What is a Live Streaming App?
A live stream is multi-media digital content broadcasted by one host and transmitted to many viewers over the Internet in real-time. It can feature live events, like sports, news, a security camera feed, or on-demand content, like TV and movies. Video streaming complements social, gaming, telehealth, remote learning, online dating, eCommerce, and virtual events use cases.
Facebook Live, TikTok, Twitch, and YouTube Live are some of the most popular live streaming platforms available to creators. But, developing a proprietary app to host your brand's live content allows for greater control over creating your user experience, monetizing your stream, and scaling on your terms.
While developing a custom live streaming app requires up-front financial and engineering resources, its benefits can prove invaluable to businesses looking to bypass existing platforms and create their own streaming experience.
Examples of Live Stream Apps
Listed below are three popular live video streaming platforms you can pull inspiration from when designing your own:
This popular video game streaming app is used by professional and casual gamers alike to live stream their game play to fellow enthusiasts.
- Live chat
- Saved channels
- Custom extensions and plug-ins
- Live stream alerts
- Channel categories
- Viewership rewards
This professional networking site offers users and companies the option to go live and broadcast from the platform to other users.
- Advanced scheduling
- Auto-generated captions
- Live stream from your profile background photo
- Real-time editing
- Live chat
- Chat moderation
This social media app goes beyond activity feeds and posts by incorporating live streaming for users. Brands, influencers, and individuals alike can leverage the platform to share real-time messages with their followers.
- Save & schedule broadcasts
- Live chat
- Moderation privledges
- Picture-in-picture mode
- Invite others to go live with you
Must-Have App Features
The step-by-step guide above provides a broad overview of the live stream app development process. You can create a final product that is as simple or detailed as you'd like it to be.
Here are the top features your live stream app should have:
Live Chat: In-app chat that live stream viewers can use while watching content allows them to connect with one another and interact with the streamer.
Polls: Adding real-time polls for live stream viewers to complete keeps them engaged and interacting with your content.
Surveys: Offering the ability for users to rate the quality of your app's stream provides valuable feedback for your development team.
User Profile: Enable users to display their personal info and profile picture to friends and subscribers. You can add advanced fields like interest, preferences, location, and personalizations, too.
Extended Streaming Features: Advanced video streaming features like filters, virtual backgrounds, and screen sharing allow users to get creative when using your app.
Notifications: By sending push notifications to users, you can alert them when the app is going live with content they might be interested in watching.
In addition to the features above, here are a few qualities of a successful app to use as inspiration for your project in development:
Instinctive UI and excellent compatibility
Vigorous incorporation with video player for optimal streaming quality
Adaptive bitrate streaming to maintain streaming integrity across poor network conditions
Multi-screen compatibility for mobile and desktop users
On-demand recordings for users to download
Top-notch security practices in place to protect video resources
Live Streaming Benefits
Live streaming allows brands to interact dynamically with a global user base. Early adopters of this in-app technology will gain an advantage over their competitors. Explore some of the top benefits businesses can experience with live streaming.
Increased Visibility: Businesses gain greater exposure by live streaming exclusive content through their app, encouraging users to tune in.
Stronger Community: Allowing users to connect face-to-face with one another over live stream and interact with streamers via chat empowers them to create a stronger in-app community and become more loyal users.
Analytical Insights: Apps can analyze performance and engagement metrics of their live streams and leverage them to improve their broadcasting and content strategy.
Real-Time User Engagement: Native live streams push users back into your app and promote real-time engagement with your content and team.
Monetization Opportunities: Apps can financially benefit from hosting live streamed content by incorporating paid ads, offering premium subscriptions, asking for donations, and implementing a pay-per-view model.
Brand Humanization: Sharing a candid video of someone from your app's team is a powerful tool for your business. It creates great trust between your mobile app and its users when they know a real person is behind the screen.
Common Live Streaming Concerns
Most viewers will exit a live stream within seconds if they experience technical difficulties. Your mobile app must be prepared to take on the common challenges while streaming. Here are the top three fro your developers to consider:
High Latency: Your streaming protocol must be equipped to adapt based on the viewer's network conditions. High latency decreases communication bandwidth and impacts the quality and speed of your audio and video stream.
Poor CDN Region: Slow clouds, regional outages, and CDN problems like stalling or buffering will interrupt UX and result in a loss of viewership. As a content distributor or video streaming service provider, you must ensure high-quality and seamless delivery.
Cost: Your live stream project can add up quickly, with upfront costs to cover your tech stack, engineering compensation, design work, QA testing, and project management.
Content Moderation: Malicious users can make your mobile app an off-topic and unsafe digital environment by streaming harmful content and posting it in the chat. To keep your live stream app a safe and inclusive place for all users, implementing a moderation solution is essential.
Limited Scalability: If you want to scale globally while boosting customer satisfaction, your app will need to be capable of supporting a high number of active users while delivering an optimal UX. Server health, metrics, use, and monitoring of the bandwidth resources should be at top of mind when developing your app.
How to Create a Live Streaming App
Now that you are familiar with the possible types, benefits, and concerns of live streaming apps, let's dive into how to build one of your own in six simple steps.
1. Determine Your Audience
The purpose of a live stream app is to create and broadcast content for users---so it needs to appeal to them. Identifying your audience will help you decide what type of live stream app to develop, the features it should include, and narrow down monetization options. One way to do this is by collecting user feedback if your app is already live or holding focus groups if you're still in the early planning stages.
2. Implement Monetization Strategies
You'll need to monetize your streams to make money off your app. Combining multiple monetization strategies is the most effective way to ensure that all your hard broadcasting work pays off. Here are a few methods you can mix and match:
Paid App: Charge a fee to download your app.
Freemium: Offer a free app download but charge users for access to premium features and content.
Advertisements: Feature sponsored content during your live stream or add static advertisements to the UI of your app.
3. Solidify Your Tech Stack
Your engineers must choose a programming language, database, and other developmental elements in any app creation process. However, building an app with live stream capabilities will require their attention to a few other components of your tech stack:
A video streaming protocol standardizes segmenting a video stream into smaller chunks that are more easily transmitted. There are a few protocols commonly used to stream live video:
You will need a streaming platform to help build a highly available architecture that delivers a reliable real-time viewing experience. Building your own live streaming from scratch with HLS can be simple, but if you're looking for a ready-made platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is available. AWS offers two live video streaming AWS Solutions to cost-effectively deliver media content to a global audience as part of the AWS Solutions Library.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN): Choosing the right CDN ensures the availability and performance of the live stream for your app users. AWS CloudFront powers popular streaming services, such as Netflix AWS MediaLive.
Choosing the best option for the three tech stack components above comes down to knowing what streaming aspects are most important to your audience: speed, clarity, or adaptability. Start by defining the problems that you intend to solve and adjust your stack accordingly.
4. Design An Intuitive UX
Once you have identified your target audience and their needs, you can design a custom UI/UX to meet them in your app. When it comes to live streaming, less is more---and video should be the hero element of your interface design.
5. Build & Test Your Prototype
Your team might have dozens of ideas they'll want to implement in your live video streaming app, but the best way to put them to the test is by building a prototype of your app. A minimal viable product (MVP) is a lightweight version of your mobile app that only contains the essential features needed to function. It's simple and intends to help your team gather feedback from Beta users.
6. Release, Promote, & Iterate Your App
After you have completed steps one through five, your live stream app is ready to launch! You'll need to market your app in a way that sets it apart from competitors and ensure that users have an enjoyable experience after downloading. Then, you'll need to keep a close eye on performance metrics and the KPIs you've set for your app to understand user behavior better and tailor the UX to improve it.
Cost of Creating a Live Stream App
Depending on the features you plan to include in your streaming app, it can become quite an expensive and time-consuming project. While the final price of creating your app will vary, be sure to estimate the cost of your streaming protocol, chat solution, video service, storage plan, CDN, engineering, design, and project management costs before getting started.
Technical Tutorials to Bookmark
The seven tutorials below will help you and your engineers move swiftly through the app development process regardless of the streaming protocol you choose and whether you're building it for Android or iOS.
WebRTC Tutorials: WebRTC is one of the most flexible live streaming protocols available. This resource houses various tutorials, newsletter links, relevant books, demos, and educational content to help you make the most of WebRTC.
Apple's Guide to HTTP Live Streaming: This resource from Apple covers HLS live streaming and includes documentation, streaming tools, demos, links to developer forums, and video tutorials.
Build a Live Stream Flutter App: Tadas Petras created this video tutorial as instruction for building a live streaming app that allows you to stream with friends and be able to control their audio and video and whether they are visible overall that can push the stream out to streaming platforms including Youtube and Twitch.
Live Streaming with Mux, Stream, & Flutter: This technical blog walks you through the basic pipeline of streaming development and includes the code you will need to complete your Flutter project.
Building Interactive Live Streaming Apps: This demo focuses on how the right CDN can deliver seamless interactive experiences for massive audiences by managing signal acquisition/ingest, low latency, interactivity, and scaling in the cloud.
1. How do I make a streaming app for free?
There are a number of free services, like Appypie, available to help you build your streaming app. However, you will have less control over the tech stack, customization, and flexibility of your live stream.
2. What equipment is required for live streaming?
A functional camera and microphone are essential pieces of live streaming equipment in addition to your app.
3. How do I make my own live stream?
You must have an Internet connection, camera, microphone, and streaming device to go live.
4. What technology is used for live streaming?
Your live streaming tech stack must include a video streaming protocol, a streaming platform, and a content delivery network (CDN).
5. Are streaming apps profitable?
The profitability of your streaming app depends on which monetization strategies you choose to leverage. While they may be successful, pay-per-click ads are a more unpredictable source of revenue when compared to a monthly subscription program users must have to access premium content and features. Still, it's important to diversify---the more revenue streams you integrate into your app, the more profitable it will be.
Developing an app can be difficult, especially with live stream audio and video capabilities. Leaning on the list of resources above and ready-made components like our SDKs and APIs can help you create a better app, launch faster, and spend more time engineering a unique streaming experience for your broadcast viewers.