How to make a video streaming app like Netflix: features, time & cost

In this article, you will learn how to make a video streaming application, how much time it takes, what budget you will need. Let’s get started.

We have been observing increased consumption of video streaming for the past several years. Distributing TV series, films, programs that fit any taste, Netflix has become very popular recently. At the moment, it has over 180 million users from all over the world. However, how do you make a video streaming app like Netflix? How much does it cost? What functionality should you include? How do you find your niche to succeed on the market?

In this step-by-step guide, we will answer these and many other questions.

How did COVID-19 influence video streaming consumption?

Video streaming solutions are witnessing significant growth due to the COVID-19 quarantine. A research of 2,000 Americans who have access to video streaming platforms revealed that on average, a person is streaming 8 hours of content daily during the coronavirus outbreak.

Analysts also found that today people have access to 4 streaming applications while 38% of the surveyed individuals are logging into 5 or even more services.

How does Netflix video streaming app work?

To make a video streaming Netflix-like app, you should have a coherent idea of what it is. Netflix is the worldwide leading online subscription service that offers content on-demand. The system provides customers with the ability to watch movies, shows, documentaries, etc. across all devices that include smartphones, laptops, tablets, game consoles, and more.

The monetization model of Netflix is a paid subscription. You start with a 30-day free trial that gives you unlimited access to content. If you decide to continue using the application, you will have to make monthly payments. Plans range from $8.99 to $15.99 per month.

As of March 31, 2020, Netflix video streaming platform had nearly 183 million paid user memberships from all over the globe.

According to the official report, Netflix profit for the first quarter (that ends March 31, 2020), was about $5.8 billion. As of March 31, 2019, the quarter’s revenue was $4,521 billion. The main reason for such quick growth is the COVID-19 outbreak.

What should you consider before making a video streaming app?

There are 4 key points that you should take into account before creating an online streaming service: market niche, platforms, monetization strategy, and license. This will help you define the project goal, target audience, and the way how you will make money with your video streaming app. A license is required to ensure compliance with the law.

1. Define your market niche

To create a successful application, you should choose a niche on the market. Apart from on-demand video streaming service, there are many other options. Will you provide users with live broadcasts of sports events or show them world-famous cartoons?

The list of content that you can stream:

  • News
  • Sports events
  • Video games
  • Personal content
  • Cartoons
  • Educational content
  • Live tours
  • Events such as meetups, conferences, speeches
  • Other

We recommend you to conduct a competitor analysis and market research before developing video streaming software. This will help you find a niche that lacks great famous products and come up with unique positioning.

2. Operating systems

Although a top priority is to create a video streaming web application, consider building your product for iOS and Android, too. This will help you attract more customers while increasing their satisfaction.

In our software development company , we suggest doing the following: first, build a web solution and analyze user feedback that you can collect through reviews, comments, social networks, polls, surveys, etc. Then, if based on user reaction you see that many people really want to have a smartphone app, you will launch a mobile version, too.

3. App monetization strategy

Integrating the right monetization model is a critical issue to generate profit and not to disturb the user experience. While Netflix provides paid subscription, there are plenty of other monetization strategies that you can choose between.

  • Advertising — Display of ads and charging companies for placing them inside your video streaming app.
  • Freemium — Some content is available for free but users have to pay in order to access exclusive videos.
  • Ad Blocking — As multiple ads can disrupt the user experience, you can charge customers for blocking them.
  • Paid subscription — One of the most popular strategies in video streaming solutions. To access video content, users make payments on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis. You can offer a free trial as Netflix does, so that people can try your product first.

Note that advertising and ad blocking are monetization models that are especially suited for applications with a large audience.

4. Content license

In order to distribute content, every organization should ensure law compliance. You should buy a license to meet the required standards and stream videos.

Here is how to acquire a license:

  • Directly contact the copyright owner.
  • Rent the desired content from a distributor who has the right to provide such licenses.

You can use both options to meet user demand. In addition, think about purchasing exclusive rights for streaming certain TV shows, films, or series. No other website or application will be entitled to show them, which means that you will have more loyal customers.

The right to distribute content is expensive, especially if you include video production. In 2018, Netflix spent about $13 billion on content licensing and creation (Investopedia). In 2019, the company’s expenses on securing licensing agreements were $15.3 billion.

How to create a quality design of a video streaming app

When asking yourself how to make a video streaming app that will attract millions of users, one of the most important things is to create a beautiful user-friendly design.

On average, the time for designing a web platform like Netflix is 180 hours .

The design should meet the following requirements:

  • Provide an amazing user experience (UX) — Take care of intuitive navigation that involves placing elements where people expect to see them and developing a convenient menu structure and simple content search.

    Additionally, you can provide the synchronization of the video viewing location across all user devices. An important rule is that customers should perform the desired actions without thinking and find the desired information with a few clicks.

  • Be responsive — Make sure that the product looks and behaves as intended on all screens and devices including laptops, desktops, smartphones (iOS, Android), and tablets. The more platforms your video streaming application supports, the more users you will have.

  • Have a unique branding theme — If you aim to build a video streaming app like Netflix, direct copying of other platforms’ designs may lead your project to failure. Instead, you should create a user interface (UI) with a branding theme that will engage customers and make your product recognizable.

To develop a video streaming solution with a great modern design, the best way is to make it from scratch. Although this option is more costly than purchasing a market-ready template, you will receive a higher quality.

The app will look amazing on all screens and platforms, the content load speed will be improved. With a unique design, you don’t risk that someone will choose the same template and customize it in almost the same way.

Why is it better to start a video streaming app with an MVP?

Netflix is a video streaming platform that has rich functionality and is available on all devices. It has evolved for many years, with releases of new features and updates. Creating such a complex project from the very beginning will require much time and investment.

Finally, it may turn out that some product features that you’ve already included are not in demand as user needs are fulfilled by other mobile and web applications. That’s why it’s better to start small and gradually scale the system. We recommend you to launch a minimum viable product (MVP) first. An MVP will contain only the key functionality required to meet customer preferences.

You will be able to collect their feedback and see what you should improve, what features you should add in order to align with user expectations. Concurrently, you can promote your video streaming app attracting new users and gaining popularity.

Find out why creating an MVP is a great approach , especially for startups. You will also learn how Dropbox transformed from an MVP into a world-famous service.

Now, have a look at how to design and develop an MVP of your video streaming platform.

How to build an MVP of a video streaming app like Netflix

There are numerous features that you can develop but what are those that will allow a video streaming platform to perform the necessary tasks?

The key functionality of a streaming app like Netflix:

  • User login and registration
  • User profile
  • Content search
  • Payment gateway
  • Comments
  • Notifications
  • User settings
  • Multi-language support
  • Screenshots’ blocking
  • Administrator panel

Certainly, there are other useful features that will add value to your customers, for instance, personalized content recommendations or integration with social media. We will also consider them in this article.

When thinking through the product functionality, take into account industry-specific requirements. If your objective is, say, to create a news broadcasting service, you will need to enable live video streaming.

Top 9 features to make a video streaming app

1. User login and registration

This is one of the most important functions that you should include in your video streaming platform. Allow customers to sign in via email or social media accounts, so that they can choose the most convenient way.

Time: 50-60 hours.


2. User profile

When making a video streaming app like Netflix, provide people with the ability to create personal profiles. Here customers will be able to save favorite TV shows and movies, add new users to the account, and view a watch history.

Netflix allows users to have up to five profiles for one account, which gives different household/family members access to video content.

Time: 80 hours.


3. Content search

Content is the core feature of any video streaming application. To make the search process simple and enjoyable, integrate a selection of genres, film ratings, and user reviews.

Time: 100-120 hours.


4. Payment gateway

If you are going to make a mobile streaming app for iOS (Apple) or Android (Google), you don’t have to incorporate a payment gateway. Both platforms have their own payments systems providing software developers with APIs while a customer needs to simply create an account. Although they charge a commission from each transaction that is carried out via their system.

However, if you aim to build a streaming platform like Netflix for web devices, you should integrate a payment gateway, for example, PayPal, Stripe, or Braintree. When choosing the vendor, consider in what countries it is available in.

Time: 80 hours.


5. Comments

Provide users with the ability to comment and discuss content. By adding this feature, you will engage customers, increase the number of interactions within a video streaming platform, and add a kind of sociality. In case you build complex functionality, for example, moderation or antispam, the development time increases.

Time: 150-350 hours.


6. Notifications

Notifications are a must-have feature in almost any application that will allow you to automatically inform app members on the release of their favorite shows, episodes, recommendations, etc. This will increase customer engagement as they won’t have to monitor data on their own. You can send notifications directly to user smartphones or via email. If you have a mobile app, users will receive push messages via it, which is very convenient.

Time: 100-120 hours.


7. User settings

In a video streaming application, settings generally include a selection of audio track, language, play and pause options, activation of subtitles, and other things allowing users to easily interact with the platform.

Time: 150-200 hours.


8. Multi-language support

When creating a video streaming app like Netflix, add support for as many languages as possible. This directly affects the number of customers that your solution will have.

Time: 80 hours.


9. Screenshots’ blocking

This feature is irreplaceable for copyright protection. Screenshot ban prevents customers from taking images or recording the video content.

Time: 16 hours.


10. Admin panel — an app inside the app

Although an admin panel is often considered as a feature, it is as a separate application inside a video streaming platform. Through the administrator panel, you will manage the whole content of your web system: edit videos, moderate comments, publish and delete content. Furthermore, you will be able to add other users to the app and control access. This is complex but essential functionality.

Time: 2000-2500 hours.


How much time does it take to make a video streaming app?

How much does it cost to make an MVP of a video streaming Netflix-like app?

The final cost is based on the number of hours the team spends on app development and developer salaries, which significantly vary from country to country. The experience of software engineers you send your project to also affects your budget.

The hourly rates of software designers and developers

  • USA — $50-$150 per hour
  • Western Europe — $40-$100 per hour
  • Belarus (Eastern Europe) — $20-$50 per hour (including our custom software development company)

The price to build an MVP of a video streaming app

  • USA — $149,300-$567,900
  • Western Europe — $119,440-$378,600
  • Belarus — $59,720-$189,300

As you can see, the cost of making a video streaming platform is lower in Eastern Europe. It is worth noting that this region is known for its skilled IT specialists, field-specific expertise, and a high level of responsibility.

Additional features for your video streaming app

There are many other cool functions that you can incorporate into a video streaming platform like Netflix. Take them into account before creating your app as you may need to include some features into your minimum viable product: everything depends on the project goal and requirements. Also, an MVP is just a small version that you will further extend.

1. Social media integration

You should add this feature if you are going to promote a video streaming app in social networks or you have already had a large audience there. This will allow users to share content—news, announcements, reviews, etc.—in social media and sign in via their accounts with one click.

Time: 100-120 hours.


2. Live video streaming

If you need to provide live broadcasting of TV programs, news, sports events, or competitions, etc., you should enable live video streaming. This is a very complex feature that takes a lot of time to build. We recommend that you add it only in case it is really required by users.

Time: 5000 hours


3. Reviews and ratings

Customers will have the possibility to rate films, TV shows, and more. This will form ratings for each piece of content, so that users can choose what to watch based on various opinions.

Time: 100-120 hours.


4. Personalized content recommendations

If you’ve decided to create a video streaming app like Netflix, consider developing a content recommendation algorithm. Netflix has a CineMatch system that offers members personalized advice based on their preferences. The more they watch and rate, the more tailored suggestions Netflix makes. Incorporating this feature, you will increase customer satisfaction.

Time: 1,000 hours


5. Download feature

Allow users to save content on their devices, so that they can watch it offline whenever they want. This will increase customer loyalty and engagement.

Time: 100 hours.


6. Video quality

As there are different technical features and requirements of user devices, you can provide customers with the possibility to choose a video quality rate.

Time: 150 hours.


7. Geo-blocking

Distribution of some content, which is available in your platform, can be forbidden in a particular country or region. If you want to make a video streaming app for users from different parts of the globe, you should include geo-blocking in certain locations.

Time: 40 hours.


The key requirements for a video streaming app like Netflix

Before you create a video streaming platform like Netflix, consider the following technical requirements that your service should comply with:

1. Stable network connectivity and data storage

Employ a content delivery network (CDN) to provide stable connectivity, system availability, and avoid server overloading. Integrate a scalable data storage to keep video content and other information.


2. Security

When making a video streaming application, ensure high security of user data, copyrights, and payments. For this purpose, you can use a variety of tools and practices, for instance, SSL encryption, geo-blocking, screenshot ban, data access control, referrer and domain restriction.


3. System resilience

Resilience is about the capability of a streaming platform to withstand high loads. At some point, there can be influxes of users when millions of people are using the app simultaneously. As a consequence, the system has to quickly process numerous requests while providing the seamless user experience.

To ensure high system resilience, you can build a microservices architecture using technologies such as Docker, Kubernetes (k8s), Protocol Buffers, gRPC framework and deploy them to Amazon Web Services. On the AWS, you can use AWS Load Balancer, AWS Lambda, AWS CloudFront, Amazon Route 53, and Amazon S3, etc. to improve scalability and reduce infrastructure costs.


Technologies to make a video streaming app

Choose the technology stack based on business-specific needs. Generally, the main technical requirements involve high system resilience and availability during peak loads, ease of infrastructure maintenance, scalable and safe data storage.

Depending on the project goal, specifications for a video streaming app can also include fast time-to-market, amazing UI and UX design with numerous complex elements, different platforms and devices that a future product must support.

Technologies that you can use to launch a video streaming app like Netflix:

  • Frontend (what users see on the app screens): JavaScript, TypeScript, HTML5, CSS3, React, Angular, Vuex, Vue.js, Redux, MobX, etc.
  • Backend (powers the frontend and implements a business logic): PHP, Python, Go, Django, Flask, Node.js, Express, Laravel, etc.
  • Mobile: Swift (iOS), Java, Kotlin (Android), React Native (CrossPlatform)
  • DevOps: AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, etc.


Netflix uses various software technologies: Java, Python, Node.js, React, Amazon Web Services, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and a lot more.

With React, the company resolves 3 tasks: improves the content load speed, enables user interface rendering, and provides support for multiple A/B tests. To design, develop, and manage the CDN infrastructure, Netflix employs Python . You can check out the Netflix technology stack on StackShare.

Our experience in video streaming app development

At Arateg, we delivered a live video streaming platform that now has more than 4 million users worldwide. We are especially proud of this project as our engineers created a custom video editing program, which allowed our client to save $110,000 per year on third-party software licensing.

The application provides seamless live broadcasting 24/7 and high resilience even during peak loads. To make the system easily handle the load, our team developed a microservices architecture and used the cloud. Thanks to this solution, we raised scalability, simplified infrastructure maintenance, and reduced infrastructure costs.

Final thoughts

When creating a video streaming app like Netflix, conduct a competitor analysis, define your market niche, choose operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, etc.), and find a monetization strategy that perfectly suits your project. Remember about purchasing a license on content distribution and think about acquiring exclusive rights to show certain films, TV shows, cartoons, or series.

We recommend you to start a video streaming platform with an MVP. This will let you reduce time and costs while receiving a clear understanding of your audience’s needs and preferences. As a result, you will release a product tailored to your customers, which will increase their loyalty and satisfaction.

Employ a relevant technology stack for video streaming app development: for example, Python suits great for enabling high performance and improving time-to-market, React is a perfect library for designing beautiful user interfaces with multiple complex elements.

If online streaming software is intended to serve hundreds of thousands of users, think about using the cloud and building microservices architecture. It is much easier to scale and maintain than a monolithic system. Furthermore, the platform will be able to withstand peak loads while providing the seamless user experience.

If you have questions about launching a video streaming app like Netflix, you are welcome to contact our team . Our experts will get back to you within one working day and help you resolve technical issues. A project consultation is free of charge!

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