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December 22, 2021

How to Build a Live Streaming Mobile App: The Full Guide

Live streaming is winning the media market. Check out our article and find out everything you need to know about live streaming app development.

Mitya Smusin

Chief Executive Officer

People like dynamic visuals. We are surrounded by them everywhere: We watch TV, search for funny videos on YouTube, and subscribe to services like Netflix and HBO Max. The number of solutions for publishing video content is growing, and so is the user population. Unsurprisingly, business operators increasingly wonder about how to build a live streaming app. 

Moreover, this area has become extremely lucrative due to lockdowns and restrictions of the pandemic. A lot of movies and series were released directly on streaming platforms bypassing movie theaters. It attracted more people to the online live streaming and now it’s projected that, due to streaming, by the year 2025 users will spend more than $17 billion in social apps annually.

This article illustrates the process of creating a mobile live streaming app, describes the necessary tech stack, and gives the approximate cost estimate.

What is live streaming?

The definition of live streaming is quite simple. Live streaming is the process of broadcasting audio and video content in real time. The term also refers to the simple act of watching or listening to such broadcasts. 

Live streaming services usually come as web platforms like Twitch and YouTube, but they are also supported by mobile apps. It’s an efficient way to cover a wider audience and attract more content creators. Moreover, social media like Instagram allow streaming only in mobile apps. 

A mobile live streaming app can be profitable when it's accessed for sports broadcasts, TV channels, cybersports, education, and other categories in which live events are frequent.

How does live streaming work?

The process of live streaming consists of five stages that all the content you stream comes through. It includes video capture, encoding, going through live streaming platforms, CND and playback.

  • Video capture

This process involves capturing your screen, camera, and microphone data and then transforming it into raw video content. Here a lot of responsibility for the quality of your stream lies on your hardware.

  • Encoding

Because the raw data is too large to stream in real time, it’s necessary to convert it to a more convenient form. That's what encoding does. The most common video encoders are AV1, VP9, and 264.

  • Live streaming platform

This step involves multiple processes. The simplest set of features will consist of transcoding (converting the video in various formats) and streaming, like YouTube. More advanced functions can include compressing, storing, or even live multilingual captions.

  • CND

Once the video content has passed all the previous stages, it’s time to show it to the user. A Content Delivery Network (CND) is used to complete this task. A CDN caches the live stream so that users can have the most lifelike experience.

  • Video player

The last step is displaying the live stream on a video player. It can be embedded in the live streaming app or be a separate piece of software. It receives, decodes, and interprets the data while showing the stream to the user.

What types of streaming applications are there?

Live streaming is a broad term that covers many industries and all of them cannot be present in one application. So the very first step of building a streaming app is defining its type. There are four options to consider:

Types of streaming applications
  • Live broadcasting app

This type of app is among the most popular in regard to streaming. It lets users broadcast and watch videos in real time. Such services are widely popular among gamers who stream playthroughs and their reaction to various video games (Twitch). Additionally, other apps can implement this feature so their users can start live streams and communicate with the audience (Instagram, YouTube).

  • TV broadcasting app

Cable TV is losing popularity as people move to online services. However, TV companies have responded with their own broadcasting apps. The software lets users access all the content produced by the TV company as well as the live broadcast. Popular apps include YouTube TV, AT&T TV, and Sling.

  • Video-on-demand app

Traditional TV is losing to this type of app. The feature most common to video-on-demand apps is that they give their subscribers access to favorite TV shows and movies whenever they want without the need for downloading. A user can pause the video, rewind it or resume at a later time. Netflix is the leader in on-demand programming. It has almost 214 million subscribers and thousands of titles from around the globe.

  • Audio streaming apps

Video isn’t the only type of content that can rely on live streaming. The main process here is the same: A user can listen to music and podcasts without downloading them to a device. The most popular apps in this segment are Spotify and Apple Music.

Is it worth developing a live streaming app?

Seeing the number of examples, you can start doubting the idea of building a live streaming app. However, the applications we mentioned are only part of a constantly growing market. To prove that the market is on the rise, here are some promising numbers.

  • TBI Vision projects 1.495 billion SVOD subscriptions by 2026.

  • According to Globe News Wire, by 2027, the live streaming market will reach $184.27 billion.

  • Esports is the largest sector of live streaming, based on a 54% share.

  • 80% of the audience would rather watch a live stream from a brand than read its blog.

  • Livestreams started playing a more significant role in e-commerce: 38% of U.S. adults said they had watched a live stream where someone mentioned the product they were interested in.

  • About 60% of U.S. young adults use live streaming to watch TV.

  • Livestreams states that 45% of the audience is ready to pay for live and on-demand video from their presenter of choice.

Is it worth developing a live streaming app

These stats clearly show that live streaming is a profitable niche and your future application has all the chances to be welcomed by the audience.

The most notable live streaming applications

Let's consider the most prominent representatives of live streaming apps. As market leaders, they set and maintain the prominent industry trends.

  • Twitch

Twitch was the world's most popular streaming app in 2021, boasting an average of almost 2.8 million viewers per sampling period. This service is mostly used by gamers who stream the gaming sessions and collect donations from viewers. Besides donating, viewers can also participate in a chat with other users. Additionally, they can use a special internal currency, Bits, to support their favorite streamers.

Twitch

  • YouTube

Despite the fact that YouTube’s main focus has always been the hosting of premade videos, the platform was one of the first to implement live streaming. This feature is accessible from the mobile app where users can initiate live streams and watch as other users go live. Moreover, there is plenty of other content available like movies, sports, news, and TV shows.

YouTube
  • Instagram

Instagram is another social network that isn’t focused on live streaming but where a lot of users go live every day. Real-time broadcasts are available as a part of Stories functionality. Most influencers use it to communicate directly with the audience. Comments under the stream are monitored for offensive content, and a user can limit who is able to participate in the chat. The app also lets you invite friends to a live stream and make it cooperative.

Instagram

How to make a live streaming app: Main steps

The development of a mobile live streaming app requires the completion of several steps:

Steps to build an app with live streaming

1. Define the target audience and market niche

The correctly determined target audience is one of the core elements of a successful live streaming app. You need to learn their needs and pains to create a solution that will cover most or all of them. The more specific you’ll be about why and for whom you create the product, the clearer vision you’ll have and the more useful your app will be.

2. Choose a partner

Certainly, you'll want a professional provider for the design and implementation of a live streaming app, but the one you choose should be chosen wisely. The main criterion is the level of experience the provider can demonstrate, followed closely by relevant expertise and reviews from existing clients. A development partner that functions well in a team environment will be the best fit for your project. 

It's also advisable to examine the way such a developer communicates. Consider their corporate culture, which should be open and conducive to creativity. That way, you’ll understand if you’ll be able to quickly find a common ground and avoid conflict situations.

3. Create wireframes and prototypes

When all formalities are set, you and your team can start implementing your ideas by making wireframes and prototypes. Wireframing is the stage in which a draft of the project is created. It’s a set of black-and-white screens that show the app's major functions and the ways in which they’re interconnected. A prototype—a relatively sophisticated version of the draft—can guide you through the user flow.

These means will help you understand what your app will function when finished. Additionally, making mistakes at this stage is way cheaper than later in development.

4. Design

After wireframes and prototypes are done, you can think about the way your app will look like. Functions may be the core but appearance also matters. If your app doesn’t look appealing to users or the UI is poorly drawn, the app won’t attract and retain users.

5. Develop

This stage will take most of the time. The more functions you want to implement for the first release, the more hours the app will need to be done. We would recommend starting with an MVP. A minimum viable product includes only the most important functionality and allows potential users to get familiar with the app. For a live streaming app, it would be the broadcasting, user profile, and comments. We’ll explore them later in this article.

6. Test

An application can be tested in many ways, but they all serve a single purpose: to ensure that the app can sustain the necessary load without errors or crashes. You can use several types of tests for a live streaming app, such as load testing, unit testing, and smoke testing.

7. Launch and support

The next chapter of your success story begins the moment your live streaming app is in the app stores. The primary tasks will be to study user feedback, remove any bugs that emerge, and update the app with newer, better functions.

The features of a live streaming mobile app

A live streaming app is the embodiment of its core features, which benefit the intended user audience and help build market share:

Features of a live streaming mobile app
  • User registration and profile

The first time a user opens your app, it should be possible to register and create a unique profile. So, for an MVP, consider the possibility of having a single sign-up method such as e-mail, a phone number, or social media. Options for registration can be added later.

Personalization—made possible with a unique profile—lets the user subscribe to favorite streamers, add comments and customize other settings.

  • Real-time streaming

This function is crucial for the success of a live streaming app. An MVP can have only the streaming without additional features. You can implement storing and recording with further updates. Your app should provide the best possible video and sound quality, but it should also be easy to set up a live stream.

  • Video or audio on demand

If you're considering a VoD or AoD service, on-demand should be on your list of features. However, it will require additional functions such as storage, browsing, rating system, and personalized recommendations. 

  • Commenting

During a live stream, the audience usually comments on it. They can answer questions asked by the streamer, give hints and advice, and can even organize a tangential discussion. Additionally, you can include the role of a moderator who deletes offensive comments or bans malicious users.

  • Search

Users should be able to browse the app for the content they prefer, whether it's broadcast TV, video-game playthroughs, or the live-podcast category.

You can also include advanced functions as a way to make your app more competitive:

  • Donations and gifts

Your app can be connected to various payment systems so subscribers can support their favorite content makers. Additionally, users can show their affection with virtual gifts and animations.

  • Sharing

To engage more viewers, you can let users share the stream with other people. It's easy to do, with a messenger utility or social media.

  • Storage and recording

These features will make it more convenient for users to use the app. If they missed a stream or want to revive the memories, they can find it recorded on the streamer’s profile.

  • Chat

An in-app chat will facilitate communication between the streamer and the audience. Additionally, you can use chats to make your customer service and tech support faster and more productive. 

  • Multiple video quality options

It's important to understand that not every network will support high-quality video streaming. To reach a wider audience and give people with content they want, consider the inclusion of some exciting options. A user can choose the one that fits their network in a drop-down menu.

Video streaming technology stack and requirements

The tech stack for a live streaming app will vary from project to project. So, the configuration you choose will be dependent on the specifications of your project. Nevertheless, the following tools are generally suitable for inclusion with a streaming app: 

  • Programming languages: Java, Swift (iOS), Kotlin (Android)

  • Content delivery network (CDN): Amazon CloudFront

  • Content storage: Amazon S3 Cloud

  • Hosting: Amazon EC2

  • Video on demand: AWS Elemental MediaConvert

  • Streaming protocols: WebRTC, RTMP

  • Database: MySQL

  • Third-party solutions: Twilio, Livestream, IBM Cloud Video

These technologies will ensure that your live streaming app works smoothly on all platforms and that it gives users the best-quality video and sound.

How to earn money with a live streaming application?

Besides providing users with what they want, the application should earn money to cover the development costs and make a profit. Here is the shortlist of proven and efficient ways to monetize live streams.

Live streaming application monetization models
  • One-time payment

It’s as simple as it sounds: To download and use the app, the user must pay a fixed sum of money. When the app is installed, all the app’s functionality becomes available. Moreover, the app should not have any ads or not require additional purchases.

  • Freemium

This is the most common strategy among live streaming apps. It’s simple, too. The basic functionality is free-to-use and for more advanced perks, the user should pay. That is exactly how Twitch works with its Twitch Prime subscription.

  • In-app ads

Advertising is another way to generate income with your app. Of course, in the context of live streaming, there are various ways to run ads. You could have a banner that occupies a portion of the screen or a short (5-15 seconds) video promoting goods and services. However, it’s important not to get too annoying with ads. Otherwise, the users will leave the app.

  • Subscription

This method is widely used by video-on-demand services like Netflix and HBO Max. There is no free content to watch. The users pay for the subscription monthly and get access to all the movies and TV shows published on the platform.

Live streaming app development cost

The development of a live streaming app involves various parts and its cost depends on various factors. These factors include:

  • The feature list. The more functions you want to include in the first version, the more expensive it will be. However, we would recommend you start with an MVP to reduce initial costs and collect valuable feedback.

  • The team’s rates. The average rate can vary from $20/hour to $200/hour depending on the team’s location and the level of specialists. Moreover, different team members (engineers, designers, QA) can have different rates.

  • Third-party services. If the development involves third-party services, you have to pay for their usage.

  • Maintenance. When this app is launched, the maintenance works start. Your team will need to quickly respond to users’ feedback and update the app.

If we take an average rate of $40/hour, the full creation of a live streaming app will be about $60,000. For a more detailed estimate, feel free to contact our specialists.

The final thought 

The live streaming market is growing every year. People are becoming more involved in real time communication via streams. The pandemic also influenced this trend with online musical performances and events. More use cases appear like health care and education. It means that creating an application for live streams is worth trying. Yellow is ready to help you complete the project.

📹 What is a live streaming app?

A live streaming app is an application that lets users create and watch real-time broadcasts of audio and video.

📹 What live streaming apps are the most popular today?

The most popular live streaming apps are Twitch, YouTube, and Instagram.

📹 What features to include in a live streaming app

The features set of a live streaming app includes user profile, real-time streaming itself, commenting, search, donations, sharing, storage, and recording.

📹 How much does live streaming app development cost?

If we take an average rate of $40/hour, the full creation of a live streaming app will be about $60,000.

Tags
How-to
Live streaming
Mobile development

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