OTT App Development: A Step-by-Step Guide

11 min
Eduard Grigalashvili
Technical Writer
Sophia Davis
Digital Transformation Expert

Do you remember the TV days?

Back then we couldn’t just turn on our favorite show and binge-watch it till 3 AM. We had to wait for it to be broadcast, usually no more than one episode per week.

Terrible, right?

Luckily, today we have OTT platforms like Netflix, HBO, and Apple TV that allow us to stream content whenever we like. These solutions have simplified our lives, almost completely eclipsing cable TV:

  • 61% of young adults don’t use cable or satellite TV, preferring video streaming services instead.
  • The OTT market boasts around 4 billion users, and this number is projected to increase to 4.9 billion by 2029.
  • 99% of households in the US pay for at least one streaming service.

As a business owner, you can’t miss the opportunity to capitalize on the high demand for OTT solutions. So you must be wondering how to create an OTT app and make it successful. If so, this article is for you.

AnyforSoft, an experienced provider of media & entertainment software development services, is here with a step-by-step guide to OTT app development.

You will learn:

  • What OTT apps are;
  • What types of OTT solutions you can build;
  • Why users prefer OTT over traditional television;
  • What features you should consider in OTT platform development;
  • Different ways to monetize your application;
  • How to build an OTT app from scratch;
  • How much it is going to cost.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

What Are OTT Apps?

OTT stands for over-the-top. Over-the-top streaming apps deliver media content directly to users via the internet, bypassing traditional distributing channels such as cable and satellite. They provide access to on-demand content, supporting most internet-connected devices: smartphones, tablets, PCs, laptops, smart TVs, etc. In comparison to already mentioned traditional TV platforms, OTT apps offer more flexibility, convenience, and control over how we consume content, which contributes to their popularity.

what are ott apps

Types of OTT Apps

Of course, OTT apps are not limited to online video streaming solutions. You can also find:

  • Audio streaming applications (YouTube Music, Spotify, Apple Music). Learn more about them in our article: How to make a music app.
  • VOIP tools (Discord, Skype, WhatsApp).
  • TV broadcasting software (Apple TV, Android TV, Google TV).
  • Messaging services (Telegram, Facebook Messenger, Viber).

However, this blog post focuses exclusively on video streaming platforms. They also have different types:

  • Services-based OTT services.
  • OTT platforms for content and communication.
  • OTT platforms in the form of devices.

Let’s briefly review each.

Services-based OTT services

These services offer libraries of video content, including movies, TV shows, documentaries, and so on. They typically work on a subscription basis, providing access for a monthly subscription fee. Services-based OTT services are applications that most of us are used to. Examples include: Netflix, Disney+, HBO, Hulu.

OTT platforms for content and communication

These OTT apps offer more than video content delivery. They support broader functionality, often including messaging, social interaction, and live streaming capabilities. Many of them rely on user-generated content. Examples include: YouTube, Twitch, Facebook Watch.

OTT platforms in the form of devices

These are physical devices that offer convenient access to OTT content. For example, Apple TV is an OTT platform in the form of a device, providing access to various OTT streaming platforms: Apple TV, Netflix, and others. Another example is Roku—a small set-top-box that supports Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

Read also: 11 Digital Media and Entertainment Trends

Why Users Prefer OTT Services Over Traditional TV

The popularity of OTT apps over traditional TV platforms can be easily explained:

  • Accessibility. An OTT platform can be accessed from most devices connected to the internet, unlike traditional television.
  • Personalization. Video streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu personalize the user experience, recommending content to every user individually based on their interests, preferences, watching history, and other factors. Traditional television can’t do that.
  • Convenience. An OTT platform offers video on demand. You can watch your favorite movie or show whenever you like, without having to wait for the broadcast.
  • Variety of video content. An OTT video streaming app offers more variety of content than any cable or satellite TV. What’s more, it allows you to access video content that is banned from television.
  • Lower cost. With the transactional video on demand pricing model, many OTT apps allow you to pay only for the content you watch, which is not the case with television.

OTT Platform Development: 13 Must-Have Features

Now that we’ve discussed the types of OTT apps and their benefits over traditional television, the next question to cover is your future platform’s features. To compete with the giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV, your software needs to be on par. Here are the essential features you should incorporate during OTT application development to build a competitive product.

1. Video content library

Your OTT video streaming app should have a diverse library of movies and TV shows in various genres to cater to different tastes and preferences. The more choice you will provide, the more users you will attract and engage.

2. Playback features

Ensure your player offers high-quality video streaming and supports modern resolutions, including SD, HD, FullHD, 2K, and 4K. Provide extensive playback controls with the ability to play, pause, rewind, fast-forward, adjust volume, turn on/off the subtitles, and so on.

3. Multilingual content

Apart from having a big content library, you should offer multilingual support. Ensure users can switch between languages effortlessly to provide a diverse and inclusive viewing experience. From a business perspective, it will help you reach a wider demographic.

4. Search and discovery

Enable users to search for their favorite movies and shows on your online video streaming platform. Add filters and sorting options for a more convenient experience. Design a smart recommendation system that recommends new content based on the viewer’s preferences, tastes, and interests to increase user engagement and retention.

5. Watchlist

Ensure users can add video content to watchlists for later viewing. In addition, develop a history section where viewers could keep track of previously watched content and resume playback from where they left off.

6. Screen mirroring

Make sure your OTT video application supports screen mirroring. This feature will allow your viewers to stream content from their mobile devices to a larger screen like a Smart TV.

7. Social features

Features like commenting, sharing, and rating are essential for successful OTT platform development, as they help increase engagement. Also, consider integrating your software with social media platforms so that users can share their favorite titles with family and friends. That way, they will advertise your application for free.

8. Customizable user profiles

Add customizable user profiles where viewers can set parental control, choose language and subtitle preferences, and customize notification settings.

9. Offline access

Netflix and other major OTT applications support offline access, allowing users to download content for offline viewing. Consider developing this feature too. Also, don’t forget about storage management where users can manage their downloads and delete watched content.

10. Notifications

Notify users about new releases and upcoming shows to keep them engaged. Make notifications customizable so viewers can decide what type of notifications they receive.

11. Featured content

Allocate space on your OTT platform to showcase new releases, trending titles, and recommendations based on user preferences. That way, your viewers will always find something to watch.

12. Cross-platform compatibility

Make sure your application works seamlessly across different devices and platforms. Netflix, for example, is available on smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, computers, streaming devices (e.g., Roku, Apple TV), and gaming consoles.

13. Payment gateway integration

Offer secure payment options so users can upgrade, downgrade, or cancel their subscriptions. Support for various payment methods, including credit/debit cards, PayPal, and regional payment options, ensuring convenience and accessibility for users in different parts of the world. By the way, we have a comprehensive blog post on payment gateway architecture—check it out to learn more.

Read also: How to Make a News Website

OTT app development: key features

Monetization Strategies for OTT App Development

Before we move to OTT platform development, the last thing we should discuss is your monetization options. There are different ways to monetize your OTT software:

  • Subscription video on demand (SVOD).
  • Transactional video on demand (TVOD).
  • Advertising video on demand (AVOD).

Let us describe these monetization models in more detail.

Subscription video on demand

In this model, users pay a recurring monthly or annual fee to access your content library. You, from your side, allow them to watch videos at any time and as often as they like during their subscription period. The SVOD model implies a complete absence of advertising.

Platforms that use this model: Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu.

Transactional video on demand

Under this business model, users pay for individual movies and TV shows. Video content can be rented for a limited time or purchased for unlimited access. Unlike with the SVOD model, viewers don’t have to pay for monthly subscriptions, which in many cases proves to be more cost-effective.

Platforms that use this model: Google Play Movies and TV, Apple iTunes, YouTube Movies.

Advertising video on demand

This monetization model implies providing content for free on the condition that users watch advertisements before, during, or after the video. Just like with the SVOD model, users can enjoy whatever they like at any time, but without paying monthly fees.

Platforms that use this model: YouTube, Crackle, Tubi.

OTT App Development in 5 Steps: How to Create a Custom OTT Platform

Finally, we’ve come to the main topic of today’s article—custom OTT app development. The OTT app development process consists of the following steps:

OTT app development: 5 steps

Step 1: Start with the project discovery phase

The project discovery phase is the initial stage of OTT app development in which you analyze the market and competition, set business goals, come up with technical requirements, get a clear vision of the future product, and meticulously plan the development process. Project discovery will also help you decide on the type of your OTT application and choose the most appropriate business model.

At this stage, you should also indicate the vector of the OTT platform app development. You can do it in two ways:

1. Customize a white-label OTT solution. Instead of developing an OTT app from scratch, you can use a white-label platform and customize it to suit your business needs. This option is quick and cost-effective. It’s great for small businesses and startups with limited budgets. However, it offers less customizability and scalability than custom OTT solutions. Besides, you will be dependent on your OTT provider, having less control over the software.

2. Develop a tailored platform from scratch. OTT app development from scratch requires technical expertise and significant financial investments, all while taking a long time. However, it offers full flexibility and control over your software, enables unlimited scalability, and allows you to brand your product however you like and be completely independent with updates, features, and security.

Step 2: Plan out the app features

Once you’ve decided on the type of your OTT application, you should plan out its features. We already discussed the most essential features that any OTT product must have, so let’s not spend too much time here.

As mentioned above, you should build an OTT app that supports:

  • Video content library.
  • Playback features.
  • Multilingual content.
  • Search and discovery.
  • Watchlist.
  • Screen mirroring.
  • Social features.
  • Customizable user profiles.
  • Offline access.
  • Notifications.
  • Featured content.
  • Cross-platform compatibility.
  • Payment gateway integration.

Naturally, this list may change depending on the type of app you’re building.

Step 3: Define UX/UI capabilities for your OTT solution

The next stage of OTT platform development is UX/UI design. It should be simple, easy to navigate, and visually appealing to attract your target audience. Here are best design practices for OTT software development:

  • Ensure simple navigation with a clear logical structure so that users can navigate your platform without help.
  • Optimize your interface for different screen resolutions and make sure it loads fast on any device and operating system.
  • Design a well-organized menu that allows users to easily find content, account settings, and other features.
  • Develop a dark theme and allow users to switch between light and dark themes. 
  • Follow web content accessibility guidelines to make your application accessible and all-inclusive.
  • Ensure your design is unobtrusive (it shouldn’t have ads or pop-ups that cover a big portion of the screen, distracting users from navigating the platform).
  • Maintain consistency in color usage throughout the app to create a cohesive visual identity.
  • Ensure sufficient contrast between text and background colors to improve readability, especially for subtitles and menu items.

Step 4: Choose the technology stack for OTT app development

To build a successful OTT app, you need to choose the right tech stack. The choice should be dictated by the expertise of your development team, project requirements, the features you plan to build, target platforms, and multiple other factors. The more complex your OTT development project is, the more programming languages and frameworks, your OTT app developers will have to use.

To give you an example, here’s the tech stack that was used to build Netflix:

DevOps JIRA, Confluence, Jenkins, Spinnaker, N.Atlas, N.Chaos Monkey, Gradle, nebula
Mobile Kotlin, Swift
Frontend React, HTML5, JavaScript
Backend Spring boot, Netflix Zuul, Netflix Eureka
Database MySQL, cassandra, CockroachDB
Messaging Kafka, Apache Flink
Streaming Open Connect, AWS CloudFront, AWS S3, AWS Elastic Transcoder
Data Storage AWS S3, Redshift, Apache Iceberg, Druid
Data Processing Tableau, Apache Flink, Apache Spark

As you can see, a complex platform like Netflix requires vast technical expertise. If you want to build something similar, you should be extremely picky when choosing an OTT app development company.

Step 5: Develop and test your platform

Once everything else is done, it’s time to start OTT app development. While the development team builds the platform’s features and architecture, QA engineers should thoroughly test it to ensure bug-free release. Of course, it’s impossible to find and eliminate all errors at the development stage; however, meticulous testing can significantly reduce the occurrence of errors before the product reaches the end users.

Here are general tips that will help you test your software:

  • Ensure all of your platform’s features work correctly across different devices and platforms.
  • Test your app’s compatibility with different screen resolutions and sizes, web browsers, and operating systems.
  • Evaluate the app’s performance under different traffic loads to ensure it can handle peak usage times.
  • Test streaming quality across different internet connection speeds to ensure consistent playback quality.
  • Test your CDN and make sure it delivers content quickly and efficiently, regardless of the viewer’s geographical location.
  • Conduct penetration testing to check how secure your app is.
  • Test your payment processing systems to ensure smooth transactions.
  • Test language support and localization features to ensure the platform can cater to users from different regions and languages.

Never neglect quality assurance, as it is extremely hard to fix a bad first impression. If you want to attract and engage users, thorough QA is imperative.

Read also: How to Create a Video Streaming Website

OTT App Development Cost

How much do OTT app development services cost? Well, the cost of an OTT video streaming app may vary significantly, depending on numerous factors, including your project requirements, features of the future app, the number of team members involved and their technical expertise, and so on and so forth. Simple over-the-top software with basic functionality typically costs between $20,000 to $50,000, whereas a complex solution with advanced features may require an investment of $150,000 or even more.

Without taking a look at your project first, we can’t say how much the OTT app development will cost in your particular case. So if you would like to receive a cost estimate, feel free to contact us.

Wrapping Up

The OTT market is growing at a rapid speed. Users prefer over-the-top solutions, as they offer more freedom, flexibility, personalization, and convenience over traditional television. No wonder more than half the planet uses OTT video streaming applications to watch their favorite movies and TV shows.

Don’t miss the opportunity to capitalize on such demand. Create your OTT platform today.

Having over 12 years of experience, AnyforSoft offers OTT development services of any complexity. We take care of every stage of the development process, from ideation to maintenance and support, allowing you to get everything you need in one place. So if you need a hand with your project, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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