How to write a technical specifications for your streaming service?


Thinking your project through is often the key to success. Deploying an OTT service is not an easy task, and a clear plan of requirements is essential to implement it.

What's the point of having specifications? Objectives, methodology and a model of technical specification for its streaming service to download in PDF at the end of this article... We tell you everything!

The goals of technical specifications for your streaming website

The technical specifications, also known as "TS", are the common thread of the project. Indeed, thanks to it, it is possible to ask a maximum of questions upstream and anticipate possible future challenges.

This document explains a project as a whole, and identifies related needs, constraints and stakeholders. All this reflection helps to clarify the path to be taken, without forgetting anything. Thus, it is a theoretical version of the good conduct of the project.

Nevertheless, the specifications must remain a flexible tool that can be adapted to everyone.

The Kinow methodology for writing technical specs

To help you in your design of a TS, we will detail the important points of a streaming site design project, not to be left to chance.

Thanks to this methodology, it will be easier for you to question the needs of your future project, to prioritize the work and to help your interlocutors to better understand your expectations. As a result, it will be easier for your service provider to bring his technical skills to the project.

1. Contact(s)

First and foremost, every project requires a project manager who will ensure that it runs smoothly. Indeed, the project manager will be responsible, from start to finish, for the various communications and developments of the project.

2. Project description

At this stage, the service should be explained in a few lines. The description of the service must be clear and concise, including the vision and desired values of the site in order to ensure a rapid deployment.

A deadline must also be mentioned to best anticipate the service's arrival on the market.

3. Content

The first step is to define a theme. That is to say the desired vision of your platform. Is it a platform for sports videos? A platform dedicated to documentaries? Or is it a video platform for youth content?

"Is your video catalogue ready to be broadcast?" is a central question for any streaming project. Indeed, the acquisition or production of video content can be extremely time-consuming and costly, completely immobilizing the deployment of the service.

It is important to define the volume of hours of video or the number of channels available at the launch of your platform as well as the amount of fresh content added each week or month.

4. Broadcasting modes

To develop a streaming platform, it is essential to determine in advance the desired delivery mode, but it is not always easy to find your way around. Here are the main ones:

  • VOD/Replay: VOD (video on demand) allows users to watch video content at any time. Replay (catch-up television) allows users to watch a programme after it has been broadcast.

  • Live: live streaming refers to the real-time broadcast of an event.  It relies on the immediacy of the content, which favours the speed of diffusion.

  • Linear: linear broadcasting refers to traditional television. It allows users to watch a channel and its programmes according to a predefined schedule and timetable.

  • Downloading: thanks to permanent downloading, it is possible to keep complete media files (films...) obtained on the Internet, to view or listen to them offline afterwards (unlimited).

5. The business model

The subject of monetization is fundamental to consider a fast ROI (Return on Investment) and a viable business model:

  • TVOD: or transactional video on demand, allows you to purchase content on an a la carte basis. The content must be accessible by permanent download (EST) or rental (DTR) for limited use (viewing time, etc.).

  • SVOD: or subscription video-on-demand, makes it possible to watch a video catalogue on a platform thanks to a subscription over a given period, in return for a monthly or annual fee for example.  

  • AVOD: or free video-on-demand financed by advertising, allows users to access a video for free after viewing one or more advertisements.

  • Free VOD: or free video-on-demand without advertising, allows you to view a video catalog completely free and without clutter.

Once the monetization model has been defined, a pricing policy will have to be determined. If you offer a SVOD platform, what will be the different formulas available and at what cost?

Finally, it will be important to set goals related to this business model: how many monthly sales, how many subscribers after 12 months, how many user accounts created, ...

Also read : Online video service and monetization: which alternatives?

6. Video hosting

The keystone of a streaming service is video hosting. It is the key to effective file protection and a smooth video playback experience.

It will first be necessary to define what level of protection is expected. DRM (Digital Right Management) allows content to be encrypted against piracy. There are several levels of protection:

  • Clearkey: free but not compatible DRM on Safari drives on iOS.

  • Fairplay, Playready & Widevine: so-called Hollywood DRM allowing a high level of content protection (validated by the biggest studios) and compatible with all players but entailing a licensing cost for each streamed video.

Next, the resolutions and bitrates in which the source videos will be transcoded will need to be defined. The greater the number of resolutions available for output, the smoother the playback experience will be. It should be noted, however, that transcoding has a cost for each output resolution, so you will need to find the right balance between playback fluidity and transcoding cost.

By default, we recommend that videos are available in 3 resolutions – bitrate:

  • 1080p (HD) - 8,5Mbps

  • 720p (HD) - 5Mbps

  • 540p (SD) - 3,5Mbps

Once transcoded, the files will need to be stored securely on an Origin server. If you have several hundreds or thousands of hours of content, the use of a watchfolder (FTP) will allow you to upload massively all this content in a reliable and fast way.

The CDN (Content Delivery Network) will then take over to ensure the distribution of the content. It will be necessary to ensure that the CDN used allows coverage of all the geographical areas aimed by the service.

Finally, the stream will be transmitted directly from the CDN to the video player to reach the end user. It will be important to make sure that the video player is compatible with any type of device and with the DRM used for transcoding. It will also be necessary to define the features expected in this player.

Here are some of the features offered in the Kinow player:

  • Resume reading

  • Restriction of simultaneous viewing by user account

  • Choice of the return time

  • Possibility to cast the video on a TV via Chromecast or Airplay

  • Watermarking

7. Distribution

In addition, it is important to think about the distribution of your content. Via a website? A mobile/tablet application? Connected TVs? Or set-top boxes?

A wide choice is available, it is even possible to mix several of these distribution methods.

Kinow offers white label applications for all these devices, generic or customized according to your needs. More informations.

8. Needs

Here it is a question of evoking the needs at the elaboration of the project. Each project is different, which is why it is important to specify the tools already available:

  • No tools available

  • Existing website to be connected to an independent video platform

  • Existing video platform to be improved

It is also at this stage that it is important to discuss its needs in terms of essential functionalities for the service. Here are some important points to validate:

  • CMS: How will the catalogue be organized? What information can be found in it? How flexible should the editorialization be (highlighting new products, reorganizing categories)?  Should the content be restricted according to countries or user groups? Can we put several videos in a single content sheet (episodes)? ...

  • CRM: How can users access the content? Can they bookmark videos? What information is required to create an account? What user data do we want to monitor (videos viewed, orders placed, amount spent, number of renewals of their subscriptions...)? Should we be able to chat with users via a support system? ...

  • Monetization: What payment methods are available to users (credit card, bank transfer, direct debit, operator payment, etc.)? Is an order and invoicing management system required?

Certainly, if your streaming site is intended to be distributed in several countries, then "multilingual" or "multi-currency" options can be installed for example. It will also be necessary to plan to restrict the content only to the countries concerned by your service thanks to the geolocation by IP address.

Moreover, to contribute to the evolution of a streaming platform, viewing statistics are essential. This data allows you to track the use of the service and thus identify the content that is popular and the content that is neglected in order to improve your marketing and content strategy.

If your future platform is to be managed by a team, then it will be advisable to integrate a collaborative management function with separate access rights for each platform administrator.

Finally, if you want to integrate other applications into your project, an API is essential. Kinow proposes APIs allowing an integration in your existing infrastructure and a connection to any application.

Technical specifications: in conclusion

To sum up, a good specification must be as precise as possible. It must address your needs and those of your users.

If we take this methodology step by step, here is our model of a technical specifications made by Kinow.

Do not hesitate to give us feedback if this article has helped you to write your own TS.

If you wish to be accompanied in the drafting of your specifications for your streaming service, the Kinow team can ensure the smooth running of your creative project. Contact our experts!