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The topic of video hosting continues to surface in client conversations. It happens because of the breadth of options and considerations that exist. This article takes a “where to begin” approach, essentially laying out a few initial ideas around picking a direction for business video hosting.

At the top of the considerations pyramid is the self-hosted vs. external provider question. The pros and cons of this debate are pretty obvious, but here’s some brief notes on a couple of the major points:

ProsCons
Self-hosted
  • Full control of physical video files
  • Greater retained ownership of video content
  • Full control of video display
  • Requires more hosting infrastructure
  • Requires more management effort
  • Requires more support
External Provider
  • Takes advantage of their existing hosting infrastructure
  • Typically includes management tools and/or feature automation
  • Offers some level of support
  • Less control of physical video files
  • Less retained ownership of video content
  • Limited control of video display

While self-hosting video is definitely a smart choice for some business scenarios, the topic is too expansive to cover within this article, so from here, we’re only focusing on the branch that considers external providers as a potential solution. Specifically, we’re looking at YouTube vs. Vimeo vs. the many other third-party hosting options (like Brightcove, Sprout, Ooyala or Wistia).

At the feature level, its hard to see major differences between YouTube, Vimeo, and third-party video hosts. They typically all have skin-able, embed-able, players, delivering streaming content as demanded by device or viewer. They have management consoles that allow administrators to upload, optimize, manipulate and post video and their platforms typically offer API’s that allow developers to extend video delivery options. Additionally, the extreme competition across these platforms works to normalize features, so if you do find an offset on one vs. another its likely that feature is coming soon.

So how do you choose if your feature requirements don’t reveal an obvious video hosting direction?

Consider the networks.

In this context, the YouTube vs. Vimeo vs. third-party comparison is like comparing apples vs. oranges vs. meatloaf.

NetworkCost
YouTube YouTube’s prowess speaks for itself. It’s a massive video channel, entertainment network and search engine. Video hosted on YouTube has the potential for exposure to its higher traffic levels and its social network hooks. But YouTube’s magnitude also acts as the downside to its hosted video. With billions of videos on YouTube, it’s more difficult to cut through the clutter and offer an on-brand experience. Another way of saying this is that there is a higher probability that your business video will be surrounded by lower caliber, related video and advertisements. Free
Vimeo Vimeo’s network has some subtle YouTube similarities. It also offers high quality hosted, embed-able, searchable video. The major difference is that Vimeo has developed a reputation as hosting more premium, in terms of production and content type video. The Vimeo.com viewing experience appears less cluttered (than YouTube) and there is no disruptive advertising. Vimeo also offers paid, Plus, and Pro level accounts with expanded features and bandwidth (See prices and feature comparison). Vimeo’s major drawback is that its smaller network typically means less traffic and less likelihood organically found video viewings. Basic = Free
Plus = $59/yr
Pro = $199/yr
Third-party While all mentioned third-party video hosting providers (Brightcove, Sprout, Ooyala or Wistia) are not equal they do have one thing in common. This commonality, which should not be underestimated, is that they’re designed specifically to provide business video hosting services. So while third-party providers may not offer a searchable video community like YouTube or Vimeo, they are typically more robust in terms of video management, streaming content, and analytic reporting. The catch is that it all comes at a price. For a more detailed comparison see Transport’s article An online video hosting comparison. “Where do I host it?” Brightcove = Unlisted
Sprout = $300+/yr
Ooyala = Unlisted
Wistia = $300+/yr

Conclusion

With each hosts network in consideration, review your planning and requirements. Some scenarios may surface and point to more obvious solutions.

For example, a low cost, small video content library with mostly embedded video playback would fit well using YouTube or Vimeo (Free). If this content is more episodic or entertainment slanted, leaning towards YouTube would be smart. If a more curated on-brand experience is required, Vimeo (Plus or Pro) may be a better solution.

If video content is a more integral part of your business explore third-party video hosting providers. Consider budgets and review their offerings.

Finally, to effectively tackle online video content delivery don’t rule out hosting on multiple platforms.