How to Start a Streaming Service like Netflix?
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Wondering how to start a streaming service?
This is a big market that has lots of potential for new apps.
According to Grand View Research, “The global video streaming market size is expected to reach USD 184.27 billion by 2027”.
A “brief history” of Netflix
Netflix, the famous streaming service doesn‘t need an introduction, however, the following quick points are worth noting:
- Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph founded it in 1997, in the US.
- The company grew in the US for the next decade, before its‘ launch in Canada in 2010.
- 2012 was a key year in their history. They introduced original content this year, moreover, they won the “Emmy Engineering Award” in 2012.
- Subsequently, the company expanded to various other geographies. At the time of writing, they support 23 languages.
- As of Q3 2018, Netflix had 137.1 million users. 57% of this user base consisted of international viewers.
- 51% of the US subscribers to streaming services were Netflix customers as of Q3 2018.
- Netflix had a market cap of $131 billion in October 2018. Their Q3 2018 net profit was $403 million.
Read more about the history of Netflix in “Netflix revenue and usage statistics”.
Online video streaming market, and the competitors of Netflix
The online video streaming market is massive, and it has significant growth potential. The following facts illustrate this well:
- The US alone had over 236 million digital video viewers in 2020.
- The penetration of digital video in the US reached 83.8% in 2021.
- Note that this is not about on-demand video streaming services like Netflix alone. This market includes YouTube and similar sites.
Read more about this market in “Online video and streaming – statistics & facts”.
In the on-demand video streaming space, Netflix has the following competitors:
- Amazon Prime;
- Hulu Plus;
- HBO Now.
Netflix leads this market, whereas Amazon is their nearest competitor. Read more about the competitors of Netflix in “Who are Netflix’s main competitors? (NFLX)”.
Key features of a video streaming app like Netflix:
A video streaming app to cater to this large, growing market should have the following features:
- Users should be able to watch free movies online during a free trial period.
- Once users buy a subscription, they should get unlimited content in the entertainment app.
- The app should work on multiple platforms like desktops, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, etc.
- User management, profile management, in-app purchases, etc. should be smooth.
- Elegant “User Interface” (UI), security, etc. are imperative.
- Users should be able to download content and watch offline.
- The app should meet stringent performance and scalability standards. Netflix accounts for 15% of the global downstream Internet traffic, as the industry-watchers report. You certainly need a performant and scalable app to compete with that!
Plan the business model to start a streaming service
Before you undertake a software development project to start a streaming service platform like Netflix, decide on the business model you want to pursue. You can choose one of the following options:
- TVOD (Transactional Video on Demand): Viewers pay a one-time fee to watch the video content you have. They can watch it live, download it, or rent it.
- SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand): You can charge a recurring fee to subscribers and allow unlimited access to your content like TV shows. This could be a monthly fee. Netflix and Apple TV are examples of this model.
- AVOD (Ad-supported Video on Demand): In this model, you rely on the advertising partners for funding. YouTube is an example of this model.
- Hybrid: You can combine the above monetization models.
Choose a business model that suits your strategy.
Planning the MVP of a proposed video streaming service
Plan your MVP well. You might have reviewed popular video streaming services like Disney, Amazon Prime, and HBO. You might have decided on the features to offer. This could include the following and more:
- Consumer-facing features like live streaming online video, download, playback, etc.;
- Adjusting the video quality based on the bandwidth and quality of the Internet connection;
- Features that promote the original content that your partners create, e.g., providing useful subtitles;
- Features that promote and encourage creators of new content;
- Functionality that caters to the distributors;
- Social media integration;
- Push notifications;
- Different payment models like pay-per-view;
- Integration with payment gateways and payment providers like PayPal, Stripe, etc.
However, the video streaming market is highly competitive. If you are a startup entering the video streaming business, then you first need to validate your business ideas.
Are you fulfilling the requirements of your target audience with your own streaming service? Can your video streaming website attract and retain viewers?
You need to validate your business plan, therefore, launch an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) first. It should have sufficient functionality, however, don’t try to include a laundry list of features.
Provide enough features to get market feedback. Check whether you have the fundamentals of the right video streaming solution. Undertake step-by-step enhancements subsequently to make a mark in the streaming industry.
Prioritize features for the MVP smartly. As we explained in our guide to MVPs, you should use the following tools for this:
- “Pain-and-gain maps”;
- Prioritization matrix.
Review suitable video streaming apps
You want to offer the best possible user experience to viewers. You can’t do that only by offering the basic features. Reviewing leading video streaming apps can give you great ideas to create user-friendly apps. Choose apps that fit your business model. E.g. review Netflix or Amazon Prime Video if you plan to offer subscription-based pricing.
Take another example. Your business model might require you to impose geo-restrictions on your content. Review video streaming platforms that do that successfully. E.g., Netflix and Hulu successfully impose restrictions so that users outside the USA can’t view the US libraries.
To consider another example, are you focusing on video game live streaming? Review Twitch, a popular platform in that space.
How to start a streaming service like Netflix?
Let‘s dive deeper and understand the steps to create an on-demand video streaming app, as follows:
You need the right strategy to launch a successful app that can compete with Netflix. Focus on the following:
- How do you create content for your on-demand video streaming app? This is an important aspect for you to strategize. Read more about this in “Do it like Netflix: how to create content in the streaming era”.
- You need a strategy to market your app effectively. This would involve several aspects, e.g., “App Store Optimization” (ASO), monetization, etc. Get important guidance in “How to create an effective app marketing strategy?”.
- Even if you launch your app in one geographical region now, you will likely expand it to other regions. You should design and develop your app in a manner that future localization is easy. This is called “app internationalization”. You can read “7 tips for mobile app localization” for guidance.
2. Determine the project scope to start a streaming service
Launching an app like Netflix is a large project. I recommend that you use the Agile SDLC model, and start with a “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP). You can further enhance the app based on market feedback. Read about Agile in “What is software development life cycle and what you plan for?”.
I suggest you build an app targeting the following platforms first:
- Android phones;
You can later expand it to cover smart TVs.
3. Build your team
You need the following roles in your team:
- Software architects;
- Business analysts;
- UI/UX designers;
- Web developers;
- Android developers;
- iOS developers;
- A project manager (PM).
I recommend you use the “Scrum” technique to manage the project. Here, the PM performs the role of a “Scrum master”, and builds small, cross-functional teams. Such teams have designers, developers, and testers working together, and we call them “Scrum teams”.
Read about it in “How to build a Scrum development team?”.
4. Choose the right software architecture pattern
Plan for success! A successful on-demand video streaming app like Netflix will attract a large number of subscribers and heavy Internet traffic. You need to choose the right software architecture pattern for this. I recommend you use the “Microservices pattern”. This offers the following advantages:
- An on-demand video streaming app will offer separate services, e.g., subscription, account management, video streaming, etc. These services are separate from each other. Microservices architecture pattern makes such apps scalable.
- You need to optimize and prioritize resources for Individual services with different peaks and troughs in their demand. The Microservices pattern helps here.
- It‘s easier to maintain the app.
- Microservices pattern helps in managing the deployment of individual services since these are separate.
I have earlier explained this architecture pattern in “10 best practices for building a microservice architecture”.
5. Get a PaaS account for the web app
Expedite your web app development by getting yourself a “Platform as a Service” (PaaS) account. I recommend AWS Elastic Beanstalk, i.e., AWS PaaS. AWS has excellent cloud capabilities, which makes it a robust choice. A PaaS account helps you in the following ways:
- You don‘t need to invest in a data center. PaaS providers manage the cloud infrastructure, networking, server, storage, middleware, operating systems (OS), and runtime environment. A developer can focus on coding, and he/she needs to bring in the application data.
- PaaS providers let you incorporate cloud databases in your app.
- You can integrate 3rd party APIs.
- PaaS providers offer DevOps, application monitoring, and automated scaling solutions.
Read more about PaaS in “10 top PaaS providers”.
6. Sign-up for an MBaaS account for the mobile app
I recommend you use AWS Amplify, i.e., AWS “Mobile Backend as a Service” (MBaaS) to manage the mobile backend better. You get several advantages of using an MBaaS provider, as follows:
- The provider handles the cloud infrastructure for the mobile app backend.
- It‘s easier to target multiple mobile platforms if you use an MBaaS provider.
- MBaaS providers can address user management.
- Persistent data storage is another area where MBaaS providers help.
- Security capabilities of MBaaS providers help mobile app developers.
- The provider helps you to incorporate push notifications in the app.
- Geolocation capabilities of MBaaS providers help mobile app developers.
- Incorporating a microservices architecture pattern, which is important for your project, is easier if you use MBaaS.
- You can easily integrate 3rd party APIs into your mobile app.
Read about the advantages of MBaaS in “How to choose the best mobile backend as a service (MBaaS)?”.
Note: An advantage of using AWS is that you can access Elastic Beanstalk and Amplify with a single AWS account. Furthermore, you don‘t need to hire cloud platform architects and mobile backend developers.
Hire expert developers for your next project
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7. Sign-up for a robust cloud streaming service
- It‘s a fully managed solution. You don‘t need upfront investment in hardware.
- Their ultra-low latency ensures a positive user experience.
- Their GoCoder SDK is bundled with their cloud streaming solution. A developer will find it easy to implement video streaming features.
- The SDK supports both Android and iOS development.
- You can also get their sample code for Swift and Kotlin, which will further help in the development.
- The SDK has extensive documentation.
Check out their pricing plans here.
8. Use a subscription management solution
I recommend using the API of a renowned subscription management provider. This will save effort for you since you don‘t need to code the subscription management function from scratch.
- Subscription management;
- Recurring billing;
- Subscription metrics;
- Recurring payments;
- Robust security features;
- Subscription automation;
- High-quality support from the Zoho team;
- Extensive API documentation.
You can find their pricing plans here.
9. Use eCommerce APIs to implement the in-app purchase feature
An on-demand video streaming app needs to support in-app purchases. I recommend you integrate an eCommerce solution to implement this feature. Moltin is a good option. Their eCommerce API has the following advantages:
- It‘s a flexible solution, and developers can use their APIs and SDKs in innovative manners.
- Moltin works well with a microservices architecture.
- It’s a performant solution.
- Developers can use their excellent documentation.
- Your iOS development will be easier with their Swift SDK.
- Their Android SDK will help in Android development.
- Common eCommerce functions like account management, carts, checkout, order management, store management, etc. are easy with Moltin.
Visit their pricing page to select a plan that suits you.
10. Use Node.js for the web app development
Node.js is a great option for web app development. I recommend you use it since it offers the following advantages:
- js supports asynchronous event-driven programming, which helps in achieving scale.
- js is performant.
- This highly popular open-source language has a vibrant developer community. The community has created thousands of tools and frameworks, and this helps developers.
- Streaming is easier to implement with Node.js.
11. Code, test, and deploy the web app
Go ahead with the web app development, testing, and deployment as follows:
- Use the AWS Elastic Beanstalk Node.js runtime environment.
- Use database services suitable for your requirement, on AWS Elastic Beanstalk. Read “Adding a database to your Elastic Beanstalk environment” for guidance.
- Test and deploy your Node.js app using the Express.js framework on Elastic Beanstalk. Read “Deploying Node.js applications to AWS Elastic Beanstalk” for detailed guidance.
12. Design the mobile app UI
Design an elegant and user-friendly UI for the mobile app, by focusing on the following key aspects:
13. Develop and test the Android app
Develop and test the Android app as follows:
- Use Android Studio, the popular Android “Integrated Development Environment” (IDE).
- Code your app using the modern Kotlin The concise syntax of this language offers many productivity benefits to developers. Programmers can eliminate common errors with Kotlin. I have explained the advantages of Kotlin in “Kotlin vs Java: which is the best choice?”.
- You can read “Get started with Kotlin on Android” for more guidance.
- Integrate Wowza GoCoder Android SDK, Zoho subscription management API, and Moltin Android SDK in your app.
14. Development and testing of the iOS app
You now need to develop and test the iOS app, which involves the following:
- Use Xcode, the popular iOS IDE.
- Swift, the modern iOS development language is a good choice for this project. I recommend you use it. Developers need to code less with Swift, and they can create performant apps. The language helps developers eliminate errors, and the app will have better maintainability. Read “How to migrate your Objective-C project to Swift?” to know more about the advantages of Swift.
- You need to integrate Wowza GoCoder iOS SDK, Zoho subscription management API, and Moltin iOS SDK in your app.
15. Publish your mobile app in app stores
Now that you have developed and tested your mobile app, you need to publish them to the respective app stores. Read the following guidelines:
16. Manage your project using effective PM tools
Your team will need to use the Scrum technique as follows:
- Plan “Sprints”, i.e., iterations, by estimating and prioritizing the features;
- Conduct “Daily stand-up meetings” for project status tracking;
- Obtain stakeholder approval for the iteration in a “Sprint review meeting”;
- Learn lessons from a completed sprint in a “Sprint retrospective meeting”.
I recommend you use Jira, which is a very popular PM tool for Agile project management.
This completes the on-demand video streaming app development project.
17. Optional – plan for other platforms to start a streaming service
While you have just developed the on-demand video streaming app for web, Android, and iOS, I recommend you start planning for the other platforms. Consider the following platforms:
- Android TV: Read “Build TV apps” for more information.
- tvOS: Read “tvOS tutorial: using TVML templates” for guidance.
- Amazon Fire TV: “Getting started developing apps and games for Fire TV” can provide additional information.
Factors to consider while choosing a technology stack to start a streaming service development
You need to choose the right tech stack. Consider the following factors:
1. Native mobile app development vs near-native development
For mobile development, your approach determines your choice of the technology stack. You could opt for developing native Android and iOS mobile apps. Native mobile apps deliver the best user experience, performance, and security.
Native mobile app development involves programming languages that work well with platform-specific operating systems. E.g., you will use Java or Kotlin for native Android development. You will use Swift or Objective-C for native iOS development. This approach makes the best use of platform-specific hardware features.
However, native mobile development costs more. You develop entirely different apps for Android and iOS. Maintenance costs increase too.
2. Web app development
You might use a few 3rd party APIs. Keep in mind that using too many external APIs can increase external dependencies.
On the other hand, you might develop RESTful APIs for the remaining functionalities. We recommend you strike a balance. You can develop your own APIs for core functionalities, and you can use 3rd party APIs for a few non-core functionalities.
You will need to choose appropriate databases for backend development. Consider using popular open-source RDBMSs (Relational Database Management System) like MySQL or PostgreSQL. You can use MongoDB or Apache Cassandra if you need a NoSQL database.
3. The kind of cloud computing platform you need to start a streaming service
Analyze the kind of cloud computing platform that you need. Your project requirements drive your decisions, e.g.:
- Do you need only IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service)? You could use Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud). Alternatively, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform might work well for you too.
- Consider using Amazon Elastic Beanstalk if you need a PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) platform. PaaS platforms manage the servers, networking, operating system, middleware, and runtime environment. You focus on application development, and you bring your data.
- You can use AWS Amplify if you need an MBaaS (Mobile-Backend-as-a-Service) platform. MBaaS platforms manage the cloud infrastructure, persistent storage, etc. This reduces your efforts to develop and manage the mobile backend.
- Do you need a CDN (Content Delivery Network)? CDNs offer advantages like low latency, high transfer speed, etc. You can consider using Amazon CloudFront, the CDN offering from AWS.
Hiring developers from a freelance platform vs a software development company
You might weigh between hiring freelance developers vs hiring programmers from a software development company. Keep in mind that you need to manage the freelancers that you hire. Freelance platforms help you to shortlist, interview, and hire software developers. However, they don’t provide any management support.
You need to find a replacement if the freelance developer leaves your project mid-way. Freelancers work part-time, which will increase complexity.
We recommend you hire full-time programmers from a software development company. These companies offer management support. They provide replacement if the developer leaves the project mid-way, which is another advantage.
Planning to start a streaming service and compete with Netflix?
A project to start a streaming service and develop an on-demand video streaming app can be complex. The more platforms you target, the higher the complexity. Consider engaging a software development company for a project like this.
Our guide “How to find the best software development company?” can help you to find a reliable development partner.
DevTeam.Space can also help you here with the development project to start a streaming service platform. Easily partner with our vetted and managed software developers from a field-expert developers community by sending us your project specifications.
One of our account managers will get back to you to discuss more details on onboarding, outsourcing developers, project planning to start a streaming service, etc.
Here are a few articles that might also interest you:
Frequently Asked Questions on how to start a streaming service
A video streaming app is an application that allows video to be streamed via the Internet to a remote computer or device.
Provided you have developer experience and the right developers, you can start a streaming service like Netflix.
Netflix and YouTube are two of the most popular video streaming apps today. Other great examples include Sofy.tv and Vimeo.