A Step-by-Step Strategy to Create a Netflix-like App

Back in 2019, there weren’t many alternatives to Netflix. Apart from, maybe Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and HBO Now services, Netflix had few competitors. In 2020, though, because of the efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak, we are likely to see the rise of home entertainment startups and online streaming services. As people look for new ways of entertainment during the lockdown, apps like Netflix will be increasingly gaining popularity.

So how do streaming services like Netflix work, and how can you build Netflix-like applications?

In this article, we will explore the key features of apps similar to Netflix and provide a step-by-step strategy for creating a streaming video app. Read on to learn more!

How does Netflix streaming work?

Below we will not be discussing live video streaming apps, since services like Netflix fall under a different category. Netflix is a SVOD app and doesn’t support live streams, such as sports events or live streaming TV.

SVOD is an acronym for subscription video on demand. A monthly payment gives Netflix users unlimited access to a plethora of movies, sitcoms, and cartoons. The first month of Netflix use is free of charge so that the users could evaluate its benefits. After the trial period ends, the app automatically charges a monthly subscription  fee from the user’s account. Netflix also integrates in-app purchases, so that you can pay for services without exiting the service. 

Netflix is a cross-platform application and will function on different devices and OSs like PCs, Macs, Windows Phones, iOS, Android, etc. You can watch on your smartphone, smart TV or laptop screen: cross-platform functionality ensures that Netflix has a vast pool of users.


Netflix features

Although Netflix looks quite simple, it does have a plethora of useful features:

  1. A single account supports up to five different profiles. You can set up your personal profile plus four additional accounts for members of your family. Each of these accounts will remember individual user settings and preferences.
  2. A CineMatch system enables Netflix to offer you movies and shows based on your previous choices. This smart feature makes movie selection less time-consuming and complicated.
  3. You can use the search feature to look for videos or select them from a content library.
  4. Rating films after you’ve watched them enables Netflix to offer you even more precise matches according to your taste.
  5. You can add search categories to conduct a more sophisticated search.
  6. You can download videos from Netflix or watch them online.

Coupled with a convenient UI, these features provide an extremely satisfying user experience, which makes Netflix a market leader in the video streaming app service niche. The app has advanced security protection and robust scaling capacities to support peak traffic surges. As of today, as per Fortune survey, Netflix accounts for 15% of global Internet traffic.

Creating a Netflix-like App: a Step-by-step strategy

The reason why we have examined Netflix in such detail is that this streaming video service has now become an acknowledged standard. We don’t expect you to create a Netflix copycat but should aim to demonstrate the video streaming app features that made it so successful. 

So, if you aim to create your own video streaming app, here’s a step-by-step guide.

1. Find your niche

It’s hard to compete with giants unless their offerings have gaps that you can fill in and bring users something truly unique. Focus on genres of video formats that will have their grateful fans, even if they are very specific (documentaries, sports events, etc.). Even if you initially have a very narrow audience, it has the potential to expand and eventually bring tangible revenue.

2. Decide on content availability

Since video streaming app services are focused on content, you must prepare a strategy for building, providing, and offering content for streaming. Who will be your main content providers? How often you update your content also matters – could you afford updates on a weekly basis?


The next thing you should decide on is content licensing. In terms of obtaining a license for public distribution and showcasing content, there are only two valid paths you can follow:

  • Requesting a license from a company authorized to distribute the content
  • Buying a license straight from a copyright owner (normally, a studio that has produced a certain type of content)

Licensing is usually quite expensive, especially if you aim to beat Netflix. Acquiring a small number of licenses, and buying more when your service starts generating an adequate ROI is quite feasible for beginners.

3. Decide on your application features

As a rule, a free or a light application version will have a limited set of features. More complex features can become accessible on a paid basis. For example:

A light app version will include social media integration, a payment gateway, a set of search tools, and a simple video player.

A medium version will be more complex and additionally includes subtitles, a more advanced video player version, improved search capabilities, etc.

Finally, a premium version will offer users a full set of features, such as ratings, comments, push notifications, discussions, ‘add friend’ features, and the ability to set up additional accounts for family members. 

4. Learn the non-functional demands for streaming videos

Apart from the functional features, streaming services like Netflix have a range of non-functional requirements critical to their performance.

Excellent connectivity  –  Your users should be able to watch videos without any slowdowns or disruptions. You will need to use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to meet quality standards for streaming apps.

Reliable storage –  You will need robust storage capacities for your streaming video service. Choose a reliable public cloud repository like Amazon Web Services (AWS) for your streaming video application.

High bandwidth – If you are using a CDN you’re almost all set. Additionally, you will need to select a video streaming protocol that will meet the needs of your streaming service and allow you to broadcast high-resolution videos.

Cybersecurity – your application should be safe to use. You will need to apply consistent security measures to leave zero chances for intruders.


5. Start with a product discovery phase

Creating a video streaming app starts with outlining clear app specifications and requirements. Before you plunge into software development, you will need to go through a product discovery phase in order to come up with documented specifications, UX/UI design, and a visual prototype of your streaming video service.

This will give the development team a set of solid guidelines and quality standards, and help them set up a development timeline. Your product specifications will contain use cases, a customer journey, and business requirements. Visual prototypes will help you attract funding for your project and win investor buy-in.

Also, it will help you get to know your development partner better. Before you enter a long-term partnership, run a discovery workshop where both of your teams could brainstorm a product and get to know each other. 

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6. App Development and Testing

At this stage, the development team starts building and testing your streaming video application. In fact, the previous discovery stage initiated the software development lifecycle (SDLC). The next stages of the SDLC will include:

  • building,
  • testing,
  • deployment, and
  • maintenance phases.

A reliable development company will integrate quality assurance into every SDLC stage and will incorporate your feedback throughout the process of building your streaming video application.

How can you tell if your tech partner knows how to create a Netflix-like app? The developers on the team should have good working knowledge of programming languages like Java, Swift, Kotlin, Python, Javascript, Node. js frameworks,
MySQL, Cassandra, and Oracle databases, as well as FreeBSD; Server: Nginx operating systems.

They should also have extensive knowledge of DevOps tools and leverage the DevOps approach to a software project.

7. Monetization

Streaming movie services like Netflix use a subscription-based monetization model, enabling users to choose from monthly, quarterly or annual subscriptions. Such apps usually offer free monthly subscriptions and automatically start charging fees when the trial period expires. However, you may set up longer trial periods, if you aim to gain loyal users.



Creating a video streaming app and growing your small service to a strong Netflix competitor could take several years. Netflix-like apps are all about content, and as your service scales and expands, you will be capable of affording more unique content licenses and attracting more viewers.

As you can see, creating a video streaming app requires knowledge and experience, as well as investments. To comply with today’s demands and quality standards, services like Netflix should have an attractive UI and top-notch usability, and integrate big data analytics and recommendation services.

A good development partner with expertise in building streaming video services could help you bring your app idea to fruition, and overcome all the challenges associated with streaming app development.

Have questions about creating video streaming apps? Contact us now for a free consultation!

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