Whoaa! Starting a business like NETFLIX!
Before we get too excited about it, let’s slow down and get one thing straight. Building a WordPress website like Netflix is definitely possible. But, the word ‘like’ is key here.
Netflix has one of the most successful business models in the world. What started out as an online DVD rental company back in 1998, has gone down to become one of the most popular OTT media services out there. They’ve managed to build an empire on the foundation of a basic subscription model and are worth more than $100 billion today!
Now, subscription business models aren’t a new trend in the market. In fact, they’ve been around for decades. You yourself are most-likely hooked to a business that’s based on subscriptions. Could be a magazine or newspaper subscription or even cable-net.
Yep. The idea is as simple as that. Customers pay a recurring fee (either monthly or yearly) in exchange for a particular product or service. You can sell to existing customers, create more value at a lower price and predict your revenue. Simply brilliant, isn’t it?! I mean, of course, you’ll have to focus on reeling in new customers and retaining the existing ones, but with your sales set on autopilot, you’re exempted from the hassle of having to find new customers every single time.
What worked out for Netflix…..
You guessed it! Their Subscription-based Business Model.
Here’s a quick overview of their offering: Netflix lets you choose from 3 types of accounts: Basic, Standard, and Premium.
- The Basic account allows you to watch non-HD movies on 1 screen at a time.
- The Standard account lets you watch HD movies on a maximum of 2 screens.
- The Premium account provides Ultra HD quality content and allows you to watch it on 4 screens simultaneously.
All three accounts provide a free trial month. Once you pick what suits you best, you can pay on a monthly basis. You can also choose to cancel your subscription at any point. You’re basically entitled to all the content on their website for as long as you keep paying. This means Netflix is based on The All-You-Can-Eat Library Model or The Buffet Model.
However, there’s a couple of other things Netflix can attribute its success to:
- Accessibility– All of their content is accessible any time (quite literally), at any place (with an Internet connection) and on any device. Whether you’re using a mobile, tablet, PC, laptop, television or just about every other media device that has the technical capability to run it, you’ll instantly realize, there’s no compromise on the quality of your experience.
- Choices– You get to choose what you want to watch from a plethora of options they have to offer. You get to try out their services before you go ahead and choose to convert into a customer. You can choose to walk out whenever you deem fit. No customer likes being cuffed to a product or service. The moment they are restricted in any way, their resistance towards making a purchase increases.
- The Recommendation Algorithm- Through the user rating system and tracking the history of what you watch, Netflix suggests movies and shows that it thinks will appeal to you. As a Netflix subscriber, you are constantly participating in a range of behavioral experiments to produce data that allows the company to recommend movies and TV shows it thinks you’ll like. With their amazing data-driven technology, they’re almost always spot-on!
- Instant Queue– The instant queue is basically a lineup of movies or shows you’ve chosen to watch on a later date. When you’re browsing through the site and you come across movies that you want to watch next, you can just add them to a queue as opposed to having to sift through the horde of options on Netflix.
In case you didn’t already know, they have an extensive range of Original Content to offer and you won’t come across an advertisement. Ever. Not hard to imagine why they’re the big dogs of Video-on-Demand, is it?!
Considering the fact that we don’t have the resources or the big bucks to invest in all of these features just yet, let’s focus on what can be done instead.
What could work out for you….
- Membership Website Model– This is where you charge for knowledge-based content in a particular domain. Picking a niche is probably the most sensible thing to do when starting out with any business. You know your target audience, you know exactly what appeals to them and you build an expert status. Of course, you can consider scaling your business at a later stage, but for now, the focus is what’s going to take your business forward.
- The Freemium Model– The one that Netflix uses. You can basically get people to try out your content before they make a purchase. If you’re just starting out, it’s the perfect way to put yourself out there.
- The Multiple Edition Model– This is when you cater to different factions of your audience. You may be able to categorize your customer base and identify what appeals to each of the segments. So, you offer plans that are specifically applicable to a particular set of prospects. That’s precisely what Netflix tries to do with their Basic, Standard and Premium plans.
- Content Dripping– Content Dripping is the delivery of content over time, in a pre-scheduled manner. To put this in perspective, let’s say you’re watching a TV series on Netflix. Suppose Netflix does not give you access to the 3rd episode without watching the first two, we can call it content dripping. Or, if they choose to release only 1 new episode per week, that’d again be a form of content dripping. Why would you want to do this? Now, that depends. It could be to keep customers hooked so that they continue to subscribe to your services.
Now, these above features are great to get your business off the bat. But getting to those features is the next step. You need to first start by setting up your website. If you’ve got that covered, you could skip right to video hosting. If not, read on…
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You start by picking the Domain Name and a suitable Hosting Plan for your Website.
A domain name is your unique website name. For example, if you choose a name like ‘example.com’, you’ll have to go to a ‘Domain Name Registrar’, pay a registration fee that will give you the right to the name for a year, and you will have to renew it annually.
A Web Host is an online storage center that houses the information, images, video, and other content that comprises your website. The more “items” or “content” you have on your site (i.e., photos, videos, maps, PDF files, etc.), the more disk space and bandwidth you’ll need for website hosting.
If you’re planning to host the videos yourself, a shared hosting plan will not be adequate for your disk space and bandwidth requirements. A dedicated hosting solution is ideal, but the difference in monthly cost for this plan may be significant.
However, there’s an alternative. You can host your content on a third-party hosting service and embed it on your site. We’ll discuss this in detail in the next section of this article.
Here’s a list of few Hosting Providers we recommend:
Managed WordPress hosting is something definitely worth considering if you have a good budget. Take a look at this article to know more about it.
You basically have two options- Self-Host your videos or Embed them on your site. Let Me explain….
Self-hosting means that you upload the video file to your site, using the built-in file uploader in WordPress, the same way you might upload a photo or image to your site.
To Embed, you upload your video file to a third-party video hosting service like YouTube or Vimeo. Then, you paste a code given to you by them on your website. The video will appear on your site, in the location of the embed code, but the video itself is being streamed from the video host’s servers, as opposed to your own web server, where your WordPress site is hosted.
Before we start debating about which one’s a better option, let’s understand some things about videos:
- Video files can be quite large in size. Most web hosting providers limit the maximum size of uploaded files to 50 MB or less.
- Too many requests for a single large file may quickly exceed the limits of your web server, bringing your site to its knees.
- Majority of your audience is more likely to watch your videos from their desktop or laptop, with the benefit of a high-speed Internet connection. For those folks, you’ll want to deliver a large, HD-quality file so they can watch it full-screen if they so choose. But you’ll also want to encode a smaller, lower-resolution version for delivery to mobile devices like phones and tablets, as well as delivery to viewers with slower Internet connections.
Simply put, since you’re just starting out, you can easily upload your video to a video hosting service, then embed the code into your WordPress post or page. With a certain amount of investment, you’re given an option to keep your videos private on their site.
The embedded video player will automatically detect the user’s device, browser, and Internet connection speed, and then serve the appropriate version of the video file to them. Nothing to install on your site. No plugins to update. No tricky code. And your video will be enjoyed the way you intended, no matter which device or browser your viewer chooses.
But, if you still want to go ahead and host your own video content, here’s what you need to know:
- WordPress includes a built-in video player that will eliminate the need for a third-party video plugin. Whether you use a third-party plugin or WordPress’ built-in video capabilities, you’ll need to create a bit of code to tell the video player which formats you’ve created, as well as their location on the server.
- Chrome supports all the major video formats. But, if you want to ensure your video will play back on all the major web browsers, you’ll have to convert your video into multiple formats like mp4, .ogv, and .webm. You’ll need a software app to handle file conversion for you. There are hundreds of video conversion applications out there, and you may find that you need more than one to handle conversion into all the various formats.
A third-party hosting service takes care of the file conversions. Just Saying…..
Front-end and Design
The front-end and design of your website is going to be the face of your brand. In addition to creating a great first impression, you’ll be relying on it to provide great a User Experience to your prospects.
You can either choose to build your front-end from the ground up with the help of a professional or use one of the numerous themes that are specifically designed for Video-based WordPress websites. There are website templates and tutorials available at sites such as ThemeForest and Free Website Templates.
Here’s a list of some boxes that your VOD Website must check:
- Video Friendly– It needs to be focused on displaying and categorizing your videos optimally.
- Personalized Landing Pages– A typical landing page is static. The text, graphics, videos, and other elements stay the same for every visitor. This is the old way of constructing landing pages, and while it can work for some situations, it’s also limiting. Personalized Landing Pages change based on who’s looking at them, allowing them to appeal to more site visitors. You can use the data collected from the contact forms on your landing page and fine-tune to your viewer’s name, location, gender, and any other required credential. With the right knowledge and a little elbow grease, your Over-the-top media services website can target and convert better!
- Mobile-Friendly– You’ll need a mobile-friendly (also called responsive) theme that adapts to tablets and mobile phones. Perfect responsive web design not only resizes the pictures and content, but it also works for the media like videos, moving text, etc. and fixes them according to the size of the screen you’re using.
- Performance– The load time of a website or an app has a direct relation to the bounce rate and abandonment. Simply put, speed matters. Front-end technology can optimize the overall performance, reduce page-load times and deliver SEO-friendly websites.
The basis for a paid subscriptions website is an e-commerce plugin. WooCommerce along with the extension plugins available will provide you with a solid base. WooCommerce allows you to add feature images for your videos (products), add a description, reviews, related videos, and so on. It also allows you to categorize and tag your videos. If required, a custom search filter can be built over WooCommerce.
Membership Management and Payments Processing
One way of looking at this is that you’re offering a Rental Service. I’ll explain how…
When you’re renting out a product, the customer can use it for a set period of time after which they’re expected to return it. That’s exactly what we’re going to be doing here. We accept payments on a monthly or yearly basis, allow the customers to consume the video content and if/when the payments are stopped, we restrict their access to the videos.
So, in order to get your VOD Website up and running, here’s what you’ll need in terms of functionality:
- Restricted Video Access
- Providing a Sign-up form (To Enable Subscriptions)
- Payments Processing (To Integrate your website with a preferred Payment Gateway and provide the customers with an option to make Recurring Payments)
But, depending on your subscriptions business model or strategy, you might need a few more layers of restricted access to manage videos during the ‘Free Trial Period’ or in the case of ‘Membership Cancellation’.
There are quite a few membership plugins out there which allow you to manage your members, integrate with payment gateways and allow restricted access to your content depending on the users’ membership or subscription plan. Some of these plugins also allow integration with MailChimp and other email platforms that you can use to send renewal updates to your customers.
Here’s a list of some good Membership Management Plugins:
Pair it with the right Payment Gateway, and you’re ready to go!
If you’re running a membership site with protected video content, you’ll want to ensure your video files can’t be downloaded by some nefarious individual and then redistributed illegally on file sharing sites. Because the video paths are easily exposed in the source code, anyone can simply copy the URLs, then download the videos to their own computer and redistribute at will.
Using Vimeo Plus or Vimeo Pro is the easiest way to secure your content. That is if you don’t mind the costs which accompany. You can protect your video content from piracy using Password Protection, Domain-level Privacy, and Private Link Sharing.
Digital Rights Management
First, you need a licensing agreement with content providers. If you do not have this, the license holders can demand your Hosting Company to stop your services and they will. You’ll have to secure any required licenses and usage rights for the video content.
For instance, if you are going to stream movies or television shows, you must ensure you have permission to offer this content.
If you are collecting content from independent providers, then ensure ownership and usage rights are covered by a contract.
If you’re going to sell or promote any products on your website, you’ll need to add legal disclaimers and privacy documents to your website. You can either contact a lawyer to help you draw these up, or you can use an editable plugin like WP Legal Pages which will add those pages for you for free.
A site like Netflix on WordPress has to be a well-architected solution. You may not be able to build a Netflix clone, but something similar is quite plausible. If you have the right mix of plugins, a suitable business model and a well-thought-out marketing strategy you’re all set.
Comment below, and let me know what you think!
Aisha Nur Ainab :
So glad to have bumped onto your website, very informative. I have tried to understand all about website membership and I couldn’t get anyone to explain it to me the way you did. Thank you so much.
However, do you have step by step on how to build a membership website little less than Netflix. or Do you or is anyone here who can help me build one for a little price? or Does anyone know what membership website provides a complete package with smaller fees? I think Vimeo tt is quite expensive for me as a beginner. Your help is appreciated in advance contact
Tyson John :
I have created just such a plugin. I use it for a number of clients to sell access to streaming videos via vimeo. I am thinking of releasing it as a plugin and adding youtube and other providers. All you have to do is add a video link in a field in the Woo product, and it handles access rights to a special streaming page. Contact me at tysonlt at gmail dot com, I would be interested in hearing your needs and whether I should release my work as a public offering!
For the video streaming part of this, I have used this plugin (https://wordpress.org/plugins/woocommerce-hss-extension-for-streaming-video/ with woocommerce) for selling video on demand with woocommerce and this plugin (https://wordpress.org/plugins/hss-embed-streaming-video/) for a members only video which works with woocommerce or any other wordpress membership solution.
Ashwin P :
Thanks for the info Joe.
Ashwin, great post. I’m curious about this because I would like to do something similar but with some consumable products I sell. I only need the queue functionality that is similar to netfix’s. I suppose I could use a “Video Rental Queue” plugin that would work with woocommerce/wordpress (if there is one) because I could just put a product picture on there instead of a picture of a movie, and my customers could add products to a queue just like they would add dvd’s to a queue on netflix. Do you know of a such plugin? I ask because you didn’t mention one above..
Ashwin P :
At the time of writing this article, I hadn’t come across any such plugin. I tried looking for one again, but I’m afraid there’s isn’t an out-the-box plugin that provides this. 🙁
Thank you for getting back to me. Someone should definitely create this. I feel like it is a great idea.