AWS Knowledge

Understanding Amazon Elemental MediaLive Pricing

Stuart Lundberg

Sep 7, 2023

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Understanding Amazon Elemental MediaLive

As someone in a tech startup, you may have noticed how quickly the cost of AWS can become one of the largest recurring expenses. AWS Elemental MediaLive is a live video encoding service that allows content creators to deliver live and on-demand video to their audience. As streaming becomes more prevalent, it’s critical for startups to understand the costs associated with this technology to maintain control over their budget while leveraging the benefits of high-quality video content. Samsung, FOX, HBO Max, and other companies are customers of Amazon MediaLive.

What is Amazon Elemental MediaLive

Amazon Elemental MediaLive is a cutting-edge broadcast-grade live video processing service that creates high-quality streams for delivery to broadcast TVs and internet-connected devices. The service works by encoding live video content, which involves converting the raw input into digital formats that are compatible with various devices and platforms. MediaLive supports a range of input sources and output formats, making it a versatile option for different types of content delivery. MediaLive can start as low as $0.12 / hr for standard definition.

Amazon MediaLive operates on a pay-as-you-go model, meaning you pay only for what you use, billed by the second, with no minimum fees. This flexible pricing is designed to scale with your needs, whether you're experimenting with types of video quality or deploying lots of content at once.

How does Amazon Elemental MediaLive work?

Amazon Elemental MediaLive functions by taking a live video feed, compressing and encoding it in real-time, and then packaging it for distribution to viewers. To get started, you provide your live input feed, which can come from various sources such as cameras, satellite trucks, or pre-recorded video files. MediaLive then encodes this input into a high-quality video stream compatible with different playback devices, including smartphones, tablets, computers, and televisions. During the encoding process, MediaLive allows you to choose from different video codecs and resolutions to optimize for quality and bandwidth. Additionally, it supports advanced features like ad marker insertion, audio normalization, and multiple audio tracks. After encoding, the service packages the video streams into formats such as HLS, DASH.

Below are some different use-cases how a startup can use MediaLive can enhance the experience for their customers:

  • Send HD or UHD video

  • Startups can choose to use small, portable AWS Elemental Link HD and UHD devices to transfer video to AWS Elemental MediaLive for delivery to viewers. What this means is that startups can easily connect their cameras to these devices and reliably send high-definition or ultra-high-definition video to the MediaLive service without needing large and complex broadcast equipment. This capability is especially beneficial for startups that want to produce professional-grade live streams but do not have the budget for traditional broadcast hardware. The HD and UHD devices are designed to be plug-and-play, further reducing the complexity and technical barriers that might otherwise prevent a startup from delivering high-quality content.

  • Schedule or dynamically switch inputs
    Startups can choose to add multiple video inputs and switch using the schedule feature, or dynamically switch by creating input switching actions as needed. This means you can have multiple camera angles or video feeds ready to go and seamlessly switch between them during a live broadcast. This flexibility is particularly useful for events or productions where the perspective needs to change frequently, such as sporting events, conferences, or live shows. By utilizing the scheduling and dynamic switching features, startups can enhance the production value of their live streams, making them more engaging and professional-looking without the need for expensive production equipment or personnel.

  • Automatically deploy a channel

  • Creating a media infrastructure that generates a channel and loops through an .mp4 file using the AWS Cloud Development Kit (CDK). Deploying channels automatically through AWS Cloud Development Kit (CDK) can be a game-changer for startups. This approach enables companies to programmatically define and provision their media services infrastructure in a secure, efficient, and repeatable way. With CDK, startups can script the setup of their entire channel, including the MediaLive components, input sources, and output destinations. This means that once an .mp4 file is ready for looping, they can deploy a channel with minimal manual intervention, which can be particularly useful for 24/7 streaming channels or for creating a continuous playback experience for viewers. The process involves writing the infrastructure as code, which AWS CDK synthesizes into an AWS CloudFormation template. This template can then be deployed to AWS

Deep Dive into MediaLive Pricing Structure

AWS Elemental MediaLive offers pay-as-you go pricing depending on factors such as the resolution of the video, the amount of data processed, and the complexity of the encoding settings. For instance, encoding high-definition (HD) video will cost more than standard-definition (SD) due to the higher amount of data and processing power required. Additionally, utilizing more advanced features like ad marker insertion and audio normalization may also affect the overall cost. Here's a closer look at the pricing structure:

On-Demand Pricing

The On-Demand pricing structure is designed for users who value flexibility. It allows content creators to pay for the resources they use with no upfront commitments, making it an attractive option for those with variable broadcasting needs. With an hourly rate that considers running inputs, outputs, and additional features, users can manage costs in real-time. For instance, running a MediaLive standard channel in the US East (N. Virginia) region costs $4.872 per hour. This granularity in pricing ensures that users only pay for what they need when they need it.

Reserved Pricing

Alternatively, the Reserved pricing model provides a way to optimize costs for those with more predictable broadcasting schedules. By committing to a certain amount of usage, users can benefit from a reduced hourly rate, translating to significant savings over time. This option is ideal for organizations that have a steady stream of content to deliver and can accurately forecast their usage. Reserved pricing is available in one-year or three-year terms, offering different levels of discount based on the length of commitment and the payment options chosen. The upfront payment option provides the greatest discount but requires a larger initial investment, while the no upfront payment option offers a lower discount but spreads the cost over the term of the reservation. For example, if a startup commits to a three-year reserved instance for a MediaLive channel with no upfront payment, they could see a substantial reduction in their hourly rate compared to on-demand pricing. This can be particularly advantageous for startups planning long-term projects or channels with consistent output. The pricing details and options can be found on the AWS Elemental MediaLive pricing page, which outlines the specific rates and savings for both on-demand and reserved

Additional Costs to Consider

Data Transfer Charges: Data transfer is a critical component of live broadcasting, and with MediaPackage pricing, it starts at $0.09 per GB for the first 10 TB each month. These costs can scale with viewership, so it’s essential to monitor data usage closely. However, it's worth noting that the AWS Free Tier offers certain benefits that can offset some of these data transfer charges, providing some relief to the overall cost.

Case Study: A Startup's Journey to Cost Optimization with Elemental MediaLive

Imagine a telemedicine company based in Phoenix, Arizona wants to expand from just serving patients in Arizona to three more states: California, Nevada, and New Mexico. The startup is made of around a dozen people, and has seen early traction by word of mouth. Their company empowers people to speak with nurses and doctors over the phone for quick (non-life threatening) consultations. After the consultation, the users can play back the video and choose to send the recording to any loved ones. The company is seeking to enhance its service offering and user engagement, decides to incorporate live webinars, and educational content using AWS MediaLive. Initially, the company experiments with the On-Demand pricing model to gauge the viewership and determine the frequency of their broadcasts within Arizona. As they start streaming weekly health talks and monthly webinars, their audience grows (tripling their first month), and the predictability of their streaming schedule becomes clearer. The CTO realizes that on-demanding pricing might not be the best type of pricing to pursue. She decides to explore the possibility of a one-year reserved instance pricing plan since the schedule is somewhat reliable.

It can be different for each startup to minimize costs without compromising quality. Here are three ways the company was able to cut AWS costs for MediaLive:

  1. Implementing Automation: The telemedicine startup implemented automation by scripting their AWS infrastructure with the AWS CDK. By doing so, they were able to reduce the need for manual setup and management of their MediaLive channels. The automation scripts could be used to start and stop channels based on the webinar schedule, ensuring that resources were not left running unnecessarily, which could drive up costs.

  2. Optimizing Encoding Settings: They took a deep dive into their encoding settings to find the right balance between video quality and cost. By adjusting the bitrate and choosing the appropriate resolution for their content, they were able to significantly reduce the amount of data processed without compromising the viewer's experience. This optimization meant lower costs while still delivering clear and professional streams. Channels are the heart of the MediaLive service, and their costs form a significant part of the overall pricing. It's important to note that even when a channel is not actively broadcasting, there are idle charges to consider.

  3. Taking Advantage of Reserved Pricing: Once the startup established a consistent streaming schedule, they moved to the Reserved pricing model. By committing to a one-year reserved instance, they were able to secure a lower hourly rate. This decision was based on their predictable need for streaming services, resulting from the established viewership for their health talks and webinars. The CTO compared the potential savings against their current on-demand costs and concluded that the fixed schedule justified the switch. This long-term commitment allowed the startup to reduce operational costs while maintaining the flexibility to scale their services as they expanded into new states.

  4. Through these strategic approaches, the telemedicine startup not only optimized their AWS MediaLive costs but also laid a foundation for scalable growth. As they continue to expand their services

Tools and Tips for Cutting AWS Elemental MediaLive Costs

Utilizing MediaLives built-in tools can provide insights into your spending patterns and help you identify areas where savings can be made. Below are three ways you can optimize your costs for MediaLive.

  1. Terminate unused EC2 instances: Ensure that any EC2 instances that are not in use are terminated. EC2 instances can contribute significantly to AWS costs if they are left running without being actively used for MediaLive broadcasting or any other services. Regularly reviewing and terminating idle EC2 instances can lead to substantial cost savings.

  2. Monitor with CloudWatch: AWS CloudWatch allows you to monitor your MediaLive channels and set alarms for unusual activity or cost spikes. By keeping a close eye on metrics and logs, you can quickly adjust your usage or configurations to prevent overages and keep costs under control.

  3. Buy Reserved Instances instead of using on-demand: Consider purchasing Reserved Instances for services you know you will use consistently over a longer period. If your broadcasting schedule is predictable and steady, committing to Reserved Instances can significantly cut costs compared to on-demand pricing. By estimating your usage and understanding your viewership patterns, you can choose a reserved plan that matches your needs and maximizes your investment. Additionally, AWS offers Savings Plans which provide a flexible pricing model that can also lead to cost reductions.

  4. Use Pump to Cut Your AWS Bill by 60%: Consider utilizing Pump to save up to 60% off AWS for early stage startups, and for completely free (yes, that's right). Pump is the only company with AI automated savings on 12 AWS services built in, including MediaLive. Have questions? Go to Pump’s website to learn more.


With a clear understanding of the MediaLive pricing model, and by employing strategies for cost optimization, you can make MediaLive a cost-effective part of your machine learning workflow. While the telemedicine startup's initial cost-saving measures laid a strong foundation for sustainable growth, the addition of proactive cost management tools and techniques can further streamline their AWS MediaLive expenses. AWS offers analytics tools that can provide in-depth insights into usage patterns. By analyzing these patterns, the startup can identify peak times for their services and optimize their encoding and streaming schedules accordingly. This can lead to more efficient use of resources and even better cost savings.

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1550 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

Made with

in San Francisco, CA

© All rights reserved. Pump Billing, Inc.

1550 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

Made with

in San Francisco, CA

© All rights reserved. Pump Billing, Inc.