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How to Develop a TV Application?

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Yuri Musienko
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From this article, you will learn how to create a mobile app to watch TV channels, popular shows, and animated films online on mobile phones. We’ll tell you about the development stages, technologies used, and cost of creation of such TV apps as Hulu TV and YouTube TV.

Step 1. Find your niche

A TV app is a service to play TV content online on your smartphone (like on a regular TV) and/or upon request (like on YouTube). It’s not so difficult to make such an app – there are hundreds, if not thousands, of them in App Store and Google Play. It’s difficult to make it popular and lucrative as you have to compete with market leaders, which requires a lot of money.

The best decision in this situation is to launch a TV app that would be focused on one specific target audience. As the history of Amazon, Facebook, and Google has shown, this approach is an ideal choice for launching new projects. A niche can be sports, news, science, history, films, music, TV shows, animated films, politics, a language group, or a region.

Upon that, you can bet on a broad direction in general as well as on a certain sub-niche. Say you can develop an app to broadcast content only related to American football, hockey, or billiard. As long as this niche is big enough.

Step 2. Develop a business model

How to Develop a TV Application

Description plans of a TV app called Hulu

Almost all popular streaming services use subscription-based monetization models. Even if there are free TV apps, the users can get access to limited content only if they don’t pay. Most likely, the playback quality will be very low (480p). You have to pay for access to a full list of channels, TV shows, and HD.

In case you are implementing this model in your service, you need to:

  • create several subscription plans;
  • implement automated recurring payments;
  • add a free trial period for 7, 14, or 30 days;
  • develop functionality for special offers and discounts;
  • think of where to put advertising to.
You should also consider the possibility of integration with several payment gateways and the possibility of multi-currency support so that your subscribers can pay in their local currencies in a usual way.

Step 3. Obtain licenses and permits

How to Develop a TV Application
The content budget of Netflix from 2013 to 2020. Source
At the next stage of the creation of your TV app, you need to decide what channels will be available on your service and obtain respective licenses for their public demonstration in your app. In the USA, you can get such permissions in SWANK Motion Pictures and Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC).

When obtaining such licenses, keep the following things in mind:

  • A license may have geographic limitations. For example, you will have the right to show certain channels only in the USA or Great Britain and you won’t be allowed to show them in other countries. Violation of such a prohibition through your fault will lead to fines and a loss of licenses.
  • Different countries may have different requirements for showing some media content. For instance, there might be differences in who and how determines age restrictions and how it’s being displayed on the screen during the showing. Violation of these rules can also lead to a ban for an app in the country, fines, and even criminal responsibility.
  • Countries can impose bans on showing certain movies, TV shows, and channels, as is the case for China, Australia, Germany, and Russia.
  • A broadcast of some sporting and cultural events may need additional licenses or have specific restrictions depending on an event organizer and a country.
If you’re going to create media content yourself, you don’t need to obtain any licenses. However, it’s quite a costly affair. Streaming websites like Hulu spends annually $2,5 billion on media content production, Netflix — $17 billion. Without a similar budget, it’s going to be hard for you to create something worthwhile given the fact that the average cost to produce a major studio movie in the USA is $65 million, and one episode of a TV show is $2-7 million.

Step 4. Develop a design of a TV app

How to Develop a TV Application
YouTube TV — the example of a simple, intuitive, and visually pleasing design of a TV app
An app is primarily judged by the user interface design. Therefore, if you really want your TV app to become a favorite quickly, you should start with a great interface design of your service. Here are six principles you should be guided by when creating it:
  • There should be sequential and convenient navigation through all app screens and elements. You can achieve this by optimizing users’ ways and creating frameworks and prototypes.
  • The more complex the design, navigation, and app management are, the fewer people will agree to use it even if it will be free and broadcasting all channels in the world. So make sure the design of your TV app is simple and understandable for the target audience.
  • The visibility principle defines what elements will be displayed on the app screen, in what form and sequence. You need to respect an importance hierarchy here: more popular/important elements have to be bigger, brighter, or animated.
  • Make such a design that would keep users informed of all actions, interpretations, changes, and errors through clear, concise, and unambiguous language.
  • The design should use coherent components belonging to related groups, the assignment of which the user understands at first glance. For example, we all know what the red triangle (play) means in video apps. That way the users won’t need to rethink the assignment of new components.
  • Tolerance/flexibility. The app interface should be tolerant to users’ wrong actions. It has to allow quick undoing and redoing of operations while preventing errors (wherever possible), by interpreting all reasonable actions.

Step 5. Determine a service functionality

Video player. This is the base of any TV app. A video player must have all the main features for managing and setting media content and support HLS to provide maximum video quality during watching on mobile devices. Besides, it should have a simple, nice, and intuitive design.

Adaptive bitrate streaming. The essence of this technology consists in the fact that if there are several available resolutions (480p, 720p, 1080p, 4p, 8k), the system will provide a seamless change of video resolutions according to the available bandwidth or upon request of the user himself. It’s easy to see how it works on YouTube when changing the video quality.

Compatibility with several screens. A TV app, which you’re developing, should be adaptive. The app screen and the video that is being broadcast should adapt to the screen size automatically. In addition, an automatic determination of up and down is necessary.

Quick scalability. Your service has to be ready for a sudden change in load; for example, in the morning when people wake up and turn their smartphones on. This can be provided due to cloud technologies. You can also create your system of local servers, but there may be problems with long-distance media content transmission (high ping, delays, and artifacts).

Offline watching. This feature allows users to record and save media content on their devices so that they can watch it even when there is no Internet connection available.

Data security. DRM and AES encryption and access control based on IP will help to protect video data from hackers and other attackers.

Registration and log in. This functionality allows creating accounts through email, phone number, or an account on Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Usually, during registration in a TV app, the users are asked to specify their favorite channels, movies, and TV shows to broadcast them right after the users log in. The possibility of activation of a trial period is necessary as well.

Search. It makes it possible to look for channels, see their TV program and details about TV shows, movies, series, and animated films.

Geo-blocking. Due to different restrictions, some channels of your apps may be banned in specific countries. Consequently, when developing a TV app, you should provide the implementation of such blockings.

Additional features. They can improve the user experience and provide you with a big influx of new viewers. Usually, these are:

  • Extended integration with social networks. For instance, a user can publish a post on Facebook in a few clicks, where there would be the logo of the series, description, and showtime of the next episode.
  • Extended user profile. Add such fields as location, favorites, filters, parental control, and the like.
  • Extended streaming features. You can add such capabilities as joint screen use, a division of a video into several screens, or the possibility to turn the 3D mode on.
  • Extended search capabilities. Increase the number of filters for the search. For example, people will possibly want to find local TV channels or channels where certain content is being shown at the moment (like movies, TV shows, sporting events, or 18+ content).
  • Ratings and reviews. Users should have a possibility to rate movies and television programs to form their own ratings on the basis of your portal users’ opinions.
  • These might be channel recommendations or recommendations on what the channels are showing at the moment. For instance, if the user frequently watches documentaries about sports, the system will recommend the channel where these TV shows are broadcast.
  • They provide the users with the possibility to share impressions, recommendations, and showtime of a new episode of a favorite series.
  • Allow the app to send push notifications to the user if interesting content is broadcast.
  • Implement various types of subscriptions and allow users to manage them from the app.

Step 6. Choose development tools

Here is a list of basic in-demand tools for developing your TV app. The basic list looks like this:

Choose development tools

Step 7. Create an MVP of a TV app

MVP is a minimum viable product, the functionality of which is enough to meet users’ basic needs. The development of the MVP of a TV app requires a lot less time and money than the creation of a full-featured software. That makes it possible to reduce costs and time if the product won’t work or the users won’t like it; because of design, for example.

The estimated cost of the development of MVP of a TV app is the following:

estimated cost of the development of MVP of a TV app is the following

Step 8. Release the app

Once your TV app is developed and tested, it needs to be added to App Store and Google Play. That would require to:
  1. Register in Apple Developer and Google Play Console.
  2. Fill in a respective form of adding the app to the listing.
  3. Pay: $99 per year for posting in App Store, $25 as a one-time payment — in Google Play.

How to Develop a TV Application? key takeaways:
  1. Step 1. Find your niche
  2. Step 2. Develop a business model
  3. Step 3. Obtain licenses and permits
  4. Step 4. Develop a design of a TV app
  5. Step 5. Determine a service functionality
  6. Step 6. Choose development tools
  7. Step 7. Create an MVP of a TV app
  8. Step 8. Release the app
Merehead does professional development of TV Application. If you have questions, contact us for a free consultation.

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