How we developed a new Netflix-style Internet tv
At the end of 2015 we were asked if we would like to develop a website that is a bit special, as part of a new project.
After familiarizing ourselves with the site we understood we would have to develop a streaming service similar to Netflix. It should do everything Netflix can do, and be multilingual and operational by the end of 2016.
After the introductory meetings, it was clear that Kamil Ouška’s project had real shape. In addition to classic and mainstream production, this new Internet TV should attract viewers with less known movies, as well as its own production aimed at local audiences. And with proven success in the Czech Republic, it would expand to neighboring countries and the East. While it seemed overambitious at times, we were getting more and more interested, and we agreed on first steps to start with the client:
"Having the opportunity to develop an online streaming platform is a privilege and a joy. However, any project of this size needs a good amount of planning and specification."
The first workshops with the client were spent discussing feasibility. We analyzed Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Czech competitors such as O2, Voyo, Alza media and Stream.cz to track their market developments, to define what they’re doing well and what could be improved. In addition to purely online streaming services, we were also interested in classic linear TV players such as Prima, HBO, UPC and Česká televize. We analyzed statistics of viewer ratings of individual services, price levels and functions. We also considered the implementation of a complete project in an existing type of service like Vimeo on Demand.
In spring 2016 we started our feasibility study. The technical analysis was written with a focus on current technological possibilities and integrated services of global companies. We also organized several meetings with online streaming services and verified our vision with several affiliated companies and online streaming consultants. Gradually it became clear where the road would go, and in May 2016 the analysis was complete, including wireframes, design concepts and a functional prototype using Axure.
The analysis confirmed what we guessed from the beginning - there was no point in reinventing the wheel and wasting time developing basic elements of the infrastructure. In particular:
For these parts of the system we used reliable suppliers, and our own development efforts could be routed to the front end, back office and UX, as well as the interconnection of various APIs. The result was we became systems integrators, taking the best parts from various suppliers and adding our own expertise to build a roof over the whole project.
We identified several suppliers for each of the planned outsourced parts of the system. We considered Czech as well as foreign companies like Amazon (USA), Irdeto (USA), Axinom (DE), České radiokomunikace (CZ), Etnetera (CZ).
We discussed collaboration with some of them, knowing our choices now would affect us greatly in the future. After evaluation our options and pros and cons, we eventually decided to work with Bitmovin, Google storage and EZ DRM.
To complicate matters, companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Adobe have their own DRMs they prefer on their devices. For each device or browser you need to implement different types of decoding.
The private launch and first test of the project was scheduled for early December, with the official launch scheduled for December 17, 2016. We were two days late as we had to solve few last-minute problems with our subcontractors (you might guess where the biggest issues were - licensing keys and DRM authentication with Apple). However, on December 19 the project was live, and after thousands of hours of work, we were nervously anticipating both the public's response and the verification of the technological proposal itself.
Timing for Christmas was a good move by the Obbod team, with several thousand people registering early on the first day for the short trial version. At the same time, other episodes of the Vyšehrad series were aired which gained great popularity among (not only) the football audience. By the beginning of January at the launch of the series, obbod.com peaked at around 170,000 users per day.
170.000 visits a day
The next step was to strengthen the performance of servers and support databases. In the next phase of the project, we prepared an extension of the load balancing architecture and, together with the client, we prepared a strategy to save costs in calmer times and fast scale performance in peak times.
After six months the project was among the established online streaming services on the Czech market and has a growing number of monthly subscribers. Obbod recently launched the follow-up called Lajna, this time set in the world of ice hockey.
At the same time the project is expanding towards users' own wishes - we introduced one-time payment options via text message for viewing content, and from spring the content could be viewed on iOS devices through a native application. Several other improvements are being prepared and implemented.
"COEX did a great job right from the beginning. I appreciate the choice of technology, the realization, launch and gradual improvement of the project and I especially appreciate the proactive approach."