Almost every week I get contacted about how to get started with IPTV (aka Smart TV channels).
In 2013 when I started there wasn’t much available other than some really expensive solutions. I decided to learn the ropes and build my own solutions which resulted in WP Smart TV.
I am also a channel owner. My main channels have around 300,000 installs on Roku and another 50,000 on FireTV and Android TV. Thankfully along the way I had some great help in the forums and other message boards to guide me along.
In 2017 I was in need of a full upgrade. A lot of the systems where based on old technology that was hobbled together from hundreds of different code examples. 6 months later I had built WP Smart TV and released it for free.
IPTV/OTT channels are easy to learn but the tools where expensive. My hope was that more people would create channels if they had a descent backend system to manage their content. With the release of Roku’s Direct Publisher and Amazon’s Fire App Builder it became easily accessible for almost anyone who wanted to build a channel.
It also became increasing clear that IPTV/OTT networks like Roku and Amazon offer content creators an untapped platform full of opportunities.
For those of you that want to take it to the next level of video distribution, here is what you need to know…
Spend the money now on Web Hosting
When you are hosting a blog or a news/magazine site you can generally get away with “budget” hosting. This is hosting that generally costs under $10/month and is great if you are publishing traditional article/blog posts.
However, when it comes to IPTV, it will not do. IPTV is a global market and if you really want to make it a paying system you need to spend some extra money on mid-range hosting.
If you plan on using Roku Direct Publisher, almost every budget host we tried would block Roku Direct Publisher from ingesting their feed. We also asked hosts to help fix things but most responded that they weren’t able to do so.
I went through 4 different hosting companies before I settled on WP-Engine. That is an affiliate link, but I wouldn’t recommend them if it wasn’t for the service.
They offer managed WordPress installations with various packages for every tier of service. When you are just starting out the “Personal” package ($29/month) is the best option I have come across. It is a great starter package for those wanting to run channels in the US region.
If you want to offer worldwide you will need to upgrade to their CDN package (add 19.95/month to the bill) . And if you find this complicated just ask support! Their tech support is the best I’ve ever used.
If you get stuck, just jump in and use the chat feature to get the answers you need. Plus they have a full knowledge base for those of you who like to figure out problems without tech support.
Video Hosting isn’t Cheap when you are a public IPTV channel
So you have a bit of a dilemma when it comes to video hosting. The cheapest you can get is Vimeo at just $200 per year, it’s a real deal BUT as I found out the hard way, they will only allow you to have 1 TB of data for that price when sending files to IPTV/OTT devices.
How much is 1 TB of data? Well, in our first month with an ad supported channel we burnt 30 TB of data prompting us to upgrade to a custom plan that cost around $500/month.
Vimeo Pro is great to start off with but it won’t last long for IPTV. They are good to work with and really do their best to get you a deal (trust me, shop around!).
The other big option is Amazon S3/CloudFront. The issue with this is Amazon is quite complicated to work with and it also requires you to encode your own videos to the various formats you want to serve.
Our good friend Michael Kammes did a great video workflow on how to S3. Check it out here!
Of course, I still recommend Vimeo Pro for those of you solo-prenuers that are doing most of the work alone.
Content is the only thing that matters
It doesn’t matter how good your systems are if you don’t deliver content that people want to watch. IPTV/OTT isn’t the first stop in a content creating career. If you are totally new, it doesn’t hurt to play around with things however you will need a good amount of content in descent quality before you will gain enough viewers to pay the bills.
If you have enough content to release a few items per month you will keep people coming back.
Monetization is complex
Making money from OTT/IPTV can be a bit complicated if you don’t already have an audience, however networks like Roku have options for ad supported content where they provide the ads and you get a percentage of the revenue similar to YouTube (only not as annoying with ad restrictions).
Subscriptions options will work as well, however this generally requires that you bring an audience from another platform. The sign-up rates on channels without a free preview are virtually nothing at this point, and even with a trial period most people won’t pay for something that isn’t “Hollywood” style content.
Rentals and Pay-Per-View work great for live events, teaching and lectures and other “premium” content offerings.
It’s not like the old days where you needed millions of dollars to start a network. In the Internet age all it takes is around $1,000 and some content to get started. You can build it and they WILL come.
Just take your time and pay for solid hosting. Your viewers deserve it!