OTT app development: The ultimate guide

OTT app development

This is a complete guide to OTT app development. In this guide, you will learn: 

  • What are OTT apps 
  • Why are they important
  • 3 ways to develop OTT apps 
  • How much do they cost
  • Which OTT app should you launch first
  • How to find the perfect OTT provider

So if you want to develop OTT apps or know more about them, this guide will help you. 

Let’s begin. 

1. WHAT ARE OTT APPS 

OTT, or over-the-top, refers to the practice of streaming content to viewers directly over the web, without the use of cable or satellite TV. 

So, OTT apps are the apps that deliver videos straight to your devices over the internet. 

Take Netflix. You can watch Netflix on mobile (Android and iOS), and Smart TV devices (Roku, Android TV, Samsung TV, etc). Netflix has developed native apps for all these platforms and all these apps are called OTT apps. 

2. WHY ARE OTT APPS IMPORTANT 

Are you spending more or less time watching videos online, compared to, say, 5 years ago? What about your friends? 

As you might have guessed, the usage of OTT apps is growing exponentially. Millions of people have reduced the usage of cable and satellite TV and are spending more time watching videos over the internet. 

Here are 4 reasons why you should launch OTT apps: 

Gain more viewers  

Over the past few years, video streaming traffic on mobile and smart TV devices has grown significantly. 

Global mobile data traffic is projected to grow from 28 exabytes per month in 2019 to 77 exabytes per month in 2022. That’s an astonishing growth of 3x in 3 years!

global-mobile-traffic

Global mobile data traffic from 2017 to 2022 (in exabytes per month) (Source – Statistica)

In fact, 82% of all internet traffic will be from video in 2021!

It’s obvious that people are streaming videos on their mobile and TV devices. You should take advantage of this trend to gain viewers. This is the #1 reason why you should launch OTT apps. 

Make more money 

You can monetize your OTT service in many ways – subscriptions, transactions, and advertisements

OTT revenue from all the three models is booming.

Subscription revenue (SVOD) is expected to grow from $25 billion in 2017 to $69 billion in 2023. Advertising revenue (AVOD) is expected to grow from $20 billion to $47 billion during the same period. While TVOD or pay-per-view revenue is expected to reach $46 billion in 2020. 

You don’t have to choose one model over the other for your OTT streaming service. You can monetize with a hybrid model – a combination of SVOD, TVOD, and AVOD. Provide your non-premium videos free of cost and charge your viewers for watching premium content. 

Lower cost 

It’s far cheaper to launch your OTT service than launching a cable/ satellite TV channel. 

With OTT, you don’t need to pay uplinking and downlinking charges, carriage fees, content delivery fees, distribution fees, and more. You save hundreds of thousands of dollars every month!

There are only 2 types of costs if you use an OTT SaaS platform like Ventuno: : 

  • Fixed cost – platform fee (paid monthly/ yearly)
  • Variable cost – streaming, storage, encoding, API calls, depending on consumption.

Direct relation with viewers

With OTT, there is no middleman between you and your viewers. 

Viewers can directly watch your content on their OTT devices without subscribing to cable or DTH services. This gives you full control over distribution – you can reach viewers all over the world!

Another benefit of OTT is that you receive payments directly from your viewers. No need to wait for a middleman to pay you. Just integrate your preferred payment gateway to get paid.  

You already have the email and phone numbers of your users. You can now reach them directly. Want to inform them of new releases or any discounts? Just send an email or SMS!

Suggested read: Why are broadcasters are moving to OTT ( and why you should too)

3. HOW TO DEVELOP OTT APPS 

You have 3 options for developing your OTT apps:

  1. Building it in-house 
  2. Outsourcing it 
  3. Using a SaaS OTT platform (recommended) 

Option #1: Building it in-house

The first option is to hire developers and build the OTT apps yourself. 

This option is suitable only for those who have serious resources, money, and expertise in app development.

Why? Because building an OTT app is not as straightforward as building any other app. There are a lot of features of an OTT service that makes it complicated. 

To launch a fully functional OTT service, you need to think and plan for the following things: 

  • hiring developers who build and maintain 9+ different apps (across web, mobile, and TV) 
  • video CMS to upload and organize videos 
  • storage and CDN to store and stream videos 
  • encoder to encode videos in different formats
  • integrating payment gateways to collect payments 
  • ad-server to run advertisements 
  • dashboard to view analytics 
  • servers to scale when traffic spikes 

and more.

Most content producers neither have the money nor the expertise in hiring and managing developers. 

If you have decided to build the apps in-house, we recommend hiring for the following roles: 

  • Backend developer – 2 or 3
  • Front end developer – 1
  • Product manager – 1
  • Android developer – 2
  • iOS developer – 2 
  • Smart TV developers (across 6 platforms) – 5 to 6
  • DevOps engineer – 1 
  • Designer – 1
  • Testers – 2  

Don’t forget that you will still need developers and testers for maintenance after the launch. You will be constantly adding new features, resolving bugs, and updating the apps on the stores. 

Option #2: Outsourcing it 

The second option is to outsource the development of your OTT app. 

There are so many app development companies out there. In fact, there are a few companies that specialize in OTT app development. 

These companies build OTT apps from scratch for each of their clients. They charge a one-time development fee for each project. 

After the apps are developed, they will share the source code with you and move on to the next project. You are now responsible for the maintenance! 

What does maintaining an OTT app mean? You need to have a team of developers and testers who will be fixing bugs, adding new features, and updating the apps on a regular basis. 

We do not recommend this option as you would still need to hire a team for maintenance and updating the apps. Most content producers don’t have the money or knowledge to maintain OTT apps. You are better off with a No-coding OTT platform that can be managed without developers. 

Option #3:  Using a SaaS OTT platform (recommended) 

OTT apps

Building OTT apps in-house takes serious time and money. At the same time, you will still need to have a development team to maintain the apps if you go with option #2. 

You can overcome both these challenges with option #3. All you need to do is find a SaaS OTT provider who has all the features you are looking for, provides great support, and is reasonable with their pricing.

Benefits of using a SaaS OTT platform like Ventuno: 

  • Launch your apps quickly
  • Fully white-labeled
  • Zero upfront costs – just pay a reasonable monthly fee
  • No need to hire developers
  • No maintenance overheads
  • Cancel anytime 

This way, you can focus on what you are great at – creating awesome content!

Ventuno handles all the above things for you. You get a readymade platform that can be used to launch, manage, and monetize your OTT service – without any coding! 

We have compared the 3 options below:

 

In-house development 

Outsourcing 

SaaS OTT (like Ventuno)

Development Cost 

Very high 

High 

Low 

Maintenance Cost 

Very high 

Very high 

Low 

Launch time 

6-12 months 

3-4 months 

1-2 months 

Resources needed 

Developers, testers, Product managers

Developers and testers

1 non-technical person who manages the backend

Suggested read: –  In-house development vs using a SaaS OTT platform 

4. HOW MUCH DO OTT APPS COST

There are three types of costs involved: 

  • Development costs 
  • Maintenance costs
  • Variable costs – CDN, encoding, servers, etc 

The cost for all the 3 options are different: 

In-house development

Development cost – Very costly. You would need at least $100,000 in salaries for developers, product managers, QA’s. 

You would also need to invest serious money in developing or integrating the technology that will power your OTT service (video platform, player, ad server, CDN, servers, payment gateway).  

Maintenance cost – Very costly. You will need to have at least 5 developers and testers for maintenance. 

Outsourcing it 

Development cost – Costly. The vendor will charge a one-time development fee. The fee can range from anywhere between $15000 to $100,000

Maintenance cost – Very costly. You will need to have 5+ developers and testers for maintaining and updating the apps. 

Using a SaaS OTT platform 

Development cost – Low. Usually, SaaS platforms don’t charge a setup fee for launching your OTT apps. 

Instead of a huge one-time fee, you will be paying a reasonable platform fee every month. The platform fee can range from anywhere between $500/ month to $5000/ month, depending on your requirements. 

Maintenance cost – Low. You don’t need a separate team of developers to maintain the apps after the launch. SaaS platforms will provide a dashboard where you can manage your entire OTT operations – right from uploading, organizing, monetizing, and analyzing your content. 

Again, there are no separate fees for maintenance. Maintenance is covered in the platform fee that you pay every month. Check out Ventuno’s pricing to get a better understanding. You get an end-to-end OTT SaaS solution to manage your OTT business.

Variable costs

In all the 3 options above, there is also a third type of cost – Variable costs. 

Variable costs are the costs that depend on usage. Typically, these are the variable costs for an OTT service: 

Bandwidth: You will be using a CDN to stream your videos. The CDN vendor will charge you for the amount of data streamed by all your users. The most common CDNs for streaming videos are Amazon and Akamai. Check out Amazon CloudFront’s pricing here

Storage: You will be storing the videos in cloud storage such as Amazon S3. They will charge you for the amount of data that is stored on their servers. Check out Amazon S3’s pricing here

Servers: These are the servers on top of which you will be building the platform. Make sure to use auto-scalable servers that scale automatically when the usage spikes.  

Encoding: Your video needs to be converted to multiple bitrates to support adaptive bitrate streaming. The process of converting the video from one format to another is called encoding. You will be charged for the amount of data that is encoded. 

5. WHICH OTT APP SHOULD YOU LAUNCH FIRST 

Sometimes, it might become confusing to decide which apps to launch first. 

After all, there are so many different platforms where you can build native apps. 

  • Android 
  • iOS
  • Roku
  • Apple TV
  • Android TV
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Samsung TV
  • LG TV
  • Chromecast
  • Airplay

The best option? Launch all these apps simultaneously! Different people consume videos on different devices. Some prefer Apple over Android. Some use Chromecast while some have Amazon Fire Stick. The best way to reach out to all the potential viewers is to launch all these apps. 

However, if you don’t want to go all-in, we suggest launching any 2 apps that are used by your viewer the most. 

OTT Device share

                                                                                                                    Source

Are your viewers mostly in the US? You can start with iOS and Roku as these are the two most commonly used platforms in the US.

Are your viewers mostly in India? You can start with Android and Android TV. 

Are you a fitness creator? Start with a website and mobile apps. Most viewers consume fitness videos on the laptop and phones. 

There are so many other factors to decide the answer to this question. It depends on a lot of factors such as the location of your viewers, the category of your videos, your budget, your content quality, and more. 

Check out our detailed article on this topic: Which video streaming app should you launch first?

6. HOW TO FIND THE PERFECT OTT PROVIDER

Assuming you have decided against in-house OTT app development, the next step is to find a vendor to develop the apps.

Between outsourcing the development and using a SaaS platform, we suggest going ahead with a SaaS platform as they are inexpensive and easy to maintain. 

Finding a SaaS OTT provider is not easy. You need to make sure the platform is easy to use, has all the features you are looking for, and is within your budget. 

We have created a checklist for you to find the perfect OTT provider: 

  • Do they provide an all-in-one platform? Or do you need to use 2-3 separate platforms? 
  • Are they able to launch all possible apps (web, mobile, TV)?
  • How long does it take to launch the apps? 
  • How easy it is to use it? Do you need developers for maintaining it? 
  • Can it handle millions of users? 
  • How good is their support? 
  • What’s their pricing? Any hidden charges? 
  • Do they accept custom feature requests? 

This checklist is not exhaustive. You can add more questions based on your unique requirements and use them to compare different OTT vendors. 

Reach out to our team if you are planning to launch your OTT apps. You will get an all-in-one platform for managing your entire OTT operations – right from uploading, organizing, monetizing, and analyzing videos. 

Suggested read: The ultimate guide to SVOD in 2020

CONCLUSION

The OTT streaming industry is growing rapidly. Global OTT revenue is expected to reach $159 Billion by 2024, more than doubling in a mere 6 years. COVID 19 has further accelerated growth. 

This is the perfect time to launch your OTT apps, attract users, and monetize them with ads, subscriptions, and transactions. 

Reach out to us for developing your OTT apps. Our SaaS OTT platform has all the features needed to launch a fully-functional OTT service – video platform, player, servers, CDN, ad-server, payment gateway, and analytics. 

Gokul K

Gokul K