With a 72.4% growth between 2018 and 2019, video streaming is going big. The trend was recently boosted by the lockdown and mobility restrictions due to the COVID-19 epidemic, but is expected to continue far beyond 2020. One thing is certain: video services are booming, and businesses wanting a piece of the streaming pie are looking at the possible ways to do it.

It may be hard to imagine competing against Netflix, HBO GO and Hulu, but the good news is you don’t really have to. Today you no longer need to sit on a trove of content and technology to build your own service. Sometimes an innovative idea cuts the mustard, as was the case with Twitch, acquired by Amazon for an eye-watering US$970 million on August 25, 2014.

Virtually any business can benefit in some way from building a video on demand platform, and there are plenty of use cases. Sometimes a great idea is good for starters.

Find a niche and own it

Video is very quickly catching on in business. Companies like Google or various tech manufacturers use streaming for various product reveals, demos and tutorials. Musicians can continue performing live and continue making their living during the lockdown. Experts can use technology to share or sell their knowledge. Media organizations are streaming live news. Major sporting events can benefit from live streaming to bring matches to their fans, wherever they are around the world. Also, live broadcasting is an opportunity for governments to comply with open-meeting laws. Religious groups are using streaming media to grow their congregations. The list goes on and on.

Possibilities are plenty, but knowing how and where to start, can be intimidating at first. However, this can be very technically challenging.

The prospect seems very exciting, but few media businesses have or are prepared to build the technology stack necessary to build a functional OTT from scratch. The process involves a considerable investment of resources and staff time. There are some advantages and if the business model is executed properly, it may pay off with time.

What are the advantages of building your own video streaming platform from scratch

Building a software platform offers many advantages but is certainly not the best option for everyone. If you’re a budget-conscious content creator looking to bootstrap your business, you will be probably better off testing some available tools and services – and chances are you’ll be completely fine.

You’re looking to build a profitable video platform, you may want to consider doing it the hard way. Here are the main advantages of building your own video platform:

  • You set the rules – you no longer have to rely on the whim of the service provider in terms of censorship, technical requirements or advertising. You basically own your own yard.
  • You can freely gate the content (you implement the paywall and have full control over how to do it).
  • You can accept global payments – you pick the payment processor, i.e. have control over who and how will be processing payments from your audience and/or creators.
  • You “own” your audience – you can message them directly (if they consent) and advertise to them in ways not always possible with publishing e.g. on YouTube.
  • You own the technology – it may sound obvious, but by building your own thing, you gain control of the technology, the code base and all the algorithms governing the platform. This means you can earn revenue from the platform by offering this platform to clients, and get a return on your investment over time.
  • You decide about the development roadmap – you pick the features and decide how you want to differentiate yourself from the competition.
  • You can eliminate all the fees – video hosting companies host your videos for a profit – whether they earn through subscriptions or advertising. By building your own platform you can basically become the streaming company yourself and start earning money you would otherwise need to pay someone else.

The developers’ perspective

As developers with many years of experience in smart TV platforms, custom apps and launchers for Android TV, Apple TV, and HbbTV, we can offer some advice to help you make the decision.

Off-the-shelf video platforms are usually better suited for companies whose business does not focus on video but is rather an addition to their core offering. A good example here could be a fitness studio – one that apart from in-house fitness classes can offer guided workout videos for their remote customers.

A ready product would be a good fit for businesses that are only looking for basic features – they need to upload, display and monetize their video content quickly and conveniently at the smallest possible cost – and don’t necessarily have time for ongoing development and maintenance.

A ready product would be a good option for most companies planning to make their foray into video, and as a relatively low-cost way to verify the business model.

Custom made video platforms take much more time to build and, as a result, are more expensive. This approach allows customers to create a video platform more accurately tailored to their needs. A custom platform can include additional unique features as everything is developed from scratch so can be easily modified.

At Better Software Group, we usually carry out such projects for broadcasters and telcos whose business strictly focuses on delivering video experience to their viewers, and want to build a platform that will stand out from competitors’ offerings. At the initial stage of cooperation, we always make sure to help our customers choose the right solution for them.

The risk associated with building your own video streaming platform is that you can lose a lot of money if the idea flops. And the investment cost for this kind of product is much higher. Luckily, there is a way around it: you can test your idea first by using a ready solution.

What are the advantages of using an off-the-shelf platform?

You can start small. Before you accost a venture capitalist or a hedge fund for your first round of investment, you might want to try a ready-made solution first. This allows you to quickly (and at a low cost) validate your idea.

Of course, every off-the-shelf solution will soon turn out lacking in one way or another. It may not offer all the features you want, but it’s a good start.

Here are the main advantages of using a ready video streaming platform:

  • You can test-drive your idea at a fraction of the cost you would need to pay for the development of a platform from scratch.
  • You can start generating revenue straightaway – in most cases, you can start publishing and monetizing videos within hours of creating an account and customizing your platform.
  • Lower upfront cost – it will basically cost you less at the beginning.

Obviously, an off-the-shelf platform may come with limited or no customization possibilities and gives you no ownership of the data or technology, but that’s the price you pay for the convenience.

How much does it cost to build your own video streaming service?

This will vary across software development companies.

If you are considering different development options (e.g. an in-house dev team, outsourcing company, or a specialized technical partner), it’s just as important to evaluate their experience in designing, building, and maintaining platforms as the overall costs for the project.

Working with an inexperienced development team may work out cheaper, but only in the short term.

Bottom line

Developing your own technology is never a cheaper option. Starting with an off-the-shelf solution instead seems a better idea – at least for starters. It’s a low-risk way to see if your business can fly. The money you’ve saved this way can be channeled towards creating amazing content and/or marketing your platform to the audience.

But once your business idea does take off for good, the transition to a proprietary platform is usually unavoidable, giving you more control of the development pipeline and features.

Once you decide to build your own, it’s wise to partner with a development company experienced in the niche.

Get in touch

If you’re looking to partner with a developer experienced in custom video platforms, you’ve come to the right place. Better Software Group specializes in building mobile applications, web and backend solutions for broadcasters, content owners, telecommunication and media companies. Check our portfolio so see our previous projects. We develop iOS and Android apps and specialize in Smart TV platforms, custom apps and launchers for Android TV, Apple TV, and HbbTV.