Intro

Streaming software is the workhorse of a booming industry, and it continues to grow. The audience for live video content in the U.S. alone is expected to increase to 164.6 million viewers by 2024. New live streaming services appear all the time — every social network has one now — so sifting through the options and picking the best streaming software can be challenging. We created this guide to demystify live streaming software and help you choose the best one.

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🤔 What is live streaming software?

Live streaming software is a program or app that converts live video input into a digital format that’s suitable for live streaming. This conversion process is called encoding, and it’s the most basic feature all live streaming software should have.

Streaming software comes in two forms: software that you download and install on your computer and browser-based solutions that require no downloads and work directly from a web browser. Software that you need to download usually requires a more powerful computer, whereas browser-based streaming doesn’t need as many resources from your computer to work.

What to consider when choosing streaming software

Most popular streaming software options have a few things in common, like letting you connect a camera and mic, recording video, and some video editing features. But there’s a lot that sets different streaming solutions apart. If you’re adamant about finding the best streaming solution, look for these main characteristics:

  • Possible compatibility issues. You can use most live streaming software with social networks and streaming websites. If you use other video hosting platforms, like Vimeo, Panopto, or Dacast, you may need to check for compatibility issues.
  • Advanced features. Live streaming software comes in tiers, with different levels of complexity and features. Some solutions allow you to multistream to several platforms at once or offer additional storage space to save recordings of your live videos. Scope out these features before committing to one software.
  • Pricing. Some streaming software is free. In fact, the most popular solutions are available at no charge. Keep in mind, however, that sometimes paying for a live streaming tool to get improvements and additional features can improve the quality of your streams and make them more appealing to viewers.
  • Desktop program or browser-based solution. Some streaming software comes as a program you have to download and install on your computer, like OBS Studio. These programs use your computer’s resources to run. Other streaming software is browser-based, like Restream Studio, so you don’t have to download anything and you can run a live stream from your web browser. Browser-based streaming software uses resources on the company’s servers to run, not your computer’s resources. If your computer is less powerful and you’re not streaming highly graphical visuals like video games or animation, you’re probably better off with a browser-based streaming software.

Reviewing these four characteristics will help you eliminate the streaming solutions you absolutely cannot use. If they’re not in your price range, don’t support the platforms you use, or lack crucial features, then you shouldn’t use them.

🔥 The 10 best streaming software in 2023

1. Restream

Restream is a cloud-based live streaming software that lets you go live on multiple social platforms with a customized broadcast. You can add your own logo, branded graphics and overlays, invite up to nine guests to join your stream, and even schedule pre-recorded videos to broadcast live. You can upload and store videos on the cloud, and record your live streams so they’re available for download after.

Features

  • Multistreaming
  • Cross-platform chat
  • Stream to your friends’ and partner channels
  • Use a local video as an input
  • Record a stream without going live
  • Custom RTMP streaming
  • Share access with team members to co-run your stream
  • Real-time captions
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Explore all of Restream’s tools and features to see how you can make a more engaging live stream.

Pros

  • Free plan
  • Easy setup
  • Integrates with 30+ streaming platforms and tools
  • Multi-camera streaming
  • Stream in Full HD
  • Full stream analytics

Desktop or browser-based?

  • Browser-based

Use Restream Studio to live stream directly from your browser or connect Restream to any encoding software like OBS to multistream with your favorite desktop streaming app.

Pricing

  • Free plan and paid plans starting at $16 monthly
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2. OBS Studio

Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) Studio is like a gateway for those new to live streaming. It’s free and compatible with a variety of platforms, including Windows, Mac and Linux. You can also customize OBS as much as you like. A lot of new streamers (and pro streamers) use OBS because it doesn’t cost anything to get started and lets you customize almost every element of your live stream. It also integrates with Restream so you can broadcast a stream from OBS to multiple platforms simultaneously.

Features

  • Screen capture
  • Live video broadcasting
  • Recording
  • Audio mixing
  • Source and input management

Pros

  • Free
  • Create unlimited scenes for your live videos
  • Integrates with many streaming websites
  • Open-source

Cons

  • No dedicated tech support
  • Frequent updates

Desktop or browser-based?

  • Desktop

Pricing

  • Free
👇
Watch this video to learn how to connect Restream to OBS. 

3. Streamlabs

Streamlabs is live streaming software based on OBS, but it’s designed to be more user-friendly. It comes with more features than OBS, which can be helpful if you’re brand new to streaming. Streamlabs is free to download, offers customer support, and caters many of its features toward gamers. Although the Streamlabs features make it easier for beginners to use, all those add-ons can slow down your computer. Be prepared for the occasional bug.

Features

  • Twitch and YouTube chatbot
  • Integrated donation options
  • Multistreaming
  • Video recording
  • Video preview and editor

Pros

  • Comes with pre-built stream overlays
  • Quick setup process
  • Customizable stream alerts
  • Create a merch store

Cons

  • More CPU usage
  • Some features require Prime subscription plan

Desktop or browser-based?

  • Desktop

Pricing

  • Free plan and monthly subscription starting from $19

4. XSplit Broadcaster

As you progress towards professional, high-end live streaming software solutions, XSplit Broadcaster is a common next step. It’s easy to use, comes in basic (free) and premium versions, and offers decent support and the occasional feature update. You can also use third-party apps and plug-ins with it. Even though XSplit is easy to use, you’ll need to have some knowledge about encoding, because it doesn’t come with presets. It’s also a Windows-only program.

Features

  • Video broadcasting
  • Integrated green screen
  • Projector mode
  • Scene preview editor
  • Stream delay for broadcasting later

Pros

  • Accessible UX
  • Reports of responsive tech support
  • Tons of customization add-ons
  • Connect:Webcam feature turns your phone into a second camera

Cons

  • Best features require paid plan

Desktop or browser-based?

  • Desktop

Pricing

  • Monthly plan starting from $15

5. vMix

vMix is a good option for professional streamers, but it does come with a basic, free plan. It also allows a range of inputs including webcams, cameras, capture cards, playlists, DVDs, presentations and photos. It comes packed with many advanced features, provides great support, and is available at several price points, making it easy to upgrade according to your needs. It can be a drain on computer resources, however. Pair up vMix and Restream to push your broadcast live to platforms like Facebook, Twitch and YouTube all at the same time.

Features

  • Multi-bitrate streaming
  • 4K resolution
  • Instant replay and slow-motion options
  • Network Device Interface (NDI) to send HD low latency videos

Pros

  • Wide selection of live streaming features
  • Free updates with lifetime license
  • 60-day trial
  • Accepts several types of inputs
  • Multiple price points available

Cons

  • Windows only

Desktop or browser-based?

  • Desktop

Pricing

  • Lifetime license starting from $60

There’s also a monthly subscription for $50 per month.

6. Wirecast

Wirecast is a powerful encoding software for high-level video production. It allows unlimited camera inputs so it’s ideal for virtual and live streamed events. Wirecast also offers professional live video editing tools and is compatible with several types of capture cards and devices. You can use it to multistream to several platforms as well if you integrate Wirecast with Restream.

Features

  • Screen sharing and web feed sharing
  • Built-in graphics tool
  • Stream to any RTMP destination
  • Green screen
  • Multi-bitrate streaming
  • On-screen comment sharing from Facebook and Twitter

Pros

  • App turns iOS device into another video source
  • Instant replay
  • Compatible with Windows and macOS
  • Supports multi-channel audio ingest

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Best features only available in Studio plan

Desktop or browser-based?

  • Desktop

Pricing

  • Lifetime license starting from $599 or monthly plan from $35

7. Ecamm Live

Ecamm Live is a live streaming and video production studio for Mac. It has powerful editing and overlay features, with a variety of inputs available. With Ecamm Live, you can stream to major platforms like Twitch, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. You can also connect it to a multistreaming service like Restream to broadcast your live video on even more platforms.

Features

  • Overlays including countdown timers, tickers and camera effects
  • Custom Apple ProRes and WebM animations
  • Support for Elgato Stream Deck
  • Supports variety of inputs including DSLR camera via USB, HDMI, screen and audio capture, NDI and iOS
  • Custom RTMP streaming
  • Local recording

Pros

  • Virtual cam and mic to send outputs to Zoom and Chrome
  • Audio tracks recorded and saved separately
  • Interview mode for inviting remote guests
  • Green screen

Cons

  • macOS only

Desktop or browser-based?

  • Desktop

Pricing

  • Monthly plan starting from $16
💡
Connect Ecamm Live to Restream to broaden your reach and broadcast to more streaming platforms.

8. Lightstream

Lightstream is not a downloadable software but a browser-based live streaming encoder. The Lightstream Studio lets you create unlimited projects and go live on major streaming platforms or custom RTMP destinations. It also supports guests and a green screen, and puts a light burden on your computer’s resources.

Features

  • Unlimited projects, scenes and layouts
  • Text, images, webcams and video clips as sources
  • Third-party integrations for graphics and stream alerts
  • Control your stream from Lightstream mobile app

Pros

  • Cloud-based streaming
  • Compatible with all operating systems
  • Automatically selects the best encoding settings on your computer

Cons

  • No 4K streaming
  • No chroma keying or audio mixing

Desktop or browser-based?

  • Browser-based

Pricing

  • Monthly plans started from $8

9. OneStream

With the cloud-based streaming service OneStream, you can schedule and broadcast videos you’ve already edited, as well as go live on multiple platforms. You can also use the Live Spaces feature to host a website with OneStream and play your live videos on a personalized web page.

Features

  • Unified chat across platforms
  • Cloud-based live streaming studio
  • RTMP streaming
  • Playlist streaming
  • Cloud storage integration

Pros

  • Integrates with a wide variety of encoders
  • Schedules pre-recorded videos in advance
  • Free plan

Cons

  • Stream limit of 1 hour with free plan and 2 hours with basic
  • Limited stream analytics

Desktop or browser-based?

  • Browser-based

Pricing

  • Free plan and monthly subscriptions starting from $10

10. Livestream by Vimeo

Livestream by Vimeo is a live streaming solution for businesses and organizations that host live events. You can stream ad-free, HD video with your own branding and graphics and even use the platform to sell your products. It also lets you set up password-protected and private live streams.

Features

  • Auto closed captions
  • Stream from mobile, desktop or API
  • Enable backup streams
  • Real-time stream monitoring

Pros

  • Launch multiple streams at once
  • Free plan
  • Video storage and management tools

Cons

  • Features are limited with free plan

Desktop or browser-based?

  • Both

Pricing

  • Free plan and monthly subscription starting from $55

Conclusion

On your way to becoming a live streamer, you’ll have to go through the process of selecting the best streaming software for your needs. Even though your software of choice might change over time, it’s important to think carefully about the first one you choose so you can get off to a good start.Understanding the key components of streaming software is crucial, including learning about the entire streaming setup and finding ways to expand your software’s functionality. Restream helps you get even more from every minute you spend streaming by letting you broadcast to a wider audience. That’s as important a feat as any in today’s crowded streaming landscape.