IDAP BLOG Live Streaming App

How to Develop an App like Netflix?

Despite what the title of this article says, it’s not going to be about ripping off the existing app, in our case — Netflix video-on-demand services platform. Vice versa, we’re here to analyze the ways Netflix transformed the industry, explore its diverse functionality, and try to learn from Netflix’s practices of content distribution. In case you are interested in media streaming field as it is today, keep on reading.

Closer Look at Netflix

As in 2018, Netflix positions itself as the world’s leading internet entertainment service. Considering the numbers of over 130 million subscribers and services availability in more than 190 countries, that statement doesn’t even seem to be an exaggeration though. However, this level of public recognition did not happen overnight — it actually took more than 10 years for Netflix to become what it is today (not counting all the updates and new features that are continuing to be introduced to users on a regular basis). So what is standing behind the rise of Netflix? Is there a room for anyone else in the industry of TV streaming services? Let’s rewind to the Netflix’s early days to find out.

Initially founders of Netflix — Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph — wanted to start an e-commerce company and sell items over the internet like Amazon does. However, the complexity of full-cycle online sales made them settle down with dvd rent company at first. Later on, they decided to transform it into the media streaming platform, as they already had the community of people who love watching movies as their disposal. The transformation from dvd rentals to streaming took 10 years. A fascinating fact: Netflix dvd business is still alive, but it is continuously losing thousands of subscribers monthly, which hold us back from taking it seriously in 2018. Initially, the founders did not want to give up the option of a movie for rent, so they tried to support two separate platforms — one for watching movies online and another one for ordering the delivery by mail. But the fact users had to have two separate accounts to use different services started annoying them quickly, so the chiefs decided to dedicate the Netflix website to video-on-demand sector exclusively.

That’s when Netflix we know today was born — the media streaming project started its life in 2007. Back then, it had only a thousand movies and TV shows available to watch online, but the rapidly growing popularity of streamed content helped Hastings and Randolph to expand the number of featured videos. In less than two years the platform had as many as 12,000 TV shows and feature films available, and this number continues to grow daily. Nowadays, Netflix is one giant union of technical processes built in microservice architectural style. Meaning, this app is basically a suite of small services that run in their own process and fulfill customer’s requests through APIs.

Nevertheless, the diverse variety of content on the platform is not the only thing that keep attracting users to Netflix. Let’s dive deeper into the feature set of this media streaming giant to distinguish the components of user experience Netflix’s subscribers get.

Netflix Key Features

Registration. To start using Netflix, user has to create an account first. The registration process is simple and straightforward, yet it includes the obligatory submission of your payment details.
Up to 5 personal profiles with a single subscription. Not only users can switch from one profile to another without actually logging out, he also can apply a few filters on profile when creating it — language, kid/adult, and the maturity levels of content.
Various subscription plans. There are Basic, Standard, and Premium plans available (although the Basic one does not include HD video streaming, which sounds like a joke in 2018). Prices are $7.99, $10.99, and $13.99 per months correspondingly. Free trial period is one month.
Diversified streaming functionality. Netflix distributes content to smartphones, tablets, and TVs via the in-app media player.
Browsing through home page. Not everyone opens up the Netflix up having a particular movie in mind. More often people spend some time browsing first and then choose a movie or show to watch, so properly organized browsing is a must for apps like Netflix.
Content library. Filters and categories makes the choice of a movie easier adding to the overall positive user experience.
Watch list. A very useful one — you can add content that grabbed your interest when you were scrolling the library to a list, so that you wouldn’t miss the chance to watch it when have time.
Ratings. Viewers can like or dislike the piece of content they watched. Earlier, Netflix had a five-star rating system, but then changed it to the thumb up/down scheme, which a lot of users do not like by this day.
“More like this” button. Similar shows and movies are linked to each other, which eases the search and allows cinematography fans to discover new pieces that will most likely enjoy. Instead of re-watching Friends for the hundredth time, users now can check out similar options without leaving the platform.
“Continue watching” list. The home page gets personalized as the subscribers uses the platform and stores useful information for every separate person, including the list of TV shows and movies that weren’t watched till the very end.

Benefits for Users

The vast majority of Netflix features described above look quite basic, so the reasons behind high appreciation of Netflix amongst users might not be obvious (except for being a pioneer in the field, of course). However, if you would use Netflix services for several months or even weeks and then try to switch for another streaming app, the uniqueness of this platform would reveal itself immediately. Here are the core traits that make Netflix stand out after all these years:

Shockingly detailed content classification system. How many movie genres can you name? We bet you’d struggle to name more than a dozen. Well, thanks to the Netflix Quantum Theory algorithm, this platform has about 76,897 unique cinematography genres and subgenres. Examples of those are Emotional Fight-the-System Documentaries, Movies for Ages 11 to 12 (what an age gap!), Music & Concert Documentaries, Courtroom Dramas, Kids Faith & Spirituality (separately from Adult Faith), Deep Sea Horror Movies, and so on. This classification is used to give recommendations to subscribers based on their watched (and liked) pieces which is Netflix is known for. To analyze this amount of information, Netflix teams up with Amazon Web Services and uses their big data platform.
Extremely simple and intuitive design. Netflix platform’s design does not seem like anything special or artistic, but this is actually its main benefit. The app and website look very simple, screens contain minimal amount of text so you don’t need to spend minutes to scroll down to the end of the page (except for library, of course). This makes the app easy to use for people of different age groups and technical skills levels.
Ability to get a better deal by sharing one subscription between five people. As we already mentioned, Netflix allows subscribers to have five accounts using one paid plan, so you don’t have to sneak around or share your personal login details with anyone in order to save some cash — just start five separate profiles and pay together.

Why should anyone even try to create a website like netflix?

Even though when it comes to media streaming, Netflix still continues to top the market, this doesn’t mean Netflix alternatives are dismissed. In reality, there are a lot of fish in the sea (by fish we mean users), and believe it or not, not all the people on Earth find Netflix convenient. Key reasons for that are subscription posts, specific library (it is diverse, yet still there are movies and shows Netflix doesn’t store), and its recent target to the production of original content which is not always good. Add to this the limited list of countries this media streaming provider is working in, and you’ll realize what makes people wonder what is like Netflix out there but local? If your region isn’t covered by their services — you know what to do.

Another aspect Netflix gets criticized on is rather controversial, but it still has to be taken into account by anyone who wants to create a website like netflix. We are talking about user behavior and its correlation with habit-forming mechanisms integrated in apps and websites. Netflix definitely uses a few, including its recommendations system we already mentioned earlier. Having started as a joke, today Netflix addiction is admitted to be the real thing by such influencing platforms as The Guardian. Beyond question, user engagement is necessary if you want your app to be viable, but there is a line between entertaining and overwhelming your users. The most loyal Netflix subscribers tend to prefer watching their favorite series over any other social activity or even sleep — Reed Hastings, Netflix’s Co-founder and CEO, admits they are trying to make the subscribers stay up as late as possible watching films and shows. The accessibility of this platform and its always on-point recommendation can turn a regular person into a hardcore movie fan.

If you gather all the flaws Netflix has at the moment and properly analyze them, you’ll get why becoming a Netflix alternative is more than a promising idea. Amazon Prime TV, Hulu, YouTube Live, etc. — each of the Netflix’s competitors enjoy a fair share of the billion-worth media streaming market and have their unique audience appreciating their services. That being said, let’s proceed with the actual Netflix-like app development process.

How To Create Netflix Step-by-step

Before we dive into the instructions on how to develop apps like netflix, we’d like to stress on the fact that applications and websites with video streaming functionality are quite complex and expensive to develop. High investment rates directly correlate with the technical complexity and duration of the project: it takes time and expertise to develop all the components of the program and then compile them together into one piece of software that performs smoothly. However, if divided into smaller steps, streaming app development stops looking so scary and unmanageable. Basically, creation of such an application can be divided into the following stages:

Research & Planning. We won’t turn this article into a user guide manual on business planning, let’s just say if you have not figured out your business goals, ways to achieve them, financial matters, and competitors in the field —  then it’s too early for getting to the next stage.
Finding the development team. Human resources are the core of any enterprise, so be picky when searching for the team to collaborate with. Hiring the wrong squad can turn a promising project into a disaster, and vice versa — getting in touch with true professionals eliminates all the possible risks.
Estimating the project. To work in the timely manner and be honest to yourself and your colleagues are two sub-steps to take at this point. Although to work in the media streaming industry basically means to master the chaos, all the time frames and the expected project dynamics have to be written down and visualized. Mind that no one can tell exactly how long does it take to develop an app and then release it, so take into account time margin as well.
Designing process. The importance of an appealing app design is impossible to overestimate. Forrester Research has proved that high-quality UI/UX design can increase conversion rates from 200% to 400%, so if you think spending extra time and/or money on designing process is unnecessary, think again.
Media processing platform. Integrated in the app platform that provides media encoding, re-formats the data into stream-ready files, and distributes these files to viewers is what defines the streaming performance of the application. Great news is that there are a lot of options to choose from, and some of them even have default media player and other useful features included.
Copyright and License Issue. Have you ever wondered why Netflix is focusing on its exclusive production so hard these days? Or why does it continue to release the projects of mediocre quality? Rumor has it that Netflix experience some trouble getting licenses for streaming certain content pieces, so eventually they are forced to produce more content on their own. To avoid similar problems, you’ll have to seal the deal with a few organizations like The National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE).
Full feature set. To stand out from all the other video on demand providers copy the basic functionality of Netflix and paste it to your app will not work. You have to introduce at least one unique feature to your potential users, they will not give up the platform they are used to (or even if they are not subscribed to Netflix, brand awareness is obviously at market giant’s side) for the same thing but newer. Brainstorm on how your application can improve the whole industry and do not be afraid to take some risks with unusual features. How about notifying users in advance if a TV show they’re watching will be removed from the platform soon? Or creating a detailed system for rating movies instead of primitive like/dislike? FYI, Netflix does not do this.


The reasons behind the popularity of video-on-demand (VOD) platforms with Netflix being the leader for years are straightforward — easy-to-use software that delivers high-quality video content on the immediate user request does not need to prove its usefulness. Beyond question, Netflix acted as an ultimate game changer in the entertainment and content distribution industry. The invention of this platform has released limitless opportunities for video-on-demand streaming and conquered such an undestroyable leviathan as cable television. Do not let the Netflix’s influence and its stable position prevent you from starting your own product that you have faith in — users appreciate the sincere effort regardless of the field of investment of size of an enterprise at its start. A team of true professionals in software engineering and UI/UX design can turn your ideas into a unique application, so if you are ready to switch from dreaming to actually creating, contact IDAP to start.

(1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)