tech · 29 Jul 2022

How to Build a Live Streaming App: Main Steps, Features, Tech Stack, and Cost

Victor Lavrentyev

Victor Lavrentyev

Chief Information Officer

live streaming app development
Illustration by Amir Kerr

Livestreaming applications have taken the mobile market by storm over the last few years. A byproduct of the increase in online viewership and pandemic lockdowns, the global livestreaming market has become the leading category among applications. Thus, nine out of the top ten non-gaming apps by consumer spend in 2021 were video-streaming apps. And since the mobile user base is growing rapidly, mobile applications have secured their dominance as a driving force behind the popularity of livestreaming.

Today, we’ll tell you all about livestreaming app development and why it’s the right time to jump into the niche.

What Is a Livestreaming App?

A video-streaming application is a broadcasting solution that allows users to record, stream, and share content in real time. Based on the solution, stream watchers can interact with the streamer by commenting on the content during the broadcast.

According to Data.ai, current walk of fame contenders among livestreaming apps include Twitch, Bigo Live, V Live, BOOYAH!, and Omlet Arcade. These five apps reeled in the largest number of monthly active users in 2021. Although apps such as YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok have livestreaming features, they were omitted from the rating because they have other primary functions. 

The Current State of the Livestreaming Market

Beyond the lofty predictions, the video-streaming app market has already shown much promise to business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. 

Here are some data-based trends that demonstrate the untapped potential of livestreaming apps:

  • The time spent in livestreaming apps toppled the social market year over year by a factor of nine. This translates into a 40% YoY growth compared to all social apps at 5%.
  • 65% of active app users in the US have used livestreaming apps.
  • Consumer spending on entertainment livestreaming apps surpassed $2 billion in 2021. That's a year-over-year increase of 33%.

The upward trend of livestreaming is backed up by smartphone penetration, e-sports growth, video accessibility, and post-pandemic user influx. 

Types of Livestreaming Applications

Streaming app development comes in different forms based on the medium. Below, we’ve shared the main types of livestreaming solutions.

types of streaming apps.png

Live broadcasting apps

The phenomenon of livestreaming solutions is largely associated with this app type. The most popular specimen of livestreaming, live broadcasting apps, allows users to generate content and share it in a real-time mode. Game streaming platforms like Twitch and content-sharing extensions like YouTube Live fall into this category.

Audio streaming apps

This application type allows the consumption of online audio content. This may include everything from music and podcasts to voice-overs and lectures. Spotify, for example, streams music and podcasts with no downloads. 

Video-on-demand streaming apps

Video-on-demand streaming, or VOD, enables users to watch their favorite TV shows and movies any time they want with no playback devices or downloads. Typically, users have to pay a premium to unlock the whole list of content and features that a VOD service provides. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video are among the most popular examples of VOD.

TV livestreaming apps

The last category of streaming applications sends TV broadcasts over the internet so that the users can watch their favorite TV channels in real time. Streaming TV is an online counterpart of traditional broadcast television delivered via digital terrestrial, satellite, or cable routes. Hulu and YouTube TV, for example, offer unmatched channel variety for cord-cutters.

How to Build a Livestreaming App: Eight Steps

Creating a livestreaming app from scratch may sometimes get overwhelming since there are a lot of factors to consider. Below, we’ve collected the main steps to give you an angle to go at streaming app development.

Define the target audience and their needs

If you have a clearly defined cohort of target app users, you will get a head start on your development process in the early stages. Therefore, finding the thread between your app’s value and target users is the fundamental preliminary step. 

We recommend relying on data and research, including market analysis, a competitor audit, and well-defined user personas. This body of knowledge will help you adjust your app’s business value, core features, and other vitals to the target users.

Pick your team

Introducing the right team of software engineers to your live application is the second step towards product success. The modern hiring market is quite vibrant and ushers in the main three recruitment options — in-house development, outsourcing, and freelance hiring.

Since freelance isn’t geared toward long-term collaboration, you can either assemble a development team on-site or send your tech tasks to an external provider. But keep in mind that the second option is more flexible in terms of costs and team management. For example, European outsourcing providers help you hire vetted mobile developers at around $50 per hour compared to a $150 rate for US-based developers.

Choose a CDN, hosting, and storage

If you aim for lightning-fast data sharing, you will need to pick a reliable content delivery network, also known as a CDN. A CDN provider allows your application to send content to multiple globally distributed data centers. This means that the content is delivered to the user from a geographically closer data center, thus making it faster. Amazon CloudFront, Cloudflare, and MaxCDN are some examples of CDN providers.

According to Vimeo, 67% of viewers report quality to be the core factor when watching a livestream. Sturdy hosting and storage won’t let your application buckle under pressure at peak hours. A canned professional-grade hosting service such as Dacast or cloud-based Amazon EC2 will enable you to ramp your processing power up and down on demand. Cloud flexibility and resizable resources are also a convenience for your storage.

Create UX/UI design

At this stage, your UX/UI developers will shape the future exterior of your livestreaming application. Minimal friction, seamless onboarding process, and functional design are the three pillars of a winning user interface. Alternatively, your app design can thrive on controlled messiness and extravagance, just like Twitch did. 

The most important prerequisite for a successful design is the wide experience and futuristic vision of your UX/UI design team. The team will create a blend of your brand image and competitive design elements to produce a supreme look and feel.

Build and test your MVP

With the final design layout on hand, your development team will prioritize core features for your minimum viable product (MVP). An MVP includes a minimum set of features needed to test your product among real users. A minimum viable product, however, should still be rigorously tested to eliminate bugs and improve its performance.

Release, maintain, and improve

Once your MVP is validated by testers, it is rolled out to the public. Your development team will gather feedback from the end users and polish the application until it fully meets the needs of the audience and your business. App maintenance is also crucial to keep your solution fresh and in tune with security updates and platform versions.

Basic Features of a Livestreaming App

A set of must-have features is the backbone for an early version of your livestreaming application. Here’s how to create a streaming app with essential functionality.

User sign up/sign in

A simple registration process makes the user uniquely identifiable within the system and associates them with their unique app data. Social log-in or one-step registration via email will enable the user to create an account and log in to the app with the credential later.

Livestreaming

A pinnacle of streaming apps, this feature puts the user in a creator's shoes and allows them to reach their followers in real-time. Thus, users can broadcast and stream an event, teach a class, or host a gaming session. Creators can go live on mobile, provided they enable access to the camera and microphone.

The real-time messaging protocol (RTMP) is an industry standard for high-definition live broadcasting. Your app’s video player connects with the protocol through a third-party server and enables both viewers and watchers to enjoy high-quality videos. 

Search

Whether users need to find a specific live channel, streamer, or live event, they should be able to do so by using a search bar. The feature should be easily discoverable and intuitive even for novice users. All content can be divided into categories by topic, popularity, trending, and others.

User profile

This feature helps users customize their profile and make it unique for others. The user profile includes basic and extended user information, a public avatar, and a status indicator showing whether the user is currently live, online, or offline. 

User gallery

A video/music history or user gallery compiles and organizes recorded or recently watched videos or music on the user's profile. A user should be able to go back to the content at any time and continue playing it where they left off. Users can also modify their gallery by removing selected content.

Commenting/rating system

Authentic and unedited social engagement is the lifeblood of livestreaming applications. To keep engagement levels high, the application should enable the users to participate in discussions, react to streams, and leave comments or real-time reactions. Both ratings and comments can later be leveraged by a recommendation engine that will make relevant suggestions based on users’ preferences. 

For a sender, an application should enable customized commenting options, thus giving the user greater control over the comments posted to the stream.

Advanced Features of a Livestreaming App

To create a streaming app for a sophisticated user, you also need to jazz it up with cutting-edge features. You will find some of these features below.

Social sign up

According to LoginRadius, over 70% of 18–25-year-olds prefer social log-in to a traditional registration procedure. Since the core audience of live streams is Gen Z, it’s only logical to implement social sign-up. Thus, instead of requiring email and password, the application verifies the user's identity via one of the preferred social networks. This one-click registration reduces the number of incomplete sign-ups and increases the app’s number of users.

Extended user profile

Allow users to play with settings and dwell on their personalities. Along with the basic information like name and profile image, an extended profile may include additional fields like location, preferences, subscriber badges, social media links, profile banners, and scheduled streams. 

Extended streaming features 

You can also make streaming more engaging and interactive by adding extra features like co-streaming, screen sharing, overlays, clipping, and others. Adaptive bitrate streaming will make sure the playback is as smooth as possible for all locations, devices, and internet speeds. Put simply, it dynamically adjusts the video quality to match the bandwidth and CPU of the user’s device. 

Chats

The engagement levels of live broadcasts are already unsurpassed, but live chat takes it a step further. It gives streamers the opportunity to respond to questions and comments. Viewers, on the other hand, can communicate directly with the streamer, react to the event, and even meme it up with GIPHY extensions. Your application can also include message filtering to flag potential spam. 

Extended search features

A granular and filter-packed search is a highly recommended feature for streaming app development. It allows the user to make a more detailed clip search using several filters. Examples of extended search filtering include finding videos by location, start date, popularity, number of viewers, and others. 

Feed

Make sure the users get relevant recommendations and channel updates on their feeds based on their interests and subscriptions. Video-based feeds are usually widgets that contain content from various streamers. The feature is implemented in one wall-like layout to scroll through clips.

Subscriptions

Make sure to include a page where a user can see and manage all active subscriptions. Also, a tier-based paid subscription model can help streamers cash in on their content. In this case, you can also include a standalone interface for managing paid subscriptions.

Recommendations

A data-driven recommendation engine entices users with relevant streams and channels based on their preferences and viewing histories. Tech-wise, a recommendation system relies on AI algorithms that feed on users’ data to produce recommendations. This functionality contributes to user retention and increases the average time spent on your platform.

Notifications

Your application will send an alert or message to the user when a streamer goes live. Some applications such as Twitch and YouTube Live allow channel owners to send a custom notification whenever they stream and to see how their notifications perform via an analytics dashboard.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Livestreaming App MVP?

As we’ve mentioned earlier, you first need to build a skeleton of your project with core functionalities before you develop a livestreaming app with fancy features and lavish add-ons. 

However, the cost of building an MVP for a livestreaming app is a volatile figure. Accurate estimation varies by the scope of your project, its complexity, and the set of features to be implemented. 

Our sales team has prepared a ballpark estimate of an MVP with an illustration of the cost for each activity. This estimation lists only core features with no additional functionality.

FeaturesDevelopment time (hours)Backend development time (hours)Approx. cost ($)
Sign in / Sign up42323700
User profile48243600
Home screen96487200
Search32323200
Notifications24242400
Live streaming16012014000
User gallery48324000
Comments and ratings403236000
Subscriptions729684000
Architecture32323200
Server interaction & API32 –1600
Database24162000
Admin panel19011015000
Total84059871900

As you can see from the table, the approximate cost of building an MVP for a livestreaming app at Orangesoft is around $72K. 

Keep in mind that this estimation is approximate and includes numbers related to the development stage only. To create a full-fledged livestreaming solution, you will also need a team of business analysts, Q&A specialists, designers, and other team members. Their contribution is calculated separately and is not included in this estimation.

Tech Stack for Livestreaming App Development

Now, let’s talk about the tech side of your project development. Although the development patterns can vary, the core building blocks stay the same. Like other apps, a livestreaming application is a combination of programming languages, databases, and other technologies. 

Here’s how to make a livestreaming app the Orangesoft way. 

Programming languages

As an established tech hub, we use time-tested technologies to empower the logic of your application. Our mobile developers rely on Kotlin, Swift, and Java to transform your business concept into a stable, feature-rich, and scalable application.

Content delivery network

To ensure the high performance and availability of your streams, we also connect your application to a reliable content delivery network. Cloudflare and Amazon CloudFront are among the first-picked options for our team.

Hosting

Considering the number of users and requests, a livestreaming app cannot store and process data on-site (unless you have an infinite number of servers on hand). To accommodate the resource needs of your application, we rely on Amazon EC2, which provides scalable computing capacity in the cloud.

API server

Our back-end developers rely on Node.js and PHP for server-side API connections. These will allow your application to integrate with popular services like payment gateways for subscriptions without building all the functionality from scratch. 

Streaming protocols

Following the best practices of livestreaming development, our team applies a combination of WebRTC (web real-time communications) and RTMP. Web real-time communications is a superior broadcasting technology that allows data exchange between browsers, while RTMP facilitates high-definition broadcasting. 

Database

All user data and video-on-demand files are stored in the virtual database. Our developers ensure constant access to video-streaming content by storing your data on a MySQL or PostgreSQL database. 

Push notifications

Firebase notifications is the main technology our team employs to enable battery-efficient notifications. Firebase allows your app to deliver messages and notifications on iOS and Android at no cost.

Messaging queues

The final component, messaging queues, helps your application combine all software components into independent elements while still allowing for internal communication between them. AWS Simple Queue Service helps your software elements communicate with each other, which simplifies development, boosts app performance, and enables targeted scaling.

How to Monetize Livestreaming Apps

A monetization model is what helps your business generate revenue from the application. It is a significant aspect of your business strategy that ensures sustainability and the high quality of the app experience.

Here’s how you can make the most of your digital project.

Paid apps

As the name implies, the paid-app monetization model simply means your app can be downloaded only for a set fee. Keep in mind that app stores take a commission on app revenues from paid app downloads. The biggest benefit of this model is that your application can remain ad-free. 

Freemium

This business model is among the most popular monetization strategies. Freemium allows users to download your application for free. However, they get free access to a limited number of features, while other add-ons can be unlocked for a premium. Twitch, Livestream, LiveMe, and others grant additional privileges to premium users.

Advertisements

Both paid apps and freemium models can be combined with ads. Banner ads, native placements, gamified in-app ads, and others generate an additional revenue stream for your solution. Most streaming platforms also will trigger ads to be placed on streamers’ content. Stream ad serving also helps creators monetize their content.

How Orangesoft Can Help You with Developing a Livestreaming App 

Orangesoft has been assisting global businesses in pursuing their digital initiatives since 2011. As a company that specializes in native mobile development, we have delivered over 300 projects, including e-commerce projects, fintech solutions, livestreaming applications, and others.

One of our latest projects, Stream Vision 2, revolves around video streaming. Our team was hired to deliver a new version of a mobile application that streams video from an observational electro-optic device to a smartphone. 

stream vision 2 app.png
Stream Vision 2 app developed by Orangesoft

The team was asked to expand the app’s features, add new user scenarios, enable cloud storage, and turn a mobile application into a fully managed remote control. The result of this collaboration was a brand-new mobile solution that enables users to manage electro-optic devices remotely.

Our mobile application operates on iOS and Android and is currently used by 90,000 individuals.

The Final Word

Although a newcomer, livestreaming has proven to be a highly engaging technology that bears fruit for companies, brands, and individuals. The existing livestreaming landscape is a vibrant field where users engage with influencers, attend virtual events, watch video game content, and even shop for items. 

The last few years have seen a spike in livestreaming, making our present the best time to enter this market. If you need an experienced mobile development team on your board, contact us to build a successful livestreaming application.

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