution (unless you’re planning to promote a show or film).
A note of caution: Both an article and a number of reviews state that, after upgrading to a paid account, any attempt to revert to a free account will remove videos from the site:
Basic Vimeo is great, but beware, if you ever upgrade, all your content will permanently become part of the process account and you will never be able to go back to basic without them deleting all your content!
Pricing: Start using Vimeo free with their Starter plan. You can upload up to 10 videos per day, or 500MB per week. Plans then depend on storage: 5GB per week is $7/month; 20GB per week is $20/month; unlimited is $50/month.
Vidyard allows businesses to create personalized videos at scale. As Vidyard’s Jesse Ariss pitched it:
We’ve introduced the ability to personalize videos on-demand, allowing our customers to put their viewer’s name directly into the video, with the end result being the most engaging, compelling video experiences that can be found today.
Arris also highlighted that Vidyard is “the only major video hosting platform with a native Salesforce integration.” You can also connect HubSpot, Marketo, Act-On, Zendesk, and Mailchimp accounts.
What does “video personalization” look like? Here’s a demo featuring my name:
Who is personalized video right for? It often makes sense for account-based marketing strategies (both for marketing and, if relevant, onboarding).
Boston University used Vidyard to create personalized videos that encouraged people to promote their fundraising event, “Giving Day.”
Their 36,000 personalized videos resulted in a 49% open rate (more than double the average for their sector), 7% click-through rate (triple the 2.3% average), and 1,000+ donations.
Personalized videos from Vidyard will set you back at least $5,000. (You need to send an inquiry to their sales team for an exact quote.) That price might be too steep for businesses with a small budget or for those who can’t show an ROI from personalized videos.
Pricing: Don’t need personalization? Start hosting up to 20 videos on Vidyard from $150/month. This Starter plan doesn’t include integrations; you’ll need to upgrade to their Plus plan, charged at $850/month, for one integration.
Loom isn’t a “standard” video hosting platform—it’s a screensharing tool. (Only videos you’ve recorded via Loom can be uploaded to their server.)
Still, it fills some video marketing needs. For example, it was how Loom’s co-founder and CEO, Joe Thomas, responded to me when I asked for information about the platform:
The platform uses Loom’s desktop app. You can record your screen or add a voice-over or video of yourself. It’s designed for two core use cases:
- Internal training;
- Product demonstrations.
Screen recordings upload automatically, and you get a link to share the video with co-workers or customers.
There are other screen recording tools that do this—most notably, Soapbox by Wistia. Loom doesn’t require an Internet browser; Soapbox, on the other hand, is a Chrome extension. Anyone using Firefox, Safari (or other browser) won’t be able to use the tool, and you’ll need a Wistia account to get started.
Adecco Group, the largest temporary staffing firm in the world, uses Loom to nurture leads. They record their screen as they talk candidates through roles they have to offer, which simplifies their process: “it’s a pain for companies to record a video and have to upload it to YouTube or send the big video file via email.”
It improved hiring, too, driving an 8X increase in applicants from 200 to 1,600 in just two weeks. Their email open rates also doubled, and they received “overwhelmingly positive feedback about the video.”
Pricing: It’s free to record and host 100 videos using Loom, but all content will be recorded in standard quality. Unlimited video storage, HD quality, and access to their editing suite is $10/month.
Do you need complete control over the videos you’re hosting? Brightcove includes:
- Interactive content;
- Transcription (with their SubPly partnership);
- Digital rights management.
Brightcove also integrates with many other platforms, including HubSpot, Marketo, and Oracle, which allows you to easily view, embed, and use videos from products you’re already using (rather than learning to navigate another).
Their HTML5 player offers the highest standard of video playback. That high standard, however, does require high bitrates (to avoid buffering). Whereas other platforms deliver HD video with as little as 2.8 Mbps, Brightcove recommends a stable bitrate of 10 Mbps.
Brightcove also supports a number of custom viewing experiences:
- Change button sizes. Adjust sizes to be mobile friendly or accommodate those with poor eyesight.
- Overlay text. Display relevant links to content during in-video discussions of certain topics.
- Adapt video sizes. Display the video in 16:9 format for desktop viewers, then automatically resize to square or vertical for mobile viewers.
Brightcove’s Players & Plugins Lounge details the extent of potential customization. Implementation is technical (i.e. developers required) but scalable.
Among reviews, common themes emerged:
- Brightcove worked well for companies with large video libraries that distributed videos on multiple sites or platforms.
- Brightcove analytics aggregated data effectively across those platforms.
- The learning curve for its interface can be steep.
Pricing: Brightcove doesn’t display team prices on its website. Some reviews indicate that pricing starts from $199/month, with the exact cost depending on the number of video plays. A free trial is available.
Can’t I just host videos on my site?
There’s no point investing in another piece of software if you can house all your content on your website, right?
HTML5 made it easier to host videos on your website. (Before, running videos directly on your site required a plugin, like Flash.) If compatibility is a concern, HTML5 video code works with the latest versions of Chrome, Explorer, Safari, and Firefox.
So why do people still pay for third-party video platforms?
- Not everyone is using the latest browser versions. (You can check what your audience uses in Google Analytics: Audience > Technology > Browser & OS.)
- Uploading videos to your website using HTML5 requires coding aspects like video height, width, pause, play and volume buttons, etc.
- Self-hosting requires a bespoke analytics setup (via Google Tag Manager, for example).
- Hosting video on your website can negatively impact your page speed.
As with other video hosting platforms that don’t have a native audience, self-hosted videos also miss out on the distribution network built into a site like YouTube.
You can pick more than one
Struggling to decide on which platform best suits your needs? Don’t force yourself into a box. You can optimize videos for several platforms. Few solve every challenge.
As Brodeur noted, “I’m not really a fan of any of them right now. There are features from a lot of platforms that I wish were all in one.”
Nathan Gotch, for example, uses both YouTube and Vimeo for GotchSEO’s video content:
Video content with the objective of growing our audience, driving traffic, and driving leads is on YouTube [. . .] We use Vimeo to host our sales-driven video content because the goal isn’t distribution. The goal is to get the user to watch the video and then take a specific action.
We could host these on YouTube and keep them private. But it feels more organized to keep YouTube as our marketing vehicle and Vimeo as our sales vehicle.
There’s no definitive answer to “What’s the best video hosting platform?” But, generally speaking, this is what the platform-by-platform breakdown looks like:
|Platform||Best suited to||Price point|
|YouTube||Distribution, brand awareness||Free|
|DailyMotion||Promoting or monetizing videos to a non-U.S. audience||Free|
|JW Player||Technical control, live streaming||Free trial, $12+/month depending on number of views|
|Wistia||Customer education, lead generation||$99+/month depending on video quantity|
|Vimeo||Exclusive videos, password-protected videos||Freemium, $7+/month depending on storage|
|Vidyard||Personalized videos||$150/month (basic); likely $5,000+ for personalization|
|Loom||Recording, hosting screencaps||Freemium, $10/month|
|Brightcove||Technical management, video libraries||Free trial, $199+/month|