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In this article, you will find step-by-step instructions on how to create your own streaming site like Hulu
. We'll cover everything you need to know to develop a clone
- from finding a niche and content sources to choosing a recommendation algorithm and developing a minimum viable product.
Step 1: platform niche
CuriosityStream (a Netflix clone) was launched in 2015. It has 13 million paid subscribers now.
CuriosityStream's experience shows that even a nearly complete clone of a well-known streaming site can quickly succeed
if you choose the right niche for a new project. In the case of CuriosityStream, these are various documentaries, from films about the history of the development of train engines to TV shows about the Big Bang Theory (both scientific hypothesis and TV series).
So when creating your clone
, the first thing you need to do is decide
what content your streaming site will broadcast to users. Here are some profitable niches you can use:
- Nowadays, people are increasingly watching instructional videos rather than reading books and tutorials, which creates a good environment for launching a streaming web service. It can be children's e-learning, teaching foreign languages, lectures by famous scientists.
- Even if there are Netflix, Hulu, and HBO on the market, that niche is big enough to accommodate another player. The main thing is to choose the right sub-niche and run a good marketing campaign.
- A lot of users like to watch documentaries about how people live in countries with a different mentality, religion, nature, social norms and political system.
- Another promising niche that will be in demand in regions where a healthy lifestyle is popular.
Step 2: Hulu clone requirements
Content delivery method
. You can stream content over the public Internet using over-the-top (OTT) technology, or over a private channel using Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). IPTV uses IP to deliver audio, video and control signals only to devices such as Apple TV 4K, Xiaomi Mi Box and Roku Ultra. While broadcasting content via OTT is possible for all devices with fast Internet: phones, computers, tablets and smart TVs.
Netflix, Hulu and Sling TV all use OTT, and overall this technology is more popular than the IPTV protocol used by AT&T U-verse and Verizon Fios. So when you're building a streaming service like Hulu, it's best to choose OTT
Video streaming technology
. Streaming protocols break video into small pieces and send them to the end-user’s device and then reassemble them. The most popular protocols are MPEG-DASH, Microsoft Smooth Streaming (MSS), HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), and HTTP Dynamic Flash Streaming (HDS). YouTube, Netflix and Hulu use MPEG-Dash.
Streaming service architecture
. Hulu uses a microservices approach
to develop its service, i.e. an application is a collection of stand-alone services that run through APIs. With this approach, Hulu can easily scale and integrate with third-party services without much effort on the part of their programming team.
Hulu uses a cloud architecture (provider - AWS) to store files for more than fifty channels and a huge library of movies and TV series. To broadcast content to users around the world in maximum quality and without delays, Hulu uses a Content Delivery Network (CDN).
Step 3: Sources of media content
At the next stage of creating a clone app
, you need to decide where you will receive content from
: create it yourself or use videos from other distributors. If you want to work with distributors, you need to obtain a license for public use of media content from Motion Picture Licensing Corporation
(MPLC) and/or SWANK Motion Pictures
Hulu, Netflix, HBO, and other big wallet players use both of these options. In particular, Hulu spends about $ 2.5 billion
on the production of films and TV series. In terms of using someone else's video, Hulu partners with
A&E, Big Ten Network, Bravo, E!, Fox Sports 2, FX, PBS, NFL Network, Oxygen, RT America, Fox Sports 1, SundanceTV, Syfy, USA Network, NBCSN.
Step 4: Basic functions of the Hulu clone
There are two types of functions - basic and advanced. Basic means the functionality that meets the basic expectations / needs of users in the product. Here is a list and description of such functions for the Hulu clone
- Registration, login. Users can create an account on your platform and log in via Google, Facebook or email.
- User profiles. Change username, avatar photos and preferences (favorite genres, movies, series, TV shows).
- Content search. Search movies and TV shows by title or based on actors, genres, ratings, user reviews, budget, and more.
- Media player. Needed to view video content (start and stop files, rewind, turn on subtitles, change quality, etc.)
- Sending messages to the user when a new episode of his favorite TV series comes out, when the subscription ends or is renewed.
- Reviews and ratings. The ability to rate viewed content and make choices about viewing something new based on ratings from other users.
- Subscription, payments. Multiple subscription options and payment methods such as Stripe, Paypal, Braintree, or other payment gateways.
- Home page. New and popular movies and TV series should be shown on the home page of your site. Using A/B testing, you can find out which, how and how many films to show.
- Content management. Convenient, intuitive interface for those who will upload content to the site.
Step 5: additional clone features
This is functionality that enhances the user experience, that is, makes the use of the service easier and / or more enjoyable. On video streaming platforms, they usually include the following features
TV show recording
. Hulu allows users to record shows that are streamed live to their personal cloud storage (often called Cloud DVR). Such storage in your Hulu clone can be implemented using Velocix Origin or Cisco Infinite Video Platform technologies.
Cloud DVR Function in Hulu App
Downloads (offline viewing)
. This feature allows users to download video content to their devices so that it is always available for viewing. A very convenient feature for which users are willing to pay extra money, in addition to making a paid subscription.
The function of downloading media content to the user's device in the Hulu app
Recommendations to users
. Due to the large amount of content, the volume of which is constantly growing, it can be difficult for viewers to find something new that they really like. Streaming services create personalized recommendation systems to help viewers make choice.
There are several ways to create such a recommendation system:
- Content filtering algorithms. They analyze films and TV shows that the user likes to recommend content with similar parameters (actors, director, studio, country). For example, for fans of The Fifth Element, this algorithm recommends films by Luc Besson, for fans of Iron Man - films with the participation of Robert Downey Jr.
- Algorithms for joint filtering. They analyze user behavior in order to find “digital alter ego” - people who like the same movies, series, TV shows. The algorithm then recommends to users what their “alter ego” has watched from what the first “alter ego” hasn't watched yet.
- Machine learning algorithms. Very complex systems based on deep neural networks that search for patterns according to the parameters built into them. If implemented correctly, they give more accurate predictions, but they need to be trained and the cost of their development is higher.
Detailed information on the technical side of the implementation of various recommendation algorithms and working examples can be found on the Towards Data Science
website. You can also go to the O'Reilly
website, there is a description of one of the winners of the Netflix Prize
— the competition for the best algorithm for predicting the reaction of viewers from Netflix.
Broadcast to big screens
. This feature will allow you to duplicate the image from your phone or computer on large TV screens via Wi-Fi wireless connection. This can be done in two ways:
- SDK Google Cast. This tool allows you to extend the functionality of Android, iOS or Chrome apps by adding the ability to stream video and audio content to your TV or sound system. In this case, the mobile application becomes an analogue of the remote control for playing media content.
- AirPlay (with Media Player APIs). Google Cast alternative focused on Apple TV and iOS apps.
Step 6: Monetizing Streaming Services
Advertising-based video on demand (AVOD)
. Displaying advertisements before, during and at the end of the broadcast. This is usually how streaming sites with free access to content, like YouTube
, make money. But not necessarily. So, Hulu also has ad inserts, but they can be removed for an additional fee.
Ad spots on the Twitch streaming service
Subscription-based video on demand (SVOD)
. You will provide access to media content on a monthly or annual subscription. The price of such a subscription may vary depending on the type and quality of content. So, the basic subscription to Hulu is $ 5.99 per month, and the most expensive one, which includes Live TV and blocks ads, is $ 70.99 per month. At the same time, users can customize their subscription themselves, depending on what they want to watch.