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RTMP vs. RTSP – Here’s All You Need To Know To Make An Informed Choice

comparison of rtmp and rtsp streaming options

More and more livestreaming is becoming the norm, and users prefer it over pre-recorded media. There are numerous reasons behind this, but if you want to stand out as a content creator, livestreaming should be your priority.

That aside, everyone talks about how creative, relevant, and engaging content is vital to the success of any livestream. But what about the actual content delivery to viewers?

It only makes sense that the content delivery is seamless for your viewers to have an enjoyable experience. In the case of RTMP vs. RTSP, it can be a tough pick as they’re the most preferred streaming protocols, but which should you opt for?

Find out everything you need to determine the best streaming protocol for your needs.

What Are Streaming Protocols?

Streaming protocols are the rules, guidelines, and formats used to transmit data over the internet.

Protocols are often used to control how audio and video are transmitted, as well as the quality of the stream. Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) and Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) are today’s most common streaming protocols.

They are essential for live streaming because they determine how data is sent between two computers. Without streaming protocols, your stream would become unreliable or altogether drop off, which could be disastrous to your brand.

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What is RTMP?

RTMP (Real-Time Messaging Protocol) is a streaming protocol developed by Macromedia, now a part of Adobe Systems. It is primarily used to stream audio and video over the internet and is essential to many live-streaming platforms.

RTMP is based on the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), a reliable protocol for sending data over a network. This means that RTMP sends data in chunks, so even if some chunks are lost during transmission, the stream can be reconstructed from the remaining chunks. Additionally, it supports data compression, allowing the stream to use fewer resources.

RTMP is widely supported across many platforms, from web browsers to mobile devices. YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Twitch, and other streaming services also use it. If you’re a beginner, here’s how to live stream on YouTube.

When streaming with RTMP, the stream must be encoded before being sent to the server. The server then transcodes the stream into multiple bitrates and stores it in a media server. Finally, the media server streams the content to viewers using Flash Player or other supported players.

Need more information on this? Here’s an in-depth RTMP guide.

How RTMP Works for Streaming?

The RTMP protocol consists of two components: the RTMP Client and the RTMP Server.

RTMP Client is responsible for capturing audio, video, and other data from the source device and encoding it into the RTMP protocol. This data is then sent to the RTMP Server, which is responsible for encoding data and streaming it to viewers.

When a viewer requests a stream, the RTMP Server establishes a connection with the viewer’s client (i.e., their device) and sends the requested stream. The viewer’s client then receives and decodes the stream.


  • Easy to use: It’s relatively easy to set up and use, making it great for novice streamers and advanced users.
  • Fast connection speeds: RTMP allows fast and reliable streaming with minimal lag.
  • Adaptable: RTMP can be used for live streaming, VOD (video on demand) streaming, and other applications such as voice-over-IP.
  • Scalability: RTMP can support thousands of viewers with no noticeable degradation in quality.
  • Secure: Because it requires authentication, RTMP is a much more secure streaming protocol than other protocols like HTTP.


  • It’s a closed protocol requiring specialized software to send and receive video content.
  • RTMP is not well suited for streaming over the internet because its stream can be interrupted easily due to packet loss or network congestion.
  • RTMP streams require more bandwidth than RTSP streams, making them more expensive.
  • RTMP requires a constant connection between sender and receiver, which can be challenging to maintain in specific environments or conditions.

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What is RTSP?

Real-Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) is designed for entertainment and communications systems to control media servers.

It establishes and controls media sessions between endpoints, like video cameras, encoders, digital video recorders, and streaming servers.

This way, RTSP enables users to control the playback of streaming media by sending commands such as play, pause, and rewind. It also allows clients to receive real-time data from the server, such as the stream’s current position or total duration.

RTSP can be used over unicast and multicast connections and can be tunneled through other protocols, such as HTTP.

In addition to streaming media, RTSP is often used for IP camera setups. Many IP cameras have built-in support for RTSP, making it easy to access live video streams from any compatible device. For example, some home security systems use RTSP to stream live video from a camera directly to a computer or mobile device.

How RTSP Works for Streaming?

As mentioned above, Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) is a networking protocol designed to control the streaming of data, such as audio and video.

It’s a client-server protocol requiring two types of components for streaming to occur successfully. The server serves streaming data while the client requests it.

The server component of RTSP sends out an announcement to clients that includes information about the available media being streamed, such as its type, resolution, and bitrate. The client then sends a request to view a particular media stream, which the server responds to with an acceptance or rejection message.

If the request is accepted, the media stream is relayed to the client (i.e., the end user’s device.) If not, an appropriate error message is displayed; for instance, “the requested content is unavailable in this location” or something similar.

Once the connection is established, the server begins streaming the media to the client.

With RTSP, the client can pause, seek, fast forward, and rewind the stream at any point as long as the server supports the commands. It can also choose different streaming settings depending on the user’s bandwidth and other needs.

This makes it great for streaming, offering viewers more flexibility with how they want to stream content. They get to stream content live but don’t miss out on the advantages of streaming pre-recorded media.

Additionally, RTSP is designed to be able to stream live media as well as stored media. This means that RTSP can be used for streaming live events, such as concerts or sporting events, and pre-recorded content.


  • Allows for low latency streaming: RTSP provides an advantage over RTMP because of its ability to stream at a lower latency. This means the video won’t lag or buffer, making it ideal for live-streaming events.
  • Easy to use: RTSP has a simpler protocol than RTMP, making it easier for people to set up and configure.
  • Widely supported: RTSP is supported by most media players and streaming services, making it a reliable choice for streaming.
  • Secure: RTSP utilizes encryption to protect data as it travels between the server and the client, providing a secure way to stream content.


  • Not as widely supported as RTMP, you may be unable to access some streaming services.
  • Generally, it requires more bandwidth, making it less suitable for mobile devices.
  • Can have compatibility issues with different types of hardware and software.
  • Limited support for video codecs, which can limit the quality of your stream.

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RTSP vs. RTMP: Performance

When it comes to performance, RTSP and RTMP are both reliable protocols for streaming. Each excels differently in certain areas, so you’ll need to consider what’s most important to your streaming needs when deciding between the two. 

The most significant difference between the two protocols is their level of control. RTSP offers more control, while RTMP is more limited. To this end, RTMS is better suited for streaming live content, whereas RTMP is better for streaming pre-recorded media.

Regarding latency, RTSP has less of it relative to RTMP, which means it’s faster than RTMP. To understand this better, think of latency as a delay between stream ingests and delivering information to clients or end-user devices. More latency means more delay, which isn’t ideal for any livestream.

This is because RTSP does not need to establish a persistent connection, whereas RTMP does. So, RTSP would be a better choice if you’re looking for a protocol that delivers faster streaming.

When it comes to data transfer, RTMP is more efficient than RTSP. This is due to RTMP’s ability to compress data during transmission, whereas RTSP cannot. If you’re looking for a protocol that minimizes data usage and transfer time, RTMP would be better than RTSP.

Overall, the verdict as to the performance of each protocol depends on your individual streaming needs. RTSP will be the better choice if you’re looking for fast streaming with minimal data transfer. On the other hand, if you need more control and flexibility in your streaming, then RTMP would be the best option.

RTSP vs. RTMP: Specifications

RTSP and RTMP have several differences in their technical specifications, which can make choosing between them difficult.

RTSP, or Real-Time Streaming Protocol, was developed by the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) and first published in 1998. An application-level protocol utilizes TCP/IP to establish and maintain control connections between two endpoints.

It also supports transmitting audio and video data over the internet using a stream transport layer protocol like RTP (Real-time Transport Protocol). RTSP is primarily used for real-time streaming media applications, including live broadcasts and on-demand streams.

RTMP, or Real-Time Messaging Protocol, was developed by Macromedia, which is currently part of Adobe Systems, in 1996 and is based on TCP/IP. It was created to provide low-latency communication between Flash Players and media servers.

This protocol is typically used to deliver audio and video content over the internet and is widely supported by streaming media software programs like Wowza, Adobe Media Server, and Red5.

Regarding technical specifications, RTSP has better overall performance than RTMP. RTSP supports multiple transport protocols, including UDP (User Datagram Protocol), TCP (Transmission Control Protocol), and HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol).

It also supports multicast and unicast delivery models and “adaptive streaming,” meaning that it can adjust the video stream quality based on network conditions. On the other hand, RTMP only supports TCP and unicast delivery models. In addition, RTMP does not support adaptive streaming.

In terms of security, both RTSP and RTMP utilize encryption techniques to protect audio and video streams from unauthorized access. However, RTSP has some additional features that make it more secure than RTMP. For example, it supports authentication methods like digest authentication and basic authentication to ensure that only authorized users can access the streams.

RTSP vs. RTMP: Which Is Right for You?

When deciding between RTMP and RTSP for your live-streaming needs, you should consider a few factors. It’s important to know that each protocol has its strengths and weaknesses and is better suited to different applications.

For example, RTMP is the clear winner if you’re looking for a streaming protocol that offers high performance. This protocol is designed to be efficient and reliable when delivering video data over networks with limited bandwidth.

On the other hand, RTSP offers more flexibility when it comes to controlling playback. This protocol allows clients to pause, fast-forward, and rewind the video stream without interrupting the streaming session.

When it comes to security, both protocols are similarly secure. RTSP is slightly more secure since it offers encryption options such as TLS and SRTP, which can protect your content from malicious attacks.

Finally, it’s worth noting that streaming platforms and players support RTMP and RTSP to varying degrees. Therefore, whichever protocol you choose will likely be compatible with your streaming service provider.

Ultimately, it all comes down to your particular needs and preferences. Evaluate your needs, determine which protocol is ideal, and make compromises if necessary.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to advancements in streaming protocols, multi-streaming and ultra-low latency livestreaming are now possible.

RTSP and RTMP are similar in most respects but have slight differences. RTMP is well-suited for high-quality streaming, while RTSP is better suited for low-latency streaming.

Both are efficient and reliable, and the right choice will depend on the specific requirements of your streaming application.

Ultimately, whether you choose RTMP vs. RTSP, both offer reliable streaming solutions that can be tailored to meet your individual needs. It is vital to consider your budget, the size of your audience, and the streaming quality you require before making a final decision.

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