Free Streaming Platforms vs. Custom Video Websites: Which is Better?
How your viewers access your online video content affects the user experience. In some cases, a free streaming platform like Twitch or YouTube will do, but other situations call for custom video websites on your own domain.
In this article, we will compare free streaming platforms and custom video websites as two options for creating online video experiences.
We will also draw parallels between these two types of video experiences and popular e-commerce approaches, including those that use Amazon and those that use Shopify. To wrap things up, we will offer a side-by-side breakdown to give you a clear understanding of what each approach has to offer.
Table of Contents
- Different Ways to Showcase Video Content
- What is a Free Streaming Platform?
- What is a Custom Video Website?
- Free Streaming Platforms vs. Custom Video Websites
- Which Video Experience is Better?
- Build a Video Site on Maestro
Different Ways to Showcase Video Content
There are many motivations for publishing videos on the internet. Some brands want to reach larger audiences, whereas others want to offer premium experiences to their core audience. With that comes different approaches to hosting and sharing video content.
Free streaming platforms, like YouTube or Twitch, have been the most accessible to most brands and creators up until recently. Although some shifts towards making it accessible to stream on your own domain have been made, we’re still in the early stages of this opportunity.
We believe that video is going to evolve similarly to e-commerce. Just a few years ago, there was only one choice of how to sell a product online: Amazon.
Shopify came along and offered any business of any size the opportunity to have its own e-commerce business on its own website, which changed the paradigm forever. Although people still sell on Amazon, they don’t market their products there. Instead, they allow people to discover them there, and they market their own sites.
When you market your channel on YouTube or Twitch, you are spending money to help viewers discover your competitors' content. Businesses and creators have settled for this because, up until recently, there hasn’t been a better way. We are confident that video website-building tools, like Maestro, will shift the paradigm for video streaming by putting the creator first.
What is a Free Streaming Platform?
A free streaming platform is a site or app that allows users to upload videos to share with their audiences that doesn’t require users to pay to use it.
While these platforms are very valuable in some use cases, they pose limitations in some use cases. There is limited scalability due to confines on branding, functionality, and more.
Since these platforms are free to use, they typically make their money from advertisements shared on users’ content. For example, if you upload your videos to YouTube, YouTube makes money from every ad it serves to your viewers.
Free Streaming Platform Examples
The most notable examples of free streaming platforms include YouTube and Twitch. These two are the most prominent since they are dedicated to video streaming exclusively.
Dailymotion falls into the same category, but it is significantly less popular than YouTube and Twitch. TikTok is the short-form alternative to these free streaming platforms.
Since Facebook and Instagram also have significant video components, some may consider them free streaming platforms. They are valuable in some video use cases, but it is worth noting that these are primarily social media platforms with video as a secondary offering.
Pros of Free Streaming Platforms
- It’s free to get started
- Built-in discoverability tools
- Widely popular with viewers
Cons of Free Streaming Platforms
- Limited to no brand customization
- No white-label streaming
- Limited monetization
- Promotes other profiles on your content
What is a Custom Video Website?
A custom video website is a streaming experience that is hosted on your own domain. This is a professional-grade alternative to the free streaming platforms we discussed above.
Brands and creators can embed white-label video players into their existing websites with a tool like Brightcove or Uscreen. Another option is to use a tool like Maestro to create branded video pages and channels.
Using a video website builder is great because it allows you to seamlessly layer in interactivity and monetization. If you simply embed a player into your existing site, you’ll need a more intricate tech stack.
Custom Video Website Examples
Some of the best examples of custom video websites are household names like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max. These media giants have built out online video experiences that we know as streaming experiences.
These businesses are able to showcase the programs and titles that they have rights to, all with their own branding. With a video website builder like Maestro, anybody can create these sorts of experiences for their audience.
Pros of Custom Video Website
- Brand control and customization
- Added interactivity
- Flexible monetization
- Audience ownership
- Ad-free streaming
Cons of Custom Video Website
- Limited to no built-in discoverability
- It is not free
Free Streaming Platforms vs. Custom Video Websites
Now that you’re familiar with the different approaches for sharing your video content, let’s take a look at how free streaming platforms compare to custom video websites.
Free Streaming Platforms
Custom Video Websites
Free to use
It can cost anywhere from a few dollars to thousands of dollars per month (depending on the tools used for hosting)
Limited brand customization; video players retain the platform’s logo and branding
Complete brand customization with white-label streaming; your brand is in the spotlight
Many platforms have algorithms with built-in discoverability tools
Discoverability isn’t usually the focus since the video website is more of a custom destination for viewers and fans
Not scalable due to limited functionality
Very scalable due to more expansive functionality
Limited (often only includes ads with revenue shares favoring the platform, not the brand/creator)
Flexible monetization with sponsorships, subscriptions, pay-per-view, ticketing, live commerce, and more
Which Video Experience is Better?
As you can see, both free streaming platforms and custom video sites have their own pros and cons. However, you may be left wondering which one is better.
Our answer to that is simple: neither is better. Both approaches are valuable in different use cases, so a custom video site is more valuable to some, whereas a free streaming platform is more practical for others.
Which approach you choose depends entirely on your unique goals. If you want to reach a larger audience of new viewers, the built-in discoverability tools of free streaming platforms can come in handy. If you want to monetize your content with subscriptions or pay-per-view, a custom video site is the way to go.
We recommend using both approaches together to tap into the benefits of each. This is especially true as multistreaming becomes more popular since it lets you broaden your reach while simultaneously streaming to a custom destination that you own.
Build a Video Site on Maestro
Ready to build a video site to give your viewers a premium viewing experience? Maestro has the tools for you. Maestro is an online video platform with all the tools you need for managing video on the back end and creating beautifully branded front-end experiences.
Our all-in-one video solution enables brands and creators to build custom streaming sites with no engineering and very little build time, thanks to our drag-and-drop builder. In fact, you could have your site up and running in as little as a day.
Sign up for Maestro to create your video site in no time.