Dirt cheap live streaming platform

All in all, there are quite a few solutions out there, but none cheap and straightforward at the same time

Ok, as compared to the previous this is rather basic. There’s no recording, no adaptive bitrate, reduced scalability, no content protection, and it may require some maintenance. But it does the job. You will be able to run a handful of concurrent streams and there’s no limit to how many can watch. 

At the core of the solution there’s a tiny Nginx-RTMP server that takes care of ingesting RTMP streams and transmuxing these as HLS. Runs in the cloud of course, can be sized to meet demand, and it’s as cheap as it gets. 

Not much more to say, solution’s been around for years, and still waiting for more implementers to put it to good use. Had the chance to use it over and over in various scenarios, finally took the time to dust the simplest one up and make it available to deploy in a few clicks. Here it is.

How cheap can it get and why is it not free?

Yea, I know. Streaming to YT and FB is free, but they run ads on top of your content. With this, you can have it ad-free or run your own.

The virtual server pricing starts around 0.5¢/h. If running your live events sporadically you can turn that on and off as needed to save costs. And you want to broadcast 24/7 you can have it even cheaper by purchasing a reservation

Next up, you will be paying for traffic at regular CDN rates. The more people are watching, and for longer they watch, the more traffic they will spend against your account. 

Also important, the higher your audio+video bitrate, the higher your bandwidth consumption and your bill. Since this has no ABR, I’d recommend you keep your video resolution at or below 720p and combined a/v bitrate below 2Mbit. That equates to under a Gigabyte of traffic used up for every viewer watching for an hour, or proportional. 

Is it stable?

Very, just don’t throw too much at it. With just half a Gigabyte of RAM, the tiny server gracefully runs a dozen streams. If you need more (at the same time) just make it bigger. 

Other than that, OS upgrades I think may come in handy for the sake of security. Or just trash it and make it new every once in a while.

Does it scale?

Viewer wise, yes it does, as it runs on the CDN.

Broadcaster count wise, you’ll have to scale it manually. That is, adjust your server’s instance type based on demand. Bottlenecks are memory and networking, and secondarily CPU. The most one single server can take is probably around 1k, beyond that you will want to consider a multiple origin or SaaS solution. 

Is it worth it?

It’s sure worth trying it out if you’re just starting. Should take less than 30min to set it up, even if you don’t know much about the field. 

Moving on, you can rather easily make it grow, both in terms of capacity and capabilities. The underlying software is powerful, versatile, and packed with features. And if the AWS is not your flavor, solution can easily be ported to another cloud, or a colocated physical or virtual machine. It’ll even run on a Raspberry Pi, just be sure it has enough bandwidth to stream up and down.