How to Make a Streaming App: Features, Tech Stack & Cost Analysis
Disney launched its Over-the-top (OTT) services in 2019 and since then has achieved 116 million subscribers as of July 2021. In addition, according to Variety, Disney Plus is set to reach more than 260 million paid subscribers by 2024.
However, it’s not just the movies and shows for which Disney’s OTT platform has witnessed success; for example, its ESPN+ service has close to 1.71 million subscribers.
We have already seen massive streaming giants like Netflix, Youtube, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, and others reap the benefits of enormous content demand. There is no denying that building a streaming app looks attractive for businesses, but several aspects need consideration.
Here, we give you a step-by-step guide on how to make a streaming app for your business, focusing on features, tech stack, specific requirements, and cost. Typically, the cost of developing a streaming app is somewhere between ($27,994-$58,475) though depending on multiple variables.
Step-by-Step Guide to Make a Streaming App-
Step-1 Market analysis
The first step towards building a streaming application is to define the problem for which your app will serve as a solution. So, you need market analysis to understand the present streaming app ecosystem, its users, and their pain points.
For example, users earlier needed a cable TV subscription for streaming content. While this was the sole model, it had its drawbacks, like paying for the channels you don’t want to see and spending on installation costs.
The answer was online streaming applications allowing users to stream Live TV channels without installation costs and lower expenses per month.
Similarly, there can be several use cases for streaming applications that depend on the problem you define. Some of the use cases for streaming applications are,
VOD can be categorized into two major categories, cable-based VOD and OTT platforms.
Another difference is the medium; while cable-based VOD has TV streaming at its core, OTT leverages the internet for video streaming services.
OTT has three major subcategories,
- Subscription-based video-on-demand
- Transactional-based video on demand
- Advertisement-based video-on-demand
OTT and VOD applications have helped users with more choice-based streaming and access original content with monthly subscriptions, which was earlier limited to cinema halls.
Music streaming apps
Online music streaming apps have seen massive growth, being the leading contributor in the music industry apart from offline sales. While some music streaming applications offer a subscription-based service, others provide paid content.
Check out this guide on how to make a music app
ESports streaming apps
ESports streaming like Twitch has been quite popular. It’s an eSports streaming service where you can stream gaming content uploaded by a massive community of gamers. Some of these apps also enable chat rooms and live scores for gaming events.
Understanding the pain points and building a streaming application based on the solution needs consideration of use cases with features that will serve such services. This is where you need to identify critical features and then design your application accordingly.
Step-2 Identifying features
Streaming applications need specific features for providing services and content access. For example, a premium access feature becomes essential if your application follows a freemium model, where specific content is free, and users need a premium subscription for other titles.
Therefore, you need to identify several key features for building a streaming platform, depending on the use cases.
Basic features of a streaming application can involve login, profile management, admin panel, etc. Developing basic features may not seem intimidating, but you need to think about aspects like user access, personalizations, user experience, etc.
For example, If you provide a social login feature for your streaming application, you will need social media API integrations and security measures like 2FA(two-factor authentication).
You can use an authentication system to add an extra layer of user verification through a passcode or one-time password delivered on their device.
Similarly, you need to provide personalization features that allow users to add multiple account profiles for profile management. Users can also add their location, enabling the personalization of content according to the local streaming market.
Identifying such features will help you understand different service integrations like map service integration for a user location update.
Apart from these features, you can add notifications and comments where users can comment on their favorite movies, shows, songs, etc.
Notification feature will provide updates to customers on the addition of new titles into your catalog or a live eSports streaming event, which depends on the use case.
Take an example of Youtube, where the entire model of the app depends on user-generated content, and that is why the video upload feature becomes essential.
Here, along with the feature supporting services like video format options, adding descriptions, video thumbnails, audio, and metals(titles and tags) are some critical aspects for you to consider.
A streaming application will also need several advanced features depending on the use case type. For example, an advanced search feature allows your users to find their favorite tiles and shows in the application. Apart from an advanced search feature, there are other features like,
- Multiple payment options- Providing various payment options allow customers to easily subscribe to your streaming services or buy specific content online. You can even add cryptocurrency as a payment option, with several countries now supporting the digital currency.
- Multi-language support- This is an essential feature for streaming applications that cater to users across different regions. For example, Netflix offers support for audio in multiple languages for titles on its platform.
- In-app chat- Adding in-app chat will allow your users to interact with others on the platform and share their experiences regarding different content.
- Hosting streams- Streamers can broadcast or host streams on their channel for other users to consume content. Apps like Twitch and Youtube allow streamers to broadcast live streams for other users.
- Private streaming- It is a feature that allows streamers to opt for private broadcasting of their content to a specific user, set of users, or restricted to a region. Discord is one application that provides such a feature of private streaming.
Building an application with such features for CTOs requires several vital considerations like the tech stack, app architecture design, development process, and cost estimations.
Want to create an app like Airbnb? Check this guide
Step-3 Required tech stack
The Tech stack of any application has several aspects that you need to consider. Right from the development frameworks to deployment platforms, there are several different factors of tech stack to consider.
However, if you are looking for a reliable video streaming app, you will specifically need,
- Encoding for data transfer or bitrate management
- Storage or database
- Deployment platforms
- Integrations for enhancing different functionalities
So, let’s understand a specific aspects of the streaming app tech stack.
Streaming is the process of delivering data before it downloads on your device or loads on your device. This minimizes the memory footprint and allows you to have access to data uninterrupted through a stream. Streaming protocols are the standard methods through which such streams are executed.
MPEG- DASH is a streaming protocol where DASH stands for “Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP.” It breaks down the video content into small segments that adjusts the quality for uninterrupted streaming as per network intensity.
The database or origin server will divide a video stream into several segments of fewer seconds. Further, these segments are indexed by the server and encoded for different devices to stream them with varying encoding standards.
Similar to MPEG-DASH, HLS is another streaming protocol known as HTTP Live Streaming. It breaks down videos into downloadable HTTP files and delivers them to the user’s device through HTTP protocol.
These devices load the HTTP files like videos. Therefore, HLS is an excellent option for the development of streaming applications as they support every device with internet access. At the same time, other streaming protocols need specific servers for data streaming.
RTMP or Real-time Messaging Protocol is used for the live streaming of videos. For example, most of the high-definition live streaming of concerts leverage RTMP protocols. However, there are 10-20 second delays between the streaming source and the user’s device.
One of the best approaches that live streaming applications use to reduce latency is by using both RTMP and HLS protocols together. The RTMP protocol allows high-definition live streaming, and HLS helps manage latency through adaptive bitrate streaming.
WebRTC is a streaming protocol primarily used in real-time communication. It works as a plugin and does not require a native application for streaming of data feed. WebRTC allows peer-to-peer communication through live streaming of audio/video feeds. Google Meet, Zoom, and other such applications use WebRTC for video conferencing features.
These are platforms that’ll enable content streaming. For example, cloud-based platforms are an excellent option for video streaming applications supporting variable bitrate (VBR).
It adjusts the data transfer rate to accommodate complex video segments. So, where there are complex segments, it will fetch more data, while if there is less need for data transfer, the encoder reduces the rate for optimization.
With cloud-based services, you can customize a processing function that allows you to create a trigger function. Such triggers allow bitrate management for enhanced video quality for streaming applications.
There are several cloud-based platforms that you can use for building a streaming app,
- IBM cloud video
- Cloudflare stream
Similarly, you will also have to think about which deployment platforms to target for your streaming application.
For example, if you want to publish your application on the Google Play Store, you need a native streaming platform that works in sync with the AndroidOS. You need to think about iOS, desktopOS, and other platforms.
Content Delivery Networks(CDN)
A streaming protocol like HLS or MPEG-DASH scrambles the video into small segments received by devices through a CDN. It refers to a distributed group of servers worldwide that allows faster content delivery on the internet.
So, if you are wondering how to create a streaming app for your business, CDN becomes one of the critical aspects of your tech stack. Configured CDNs can help seamless streaming and enable secure data access for users.
Some of the key benefits of choosing the right CDN are,
- CDN provides geographically distributed servers that reduce the load on a single server and provide low latency.
- It facilitates aggregation of user analytics like real-time load data, demand information on content assets, capacity per customer, trends, consumption patterns, etc.
- Enables uninterrupted streaming for your application through points of presence (PoPs) which pick up the traffic from the last point in time where data was saved.
- Due to a distributed framework, the availability of content for users worldwide becomes a reality which helps in scaling your streaming business.
Top CDNs to choose for streaming apps,
- Amazon Cloudfront is a full-service cloud platform that enables streaming platforms with support for HLS, DASH, HDS, and MSS streams and 216 points of presence across 42 countries.
- Limelight Networks is one of the top CDN service providers for streaming platforms with 130 points of presence across 70 countries
- Microsoft Azure provides a full-service cloud platform with storage enabling HLS, DASH, HDS, and MSS streams with 129 points of presence across 65 countries.
- KeyCDN offers support for HLS protocol only and has 34 points of presence across 23 countries with enough documentation to get you started.
- Akamai is one of the largest CDN services for streaming platforms with servers across 130 countries supporting HLS, HDS, and DASH protocols
- Fastly Offer 60 points of presence across 30 countries delivering HLS, MSS (Microsoft Smooth Streaming), HDS, and DASH streaming protocols.
Hosting & Database
If you plan to create a video streaming platform, you must have a reliable hosting service. It allows you to provide a seamless experience for your audiences for streaming content.
Similarly, database requirements are also essential to understand before you develop your streaming platform.
Especially when you think about the scalability of your service, you need to consider cloud-based options like Amazon S3. Such services can help you cater to a large audience and provide uninterrupted streaming.
Step-4 Design & development
Designing your streaming application to incorporate these features and provide a fantastic user experience needs proper planning. Starting from the design stage, where a wireframe of the user interface(UI) is first developed for visualization.
And then upon further approval by the client, an app development company can move forward to creating a minimum viable product.
Designing a UI needs consideration several factors like
- Human-centric design- Keeping a user at the center of your UI design process helps deliver easy-to-navigate applications.
- Organizational goals- Based on the use case and business requirements, UI design needs to extend the organizational logic.
- Demographics- UI designs developed keeping in mind that a user’s location and ethnicity can significantly impact the user experience due to a sense of familiarity.
- Space heuristic- Leveraging different aspects of the UI spaces can be advantageous; for example, you can add negative spaces for an enhanced experience.
- Content placement- Considering the accessibility of content for streaming applications, you can design the UI for the optimal experience
An MVP allows your team to test different parts, validate assumptions and integrate feedback from users’ experience of core app functionality.
MVP can include features like social media logins, profile creation, management, free content access for streaming applications if the freemium model is to be introduced later, etc.
It is an approach that follows the specific path of building a minimal app, measuring the performance, learning the shortcomings, and further improving with each iteration.
So, with an MVP, you can create a working product that quickly provides value to customers minimizing the cost of prototyping.
Step-5 Testing & maintenance
Streaming app testing is an essential part of your development plan as you need to ensure the higher performance of UI, backend server, API integrations, and more. Here, leveraging automation tools like Selenium and Appium will help you reduce the time needed to carry out different tests, which allows your organization to adjust app performance.
There are different types of tests that you will need to perform for streaming applications like,
- UX testing to ensure a uniform experience across devices. You need to test consistency, navigation, and functionality across different platforms.
- Load testing includes simulation of peak demand on the system to ensure that your applications can cope with higher loads. Testing the load capability becomes vital when millions of users access to content from your application across multiple locations.
- Performance testing involves analysis of reliability, stability, and server performance to user requests for content irrespective of bandwidth or platforms. Such testing will allow you to ensure flawless streaming services and higher performance of applications.
- Localization testing includes checking the linguistic precision, cultural fit of content, personalizations, and accurate currency format for payment for local customers. It is an important test to ensure that the localization of content is in sync with user preferences.
Here, maintaining the optimal performance needs tracking of different KPIs and adjusting the app’s performance. However, maintenance also needs an understanding of the application tech stack and architecture design, enabling application functionality.
How much does it cost to develop a streaming app?
The cost of developing a streaming application needs several considerations. It varies with the complexity of features, developer engagement model, and multiple other factors. Understanding the expenses helps formulate a reliable development strategy for optimized results.
When you think of how to create a streaming app, features play a vital role. For example, if you are developing an SVOD OTT app, you need to offer several different features for users across different demographics.
Developing multiple video resolution options like 4K or 1080P and even multi-language audio changes can take more time.
Unlike complex features, basic ones like user login and profile management take less development time due to reduced complexity. However, the question here is how can you measure the exact cost?
The answer is development time. However, it varies depending on the type of application, scale, and features.
For example, complex features will need more time to develop while creating an MVP(Minimum Viable Product) with basic features requires lean resources and time.
The total cost of streaming app development can be calculated by,
Total app development cost = Total numbers of hours needed to develop an app *Cost/hour of the developer
Here is a list of some simple and complex features and the average time to develop them.
|Feature||Description,||Average Hours For Development||Total Cost per feature
|Total Cost per feature(Cross-platform|
|Login||Login through email
Login with social media,
Log out, and in
|Profile||Add personal information
|Advanced Search||Searching content
Offering recommendations for search
|Push Notifications||Users to get push notifications on their device||26-30 hours||$997-$1150/
|User Profile Management: Admin Panel||Admin panel will have features for management of the user profile||60-90 hours||$2301-$3451/
|Video Uploads(For Streaming Apps like Youtube)||Allows users to upload their videos as creators||35-45 hours||$1342-$1725/
|Payment Integration||Integration of different payment gateways
Multiple payment options
|Total App Development Cost||$27,994-$58,475|
Note: The above calculation is carried out by considering the following pricing,
- An average salary of $38.35/hour for an Android software developer.
- An average salary of $50/hourfor an iOS developer
- An average salary of $53/hour for a cross-platform developer
The cost of developing a streaming application is not just restricted to feature-based expenses but also has other costs ranging from market research, ideation, testing, and maintenance. Here is an analysis of cost for every stage of streaming app development
|Name of the Stage||Average cost|
|Pre-discovery stage||$5k to $25k|
|Design stage||$5k to $50k+|
|Development stage||$27k to $58k+|
|Testing stage||$3k to $5k|
|Project management||Up to $5k+|
While cost estimation purely depends on features and different stages of the application development cycle provides an understanding of several cost factors, engagement models are also an equally important factor to consider.
Dedicated vs. fixed cost model
A Fixed cost approach is where app development companies deliver a product within a specified timeline, pre-defined requirements, and agreed on a budget. It is restrictive at its core as you don’t get the flexibility to change the project scope already in the development stage.
A fixed-cost model becomes the best option for businesses looking to engage app developers for short-term projects. However, you need a more flexible engagement model like the dedicated approach for long-term projects where the scope and requirements are not rigid.
A dedicated model allows you to focus on the business aspects, while the entire development responsibility falls on the shoulders of the app development company. With the dedicated model, you will have a team of professionals working as an extension of your organization.
Take an example of a fitness company that wanted to develop a platform for their gyms, trainers, and dieticians. Such a platform will allow fitness studios, gym trainers, yoga instructors, and dieticians to build native applications for their clients.
Through such applications, they can manage diet plans, add workout videos, recommend supplements, track the progress of clients, etc.
There were several challenges for the fitness company like
- Building customizable packages for clients
- Allowing seamless streaming of workout videos
- Reducing full QA lead time before publishing the apps
- Maintaining different instances for hosting several white-labeled apps
- Achieve reliability and scalability through multiple instances
- Adding features to facilitate video call sessions and
Coping with all these challenges was difficult as their first version of the platform was built through a team of freelance developers. So, there were problems of a cohesive strategy, which led to higher QA lead time and higher time-to-market.
Simform helped them with a dedicated team that worked as an extension of their organization. First, our experts analyzed their existing platform and researched the market to add more value.
Further, our dedicated team helped the fitness company with CI/CD implementation and management to ensure seamless integration of services like video APIs or communication APIs. We also enabled testing automation to reduce the QA lead time and improve time-to-market.
However, our dedicated team’s most significant change to their existing setup was a cohesive strategy leveraging the DevOps culture. We synchronized their operations, improved delivery time, and built a reliable platform for crafting white-label native apps.
How can Simform help you?
Now that you understand all the aspects to consider while building your streaming app, all you need is the right solution that can enable a high-end user experience. This is where an experienced app development company like Simform can help you.
With our state-of-the-art application development solution, you get,
- Certified experts on app design,
- High standards of app coding,
- Full-cycle application development,
- Custom API development,
- Cloud-based deployments
- Complete technical support
Time and again, we have served several clients with innovative solutions through dedicated application development services. So, why wait when you can leverage Simform and be the next streaming giant? Get in touch with us for more information on our services.