If you want to begin serving videos on the cheap, you can easily host them with a free video sharing site, then embed them in your pages. But what can you get for just a small investment?
There’s a perception that using an online video platform (OVP) to host and serve your videos is an expensive undertaking, but the reality is that pricing for many of them is about $100 per month. We examined seven of the leading OVPs, getting more information than they publish on their websites, to help you make a comparison.
Keep in mind that this isn’t intended to be a comprehensive listing of all OVPs, but a sampling to show you what’s available.
Brightcove’s Express plan  starts at $99 per month. With it, you can host up to 50 videos and you’ll get 40GB of bandwidth.
Brightcove lets you upload videos in the following formats: 3G2, 3GP, ASF (streaming video for the Windows Media Player), AVI, DV, FLV (VP6), MOV (QuickTime multimedia), MP4 (H.264), MPEG, MPG (MPEG-1 and MPEG-2), QT (QuickTime), and WMV (Windows Media Video).
You can output and play your videos as FLV (VP6) or MP4 (H.264) files. Clients can stream videos at six resolutions, with the highest being an HD stream of 1280 by 720 pixels, sending 1.8MB of data per second. Brightcove has also announced plans to support Google’s new WebM  format, based on the VP8 video codec.
Brightcove lets you create manual playlists with your videos, as well as create automatic smart playlists. The video player can be customized, including changing the color and selecting which buttons appear, but creating custom skins is reserved for higher-priced plans. While there’s no way to serve ads, you can add social sharing features (such as Twitter and Facebook integration) and view detailed analytics data.
ClickStreamTV’s Standard Plan  starts at a super-low $59 per month, so it’s good choice for extremely limited budgets, but remember to factor in the one-time $299 startup fee. The plan gets you 2GB of storage, so you can upload as many videos as will fit. You’ll also get 20GB of bandwidth.
You can upload video as MPG, AVI, MOV, MP4, and WMV files.
Uploaded videos can be encoded and shown as FLV, WMV, MP4, and 3GP videos. ClickStreamTV’s default is to encode videos at 300kbps files, but you can opt to stream 1280 by 720 or 1920 by 1080 high-definition videos, if you prefer.
You can organize your videos manually into playlists, but ClickStreamTV doesn’t support rule-based (smart) playlists. The company offers two ways to customize the look of your player. You can use the online design studio, which has a point-and-click interface and allows you to upload images for branding, or you can use the company’s support team, which you can reach through your sales representative. Having a ClickStreamTV staffer do the work costs an extra $50, though. The player can show banner ads that you sell yourself, but there’s no ad network integration or ability to show in-stream video ads. The player offers social sharing features, including Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail tools, and you’ll get access to real-time analytics.
Kaltura’s lowest-priced paid plan  starts at $299 per month. This plan lets you upload 500 videos and provides 150GB of bandwidth. (If you’ve got the IT resources to host your own content, Kaltura also offers an open-source Community Edition.)
You can input video to Kaltura as FLV, MP4, MOV, 3GP, MKV, OGG, WMV, ISM/ISMV, and AVI files.
After uploading, you can serve video as FLV, H.264, OGG, VP8, and Silverlight streams. You’ll also be able to serve high-definition video.
You can create both manual and rule-based playlists with Kaltura, and fully control the look and features of your player with Kaltura’s Application Studio. Generate revenue by using free ad plug-ins found in Kaltura’s Application Exchange. The plan also offers sharing and syndication tools, as well as detailed analytics.
Kyte  doesn’t have a service level for people just starting out who are working with tight budgets. Its lowest-tier plan, Kyte Premium, starts in the low thousands of dollars per month.
The pricing for Ooyala ‘s Publisher Plan (which isn’t listed on the site) works a little differently than the others. Instead of a fixed monthly fee, you pay a delivery fee of $.75 per hour of content delivered (so if you have a one minute video and you serve it 60 times, that’s $.75). Signing up for an account gets you 5GB of online storage, and you can store as many videos as it will hold for no extra money. If you’re worried about streaming too much and blowing your budget, Ooyala will let you cap your streams at a pre-determined amount.
Your uploaded videos can use the following video codecs: H.264, MPEG-4, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, H.263, Motion-JPEG, SVQ-3, VP-6, WMV-8, WMV-9, VC-1. They must also be in these formats: MP4, MOV, MPG, FLV, AVI, ASF, WMV.
Once uploaded, you can deliver MPEG-4 H.264 Flash video as well as Silverlight and, soon, HTML5. You’ll be able to serve high-definition streams.
Ooyala allows for both manual and rule-based video playlists, which it calls channels. Clients can customize the look of their player with their own branding and colors, and add an Ooyala watermark, if they want. They can also decide which buttons appear. There’s no ad network support, but there are social sharing tools, including the ability to deep link to a section of the video. Clients will get analytic data in the form of reports which are updated every 5 to 10 minutes with current information.
Sorenson 360  offers a $99 per month plan, and with it you get 10GB of storage. You can host as many videos as will fit. You’ll also get 50GB of bandwidth per month to stream them.
Sorenson lets you upload video as ASF, AVI, DV, MOV, MP3, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and WMV files.
Once uploaded, you can publish your work as FLV (Spark and VP6) and MP4 (H.264) videos. You’ll be able to serve 1080p high-definition video, if you want. Support is coming for WebM.
You can organize your work into rules-bases playlists or manually create them. You can also customize the look of your player and enable watermarks with your company logo. Sorenson offers ad network plug-ins to generate revenue. The player also offers social media sharing tools and comprehensive analytics.
While VMIX  offers monthly service that starts in the same range as Kaltura’s pricing, it isn’t focused on smaller clients. It will accept small companies that are poised for growth, but refers companies whose needs are going to stay small to partners. It refers newspapers to Town News , for example, and radio stations to Triton Digital .
If you’re ready to stream and you’d like more information, read this buyer’s guide to choosing an online video platform .