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Building a Video Streaming App in 2021: Tech Stack, Features, Cost

07 May 2021 • 7 min read
Building a Video Streaming App in 2021: Tech Stack, Features, Cost
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Slava Ivanov
Slava Ivanov
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Andrii Horiachko
Written by Andrii Horiachko
Co-Founder and CTO at Softermii
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Live video streaming platforms have become extremely popular over the past few years. According to App Annie, between 2016 and 2018, the time individuals spent on video streaming apps increased by 140%. And according to recent forecasts, the size of the entire market is expected to reach $842.93 billion by 2027. Suffice to say, many are looking to get in on this.

So what goes into making a VOD app? In this article you will learn the details about streaming apps, their types, monetization, and details on video streaming app development.

TYPES OF VIDEO STREAMING APPS

In one of our previous posts, we’ve already discussed video chat app features and development. It's crucial to distinguish the different types of video chat apps. So before we talk about what goes into creating a streaming platform, let’s start by taking a look at some of the different kinds of video streaming services available on the market.

Live video Streaming Apps

Streaming services that cater to the gamer demographic are on the rise. Twitch is a prime example of this, with an average of 2.9 million concurrent users on the service at any given time, 27 million DAU, and is worth around $15 billion. To create a streaming service like Twitch, you'll need to do more than contend with its technical features but the vast community of creators and viewers, as well.

On-Demand Video Streaming Apps

On-demand mobile video streaming apps are something that's in practically every household these days. Some of the most popular ones are Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, and Apple TV+.

Some on-demand video streaming apps are also starting to provide live TV in addition to SVoD. Hulu is a prime example of this. You can watch more than fifty live TV channels, including local ones.

Video Streaming Apps from TV Providers or Networks

There are also video streaming apps from TV providers or individual networks. These would be HBO NOW, the Starz streaming service, or Showtime streaming. Rather than paying for premium channels as part of a cable package, as was once the case, users can now get access to programming for each premium channel individually.

Some users use and pay for multiple services at once. App Annie ran a survey to find out how many Netflix users watch other video streaming services in 2019:

That means that the users’ overlap among services is growing. This trend increases the competition between SVoD market players for acquiring more consumers and their time spent in the app.


WHAT IMPORTANCE DOES STREAMING HOLD FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

At this point, you may be wondering what adding streaming and live streaming video services can do for your business. The reality is that live video streaming app development can be useful in a variety of niches. There are very few professions that can’t benefit from streaming video apps in one way or another. Let’s talk about a few examples.

Entertainment — the state of the market speaks for itself. Services in this sector are popular and lucrative, and even niche providers like Crunchyroll, MUBI, and Warner Archive, can make a profit. Live streaming app development is showing up more and more in this niche, as well.

Medicine — telehealth is all the rage and shows no signs of stopping. Not all telemedicine products involve video streaming development, but a majority of them do.

Education — remote education tools are going through a huge boom due to COVID-19 and are likely to continue developing in the future. This teaching mode requires building a streaming platform (or even build a VOD platform) to add visual aids to the class.

eCommerce — with video streaming, buyers can see what the product really looks like instead of just getting a reference from a photo. The Chinese market is already seeing a boom in live streaming e-commerce and Forbes is predicting that the US is next.


VIDEO STREAMING APP FEATURES

There are a great many features that you should consider when you are planning out live video streaming application development. Let’s briefly go over some of the most crucial ones:

Onboarding

Onboarding is vital. New users need to learn about your app before starting to use it. But keep in mind that the onboarding process should be easy, intuitive, and fast.

Registration

Registering through your app should also be as easy as possible for the user.If a new user can’t do it within a few seconds, they may get frustrated and leave.

Video Library

A video library that’s readily accessible for your users is essential and should be present on the first screen when the product is launched. If you want to start a streaming service like Netflix, you'll need to contend with their features and this is a major one.

Watch Lists

Once you begin to establish what one of your app users likes to watch, then a recommended watch list feature will come in handy. They will appreciate your suggestions (but only if they're tailored correctly).

Ratings

This feature helps users to give reviews of broadcasters they like. Based on this feedback, you’ll be able to tell how popular each broadcast is, and you’ll know which guests to bring back.

Search and Discover

Searching for content should be quick and easy. Include a search box somewhere in the first screen, since users may be going to your app to look up something specific. Discover features are equally as important for those who are just browsing to see if anything catches their eye.

Downloads

Downloading videos to local storage is very useful to travelers and commuters without a stable internet connection. Yes, building a mobile video streaming website involves more than streaming video.

Cloud-Based DVR

If your product has a live TV feature, a cloud-based DVR system should be in place so users can record shows through your app that are airing live. The Cisco Infinite Video Platform and the Velocix Origin are two popular options you could implement in your video streaming app.

TECHNOLOGIES FOR VIDEO STREAMING APP DEVELOPMENT

A specific set of tech is used for video streaming service development. Let's talk about what the most popular solutions use for developing a video streaming website.

Video streaming app architecture

One thing is true for any web or mobile product out there: for users to have a rewarding experience, any lag time must be reduced.

This presents a significant technical challenge specifically when talking about building a streaming platform. For the sake of proximity, original data must be copied across hundreds of servers around the world. Latency elimination is only half of the puzzle, though. A thriving ecosystem of technologies must be in place to facilitate data analytics and algorithms to customize such services.

Data streams need fault-tolerant processing, storage, and geographical distribution. Because of this, processing frameworks need to rely on queuing systems like Apache Kafka. This is a system that you should consider if you’re creating a streaming platform.

Processing frameworks like Samza, Storm, Flink, or Spark can be integrated with a streaming platform to feed the data-processing pipeline and process batch data. Netflix utilizes Kafka as an event-processing pipeline and a real-time monitoring tool. It uses the microservice architecture, which is based on micro-batch processing.

Backend for video streaming

Creating the backend infrastructure is possibly the most complex part of building a VOD platform. HTTP Live Streaming (aka HLS) and Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (aka MPEG-DASH) are the two most popular modern solutions. They both work by breaking down any media content into small pieces and sending them to the end user over HTTP. The server specifies the length of each segment, typically around 3 seconds, and the end user's browser continuously sends requests for more data packets as long as they keep watching the video. To make this solution scalable, some caching and redundancy will need to be put in place.

Popular Tech stack for video streaming app development

Netflix uses Amazon's hosting service to distribute content, with a custom CDN. They use MySQL, PostgreSQL, Cassandra, and Oracle databases. Their front end is built on Node.js and React, and Falcor, a proprietary JavaScript library that facilitates easy content distribution.

Hulu recently renovated its tech components and revealed details of the process on their tech blog. Their product now uses Node.js and React for their front end, as well, with server-side rendering done by next.js.

Disney is not as forthcoming as Hulu and Netflix when it comes to their technology, but we can assume that similar solutions are in place for Disney Plus — Node.js, React, and Java on the front end with Amazon hosting.

Live video streaming software development is an entirely different process and will most likely involve WebRTC.

Video streaming app development process

If your goal is to build a Netflix-like video streaming website, you should keep in mind that while the process for developing any product will be unique, it’s going to have similarities to other products.

First comes the wireframe — the base that the application will be based upon. This is a very rough sketch of what the application can (not will) look like in the future. This crucial stage will ensure that every participant in the process is on the same page come development time.

The next step is building a working prototype. This is not exactly the MVP, a version of the product that is ready to be deployed, but rather a basic version of the product that can be used. This early version is used to assess feasibility and gather crucial early feedback.

UI and UX design starts concurrently with development after the initial prototype is built. This process involves multiple steps and stages of its own, and results in an app's final, refined look and feel. While designers give direction to the development team, they work on building beyond the core features and add all the bells and whistles.

Testing should start way before the final product is delivered to reduce the number of versions, and, as a result, overall development costs. Test for performance, security, usability, and compatibility throughout the development stage and after deployment, as well.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO DEVELOP A VIDEO STREAMING PLATFORM?

At this point, you’re probably wondering about what is the average video streaming app development cost. The bad news for you is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and each part of the product you make needs to be customized, therefore there is no average number to speak of.

The best option for startups with a limited budget is to start with MVP development. It could cost between $10,000 and $50,000, but can bring you investments and revenue for full video on-demand app development later on.

Many factors will go into the final price. You’ll have to think about what features you want it to have and how complex you want it to be. More features mean more time spent on development. You should also think about the size of the development team and whether it will be an in-house team or distributed dev team with which you can fill some skills gap quickly or reduce your video streaming app development cost.

Read also how to build a voice chat app like Discord and Clubhouse and costs for telemedicine platform.


SOFTERMII’S CEO TAKEAWAY

If you want to build a streaming platform, you already know that the VOD and live streaming market has seen a number of great successes and spectacular failures over the past decade. Even though Netflix is in every home now, projects like NBC's SeeSo only survived a few months after launch.

Can your product make it? Only if you have the right dev team consulting you on video streaming application development. Get in touch with us and we can guide you through what goes into our VOD platform development services.

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