With the current social distancing measures in place, the demand for streaming video services is on the rise. Many organizations that invest in video streaming applications today are looking to connect with their clients better when opportunities for face-to-face interactions are limited.
Whether it’s live streaming video, Video on Demand (VoD), or OTT platforms, companies are now exploring the use of these technologies to serve their customer better during the crisis and beyond.
That’s why business leaders are now wondering whether off-the-shelf solutions perform well enough, or developing a custom platform would be necessary. What options are out there and which ones are the best for your business?
It all depends on your business goals and many other factors.
In this article, we take a closer look at tailor-made solutions and off-the-shelf products to show you their unique advantages and drawbacks.
Custom streaming platform
A tailor-made solution is built from scratch exclusively for your business. This brings a lot of unique benefits at a relatively higher cost. A custom streaming platform will bring you the highest ROI in specific circumstances, but it’s not a good fit for content creators on a budget looking to bootstrap their business.
Let’s zoom in on the advantages and disadvantages of opting for a custom video streaming solution.
Advantages of building bespoke streaming platforms
- Exactly the features you need — since you pay for its development, a custom platform includes all the features you need and matches your technical, advertising, and censorship requirements. You won’t be paying for multiple redundant features that you never end up using but get a solution that matches your needs perfectly.
- Full control — you’re no longer at the mercy of the provider. You can freely gate your content by implementing a paywall, all the while having full control over how you do it.
- Payments — you choose any payment processor and expand payments to a global scale. You will have control over who will be processing payments from your audience and/or creators and how they will be doing it.
- Communication with the audience — you will be able to build a connection with your viewers by messaging them directly or advertising to them in ways that aren’t always possible when publishing on platforms such as YouTube.
- Technology ownership — by building your own solution, you gain control of the technology, codebase, and even the algorithms governing the platforms (for example, for content recommendations). You can gain revenue from your platform by offering it to other companies to get your ROI over time.
- Product roadmap — when building your own platform, you’re the one in charge of the product roadmap and get to choose the features that will help differentiate it from your competitors.
- No more fees — you will never have to pay fees to video hosting companies again. By building a custom platform, you can become the streaming company yourself and start earning money that you would otherwise pay someone else.
- Customer experience — you can craft and deliver the exact customer experience you want without any restrictions from a hosting platform.
- Security — with your own solution, you will no longer have to accept privacy and security policies that don’t seem that convincing.
Drawbacks of building custom streaming platforms
- High upfront cost — building your own streaming platform entails much higher upfront cost than testing your business idea on a hosted service. However, once your platform is ready, you can expect maintenance costs to be relatively low. Custom software brings higher ROI in the long term, and streaming platforms are no exception to that.
- Long time to market — a custom solution will take longer to build and implement. That’s why you should take that into account when choosing the right solution for your business.
When to use it?
There’s no denying that custom video platforms take much more time to build and are more expensive. However, this approach allows you to create a platform that is more accurately tailored to your unique needs. A custom platform can include additional features and can be easily modified to reflect the requirements of your growing business.
So, when should you opt for a custom solution? If your business focuses on delivering video experience to viewers at its core. Also, a tailor-made platform will help you stand out from competitors.
Since the investment cost for building such a platform is quite high, many companies test their idea first by using a ready-made solution and then move on to build their own streaming platforms.
Off-the-shelf streaming platform
Just like other ready products, such streaming platforms include a standardized selection of features that its creators deemed broad enough to satisfy even the most demanding businesses. While off-the-shelf platforms offer a great cost-benefit, they also have some shortcomings.
Advantages of buying off-the-shelf streaming platforms
- Opportunity to start small — building a tailor-made platform is a big investment that carries significant risk. Before you start looking for venture capitalists or hedge funds for your first round of investment, you can try a ready-made solution. This allows validating your business idea quickly, and at a fraction of the cost that you would need to pay for the development of a solution from scratch.
- Short time to market — a ready-made solution allows you to start generating revenue straight away. You can begin to publish and monetize videos within hours of creating an account on the video hosting platform and customizing your page.
- Lower upfront cost — the main perk of an off-the-shelf solution is that it will cost you much less at the beginning than building your own platform. However, if your business grows, paying fees to hosting platforms might no longer be a good strategy.
Drawbacks of pre-made streaming platforms
- Limited customization possibilities — naturally, an off-the-shelf platform comes with limited or even no customization possibilities. You have no ownership of the technology and data. But this is the price you pay for the convenience of hosting your content on someone else’s streaming platform.
- Security — another key issue around video hosting services is their security. If you pick a service that updates its security and data privacy measures in a way that doesn’t match your preferences, you basically can’t do anything about it.
- No control over data — by choosing a hosting service, you also give up control over your data. For example, if you would like to record a live-streamed event to post it later as VoD, you might be forced to use two different services. This makes organizing such a project much more challenging.
When to use it?
Off-the-shelf video platforms are a good match for companies whose core business function doesn’t focus on video but is rather an addition to their offer. For example, it doesn’t make sense for the owner of a fitness studio who wants to offer guided workout videos for remote customers to invest in a video streaming platform.
If you need only some basic features like uploading, displaying, and monetizing your video content, a ready-made product may be a good fit. It allows you to do all of that conveniently and at the smallest possible cost.
How much does it cost to build a custom video streaming platform?
The answer to this question depends on how many features you would like your solution to have, their level of complexity, as well as who will build the platform for you (and where!).
When it comes to development, you can basically choose from three options:
- Hiring a freelance developer — this option is cheap, but it comes with risk in areas such as timely delivery, product quality, quality assurance, and speed of development. A single developer might have all the talent and skills, but building a streaming platform is a complex process that requires the input of an entire development team. Also, if you choose this option, prepare for supervising the developer’s work directly (and that might be difficult if you have no technical knowledge).
- Building an in-house development team — sourcing and attracting talented developers is difficult and takes a lot of time, regardless of where you are located. Sure, having your own team of developers gives you the option of retaining insights in-house and growing your platform without any limits. However, this comes at a very high cost — you will not only be paying for developers’ salaries but also perks, benefits, vacation days, sick leaves, etc.
- Outsourcing to a software development agency — by delegating the task of building your streaming platform to a software company like Codete, you can rest assured that your project is in safe hands (provided that you chose the company carefully). Such agencies usually have all the people on board who can help you build a great solution — from business analytics, project managers, and UX/UI designers to frontend developers, backend developers, and Quality Assurance specialists. An agency that has delivered similar projects knows what it takes to build a successful video streaming platform and will share this expertise with you. Before you sign the contract, make sure to browse through reviews on sites such as Clutch.co or DesignRush. And don’t forget to check out our practical tips on choosing the right software house!
Remember about these features
Regardless of how you choose to stream video to your audience, there are a few things you need to make sure are in place to offer the best value for your investment.
- Content management system (CMS) — since the amount of video content you will be providing is likely to grow, ensure that your platform helps your customers find the content they want. Build a robust search feature and a well-organized database — or make sure that your video hosting service provides you this.
- Security — as piracy is still an issue, you need to protect your content with the best tools available. Remember that if you choose a third-party service to host your content, make sure to closely read and understand the company’s privacy policies and security protocols.
- Bandwidth restrictions — there’s no denying that streaming video can use a lot of bandwidth. Some paid hosting services often scale their pricing by the number of megabytes of downloaded content. If you build a custom streaming platform, you should still check whether you have the bandwidth to support all your customers.
Building your own technology is never cheaper than using a ready-made solution. That’s why many companies start off with an off-the-shelf video streaming platform to check whether their business idea works in a low-risk way. The money they save can go into content creation or marketing.
Once your business idea takes off, it’s usually better to transition to a proprietary platform. This will give you more control over the development pipeline and features.
If you decide to build your own video streaming software, partner with a development company that has documented experience in the niche.
At Codete, we have built several mobile applications and web-based software solutions for telecommunication and media companies. Get in touch with us if you’d like to learn how to take advantage of digital channels to help your business grow. We can assist you with everything from Proof of Concept and MVP to developing the final product.
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