Magdalena Jackiewicz
Editorial Expert

How to build a streaming platform like Netflix in 7 steps

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Without a doubt, video streaming services have changed the way we entertain ourselves for good. Platforms like Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and others allow users to watch content of their preference anytime they want, on any device, as long as they have a good internet connection. These video streaming platforms are a lot more convenient than traditional TV broadcasting, which follows specific time tables and demands that users adjust their schedules accordingly.

Netflix, the world’s most popular video streaming service has over 223 million subscribers all over the world as of Q3 2022. Starting your own video streaming service amid such competition will certainly be an uphill battle. However, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible – new products and services continue to disrupt the market, so maybe one day we’ll see a new streaming service that will outstrip Netflix.

Above all, you have to be strategic about the entire process. Here are the steps you can take to ensure that your online video streaming business is up for the challenges ahead – by all means do not think that these steps are small!

Step-by-step guide to building a video streaming app

Step 1: Pinpoint your niche

An app for everybody will serve nobody, so you have to define what niche you want to target with your video streaming service. Every digital tool must be created with a specific audience in mind. The niche we’re talking about doesn’t have to be small – in the end Netflix has over 223 million subscribers.

Understanding what kind of people you want to target will determine the kind of content you want to offer (or, if you have a specific content you want to distribute, define the target consumer of that content). It’s important to do it at the outset of the video streaming app development as it will guide you throughout the process. 

In the beginning, Netflix offered primarily Hollywood and indie entertainment. They gradually expanded as their customer base grew by investing in original content like TV series, stand-up specials, and docuseries, which gave their video streaming platform an edge.

Step 2: Find the right business model

You should be aware that when you build an app like Netflix, it will take several years before you start making profit. With this type of business, you are likely to invest more than you earn, but you should be able to break even and start making profits in the long run.

Before you take the risk, however, do think about the overall value of the video streaming service. Also, think about the lifetime value of your customers which will allow you to optimize the overall value of the platform. You’d also have to plan to take note of user behavior and act on it accordingly. The more time users spend on your video streaming app, the more willing they are to pay for a long-term subscription.

Don’t forget to also allocate the budget for marketing activities and to pick the best monetization strategy. You could, for instance, charge on a monthly, bi-annual or annual basis, but you shouldn’t forget to also include a free trial - that’s actually the best way to get new customers and convert them to regulars. Netflix’s conversion rate from free trials is an astounding 93%! You can find more monetization options in our article on SaaS pricing models.

Step 3: Create and organize your video content

Once you’ve defined your niche, you can move on to actually creating the content. This process will involve preparation of subtitles and meeting other requirements to remain in compliance with various regional regulations (also pertinent to the geographic location of your users).

With your video content ready for streaming, you should look into organizing it in a way that showcases the content in an appealing way. Users will be more likely to engage with a well-organized catalog and it can actually help you drive more business and increase retention. Think about categorizing the videos by relevant themes, multiple filtering options, appealing video thumbnails as well as intriguing titles and descriptions.

In addition, you should think about regular content updates, video quality and ensuring that your stream is consistent and doesn’t break up. All of these aspects will contribute to better user experience, which is vital to growing your video streaming app.

Step 4: Pick the right tech stack

To create a video streaming app like Netflix, you must pay great attention to selecting the best tech stack that will maximize the experience and ensure service continuity also with fluctuating traffic. You also want your own streaming service to be scalable, right? To achieve these goals, you will need a solid architecture supported with the right tech stack.

We cannot explore this topic at length in this article, but I devoted a separate blog to building video streaming apps and discuss key tech stack considerations you will have to make. You will have to think about the appropriate hosting platform, Content Delivery Network, video streaming protocol and other components.

Step 5: Personalize the video streaming service

I assume it’s obvious that copying an existing application or website 1:1 is pointless. You have to remain competitive and personalization is what can give your service a competitive advantage. Think about your target users and aim towards making your app more appealing to them with the design and content.

You can definitely get creative in your approach to personalization. Current common techniques involve offering curated content (be it by theme or selected pieces, like this summer playlist by Barack Obama), data-driven content (like Spotify’s popular Wrapped campaign), offering relevant recommendations (which is now a norm and they will keep on getting better and better) or promoting new content that could be of interest to the user, their friends or listeners with similar interests.

Netflix conducts an extensive research on its target audience, so that they even know what snacks they prefer! By collecting detailed user data they are able to constantly work on improving its algorithms.

Step 6: Choose your target platforms

Likely, you will want to offer users the ability to access your Netflix like app from different devices. This goes beyond PCs, laptops, tablets and mobile phones: video streaming services can also be made available on smart TVs, game consoles, BluRay players, set-top boxes, etc.

You can plan to launch on just the most commonly used devices and then look at usage statistics to understand the demographics of your audience. That should give you an idea whether it would be worth it to make your video streaming app available on other devices as well.

Step 7: Grow your Netflix-like app

Planning activities oriented at growing your video streaming service is just as important as building the platform itself. In the end, the audience will be the measure of success of your video streaming solution. Plan relevant strategies for driving new users via relevant channels (discount codes?) and how you intend to keep them.

The type of content you will be adding to your platform as well as its frequency will certainly matter. For useful insights on the video content types look into your streaming app usage statistics and user behavior.

MVP features of your video streaming application

Now that you know what steps to take in order to build your own video streaming platform, you may be wondering what features should be included in the said app. I’ve got the answer for you right below. I’m also including some tips on what these features should offer to maximize the user experience of your Netflix like app.

Registration

Your video streaming app will work without registration, however, it will be much easier for you to offer personalized content through an account. In addition, a streaming service can only charge payments from authorized users, so you must implement a registration process in order to make profit. Remember to offer easy and different registration options: via email, social networks or Google accounts.

Personalized home page

This is a no-brainer: your video streaming app or website must have a home page. It’s the face of the design, so make sure it’s both appealing and engaging. The majority of streaming websites offer video preview when a user hovers over it. The home page should also feature new and trending content and a list of personalized recommendations.

At the same time, be mindful of the fact that too many videos may irritate users, so you will have to perform a number of A/B tests to strike the right balance between too much and too little video content.

Personal profile

A user should be able to look into their personal profile once they register on your video streaming app and have the ability to change the email address, passwords, access permissions, store credit card details, and so on. What’s also useful from the user’s perspective is a viewing history and updates on favorite TV shows.

Search

You cannot start a streaming service without a search function that will allow users to find the video content they are looking for. Ideally, you want to offer as many filters as you can, so that viewers can browse their favorite shows or movies by cast or director, not just by the title. You can also work on further personalizing their search results in accordance with their recent searches – remember, personalization is key also with video streaming services!

Content management system

A content management system is the heart of your video streaming service. This component will be used mainly by your employees to upload new content and manage the existing. Don’t overload this feature with too many functionalities and concentrate on making the video upload process as simple as possible. You don’t want to give your employees a hard time when including new content on the platform.

Also, make sure you implement a relevant system for assigning roles to your employees. Persons engaged in managing content shouldn’t e.g. be able to see the personal information of your users. Your marketing team, however, will certainly want to have access to usage statistics, and so on.

Payment system

Naturally, you’ll want to monetize your video streaming app and you can choose between a third party payment provider or a custom payment service. If you opt for the latter, you’ll have to comply with the current regulations and implement relevant security protocols. Reliable third party providers include Stripe, Klarna and Braintree.

Your platform should support various payment options, like credit cards, bank transfers, PayPal and others to make payments as convenient as possible for the users.

Building a video streaming service like Netflix with RST

Creating a Netflix-like video streaming app is an enormous undertaking – not just from the software development perspective, but also when it comes to maintenance and scalability as well as expanding the business. Each of these elements requires thorough planning and clear strategy. You will want to create a pleasant and engaging experience if you want to drive new customers and make the existing stick with you in the long term.

At RST, we are well-equipped and ready to help you launch your own video streaming service. To get a quote and understand the timeline, contact me at magda@rst.software and we’ll get down straight to business.

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