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It all began in far 2007, when Netflix, a barely known DVD-by-mail service back then, leveraged the emerging streaming technology and hit the mark. It is not a surprise, that the number of users in the video streaming segment is 882.0 m and is expected to amount to 1,337.1 m by 2025.
While users avidly watch top shows on the platform, entrepreneurs worldwide wonder – how to start a streaming service like Netflix? Which features should it include and how to monetize a streaming service? You will find all these questions covered in this article.
What is a streaming service?
Simply put, a streaming service is an entertainment digital platform that broadcasts video content (TV shows, movies, and other media) on-demand.
Video streaming was designed to fill in the gaps of earlier forms of broadcasting. Back in the day, all we had was cable and satellite television, where users could not demand the show they wanted to watch.
Then downloading took over, where users had to wait for several hours to download video files on their computers.
Finally, video streaming stepped in, allowing users to watch shows right in their browsers without actually saving or copying them. Instead of downloading content in full, browsers load video files by small chunks, not saving them on the hard drive.
If downloads resemble a lake, streaming is more akin to a river (or a stream), which rapidly flows into the web-browser.
On-demand streaming vs live-streaming
Before diving into the tech stack details of building a streaming platform, it pays to outline the difference between on-demand streaming services and live-streaming platforms.
On-demand platforms bring together a big library of content and stream it to users on-demand on a subscription basis. Examples of such services include Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, YouTube, Vudu, Amazon Instant, LoveFilm, Baidu.
Take Apple, for example. On October 19, 2020, the company launched Apple Music TV – a livestream platform of popular music videos, including multiple musical releases, announcements, related TV shows, and guests.
The musical streaming market has long been dominated by such big players as YouTube or Vevo. Yet, Apple took this risk and stepped into the musical niche, poised to build a unique environment there.
Live-streaming usually refers to watching content (live concerts, sport, and gaming events) broadcast in real-time. Among such live-streaming providers, there are YouTube Live, Twitch and Snapchat.
6 steps you need to build a streaming service
Now, as all definitions have been given, we have arrived at the main part. Here are a few significant steps you need to take to start a streaming platform.
Step 1. Find your niche
Once you have decided to build your streaming platform, the first thing on your to-do list is to define your niche. Of course, this could be entertainment programs, top TV shows, stand-up concerts, and documentary.
But why not start something new? Unique content, as well as specific functionality of your platform, could become your punch line.
So do not try to boil the ocean by targeting everyone in the crowd. A more rewarding tactic would be to focus on a narrow niche and come out on top of it. Here are the top three categories, that are popular at the moment:
- Fitness. Streaming fitness-related videos amid the massive lockdowns could make your platform a hit;
- Education. Technology has changed the way we study. According to Statista, the number of e-learning market worldwide is expected to surpass 243 billion U.S. dollars by 2022. In these circumstances, producing edutainment series is an idea worthy to pursue.
- Documentary. Netflix has a wide acclamation for its documentaries, like the addicting “The Last Dance” and unveiling “Social Dilemma.” Still, the documentaries take the back seat after the popular sitcoms as “Friends” or “How I Met Your Mother.” So, developing a platform that showcases the best documentary pieces sounds like a great idea.
Step 2. Focus on your target audience
The streaming market is getting more and more competitive, with new streaming players joining the fray as often as every month. Unfortunately, a lot of them fail by the time you hear their name.
Take Quibi, for example. Once a promising short-form streaming platform, Quibi failed to survive the harsh competition in the outbreaking streaming wars amidst the pandemic. Now the company is shutting down after half a year of turbulent operation.
To stay in the game, you should not try to embrace the whole world, but focus on a specific audience of users. It would benefit you better if you strictly define your target audience right from the start and put all your efforts to win their hearts. Explore the market, conduct the user research, find your customers’ pain points, and fill the gaps.
Step 3. Find your content
Content is king. Especially, when it comes to streaming video platforms. So finding the content that corresponds to your customer’s interests is of paramount importance. There are two types of content you can use to that end: licensed content and self-created content.
You can rent shows and TV series from other authorized distributors (or copyright owners) with a license. This would mean you are using licensed content. For example, in 2018, Netflix spent about $13 billion on content licensing and production. Yet this investment paid off quite well, as Netflix earned more than $16 billion during 2018.
You can also produce your content to stream. Exclusive original content drives subscription growth for streaming services. Netflix took the lead with 447 original shows on-stream.
Step 4. Choose the monetization model
Make sure the platform brings you money by finding the right monetization model. Here are the monetization models you can consider:
One option is to restrict the access to your content by asking users to subscribe to your platform. You could charge monthly or annual fees for the on-demand access to your video content.
The key advantage that the subscription model brings is stable revenue.
At the same time, many security issues arise here. As users subscribe to the platform, they provide their credit card numbers, which results in the need of a larger database.
- Stable revenue;
- Strong brand loyalty;
- Personal data protection issues;
- Backlinks are challenged: no one can leave reference to your platform’s content because of the paywall.
This business model allows you to charge your users strictly for the particular content they choose to watch.
- Not stable, but substantial profit;
- Large numbers of traffic;
- Users do not make a long-term commitment to your brand;
- PPV model requires an investment in marketing. Users are prone to leave your platform to seek for free streaming. You will have to make due marketing efforts to prove your worth.
You can run an ad on a show that can be streamed at any time.
- You can provide free content for users;
- Large amounts of user-traffic;
- Long-term, sustainable revenues.
- Dependence on the health of partners’ businesses;
Step 5. Review streaming platform requirements
To build a streaming platform of your dream, you need to comply with a number of requirements. Here is a list of things you need to consider when starting your streaming service:
Cloud hosting and computing architecture
As you deal with an ample amount of content, you need a secure space to store it. To that end, we recommend using cloud hosting, as it brings the following advantages:
- Flexibility. The storage space expands automatically, as the amount of content on your platform increases;
- Price. Cloud storages are cheaper than hard drives.
If you expect your platform to scale up in the future, you need to make it flexible to the growing traffic. Consider integrating a content delivery network (CDN), which will broadcast videos to subscribers via a server network.
As you deal with licensed content and users’ data, security comes as a priority. Consider the following points to provide for seamless security of data:
- Set domain restrictions so that other users cannot see the link embedded in the source code and use it on another platform or website;
- Protect the licensed content on your platform by setting geographical restrictions;
- Make sure the network background provides content availability in the case of server failure.
It would be best to provide your subscribers with various payment options. Here are the most popular choices of payment gateways:
- PayPal Payments Pro.
Step 6. Build an MVP before pouring millions of VC money
You can carry out an impeccable user-research, fill in every gap, and rent top content to stream. But you will never know if your platform is good enough until you test it with real users. This is what the MVP stage is for: testing your product for usability and users' feedback. Here are the must-have and nice-to-have features to include for an MVP:
- Sign up / sign in;
- Basic user profile;
- Catalog with classified shows;
- Basic search;
- Payments and subscriptions;
- Show details page with episodes;
- Video player;
- Settings (language, subtitles);
- Push notifications;
- Admin panel for content management.
- Complex search functionality.
Check out our recent blog post about Uptech's approach for Prototyping and building MVPs here.
Building a streaming platform is a complicated process, which takes efforts and creativity. At Uptech, we are all geared up to help you create a video streaming service you dream about. Even if you have no more than just an idea of your future streaming platform, we will help you turn it into a full-fledged product.