How to Create Your Own SVOD/OTT Service

Written by
Matthew Kaler
 on 
August 11, 2021

We get why you're reading this, and we want to be respectful of your time. So here goes: streaming is a massive, multi-billion dollar annual revenue generator predicted to reach $96 billion by 2025. This nearly $100 billion number isn't the only mind melting stat, as covered in another blog post. How does a total audience population of 1 billion and 80% of all VOD revenues sound as evidence of SVOD's popularity?


Right. Rhetorical question. As a creator, filmmaker, distributor, or film studio, you understandably want to get in on this massive opportunity.

If you've looked into current SVOD/OTT platforms, but you haven't found one that fits yet, we'd wager you've considered creating your own. The desire to build an SVOD/OTT platform is especially understandable if you're a film studio, distributor, or media company sitting on valuable content and looking to maximize subscriptions in a cost-effective, meaningful way. Given the number of platform options on the market, we covered OTT for you in another post and encourage you to check that out if you haven't already.


At Special.tv, we streamline the technical process of building an SVOD/OTT channel so our creators don't need to worry about it. The steps below also originate in our onboarding process, yet you can apply the following to several platforms. However, we're going to continue to be biased in a not-too-hubristic take that Special.tv provides one of the best options out of any platform, and Variety Magazine agrees :).

With us, starting remains easy. That's always our intention. We provide global access to creators who represent diverse content verticals and, in doing this, help drive the network effect so all creators can grow together with Special.tv's platform.


Step One: Establish a Brand & Manage First Impressions

The cliches about first impressions have hung around for a long while because there's truth to them. When presenting content with a unique identity on an SVOD platform, first impressions deeply affect the user experience, establish a tone audiences respond to, and impact subscriber and viewer conversion rates. Taking the initiative with your audience's experience in navigating your content is a wise choice, so is taking the time to be thoughtful about it.


Step Two: Introduce Yourself & Create a Pitch for Your Channel

The introductory video is an audience member's first look at who you are and what your channel represents. It's also the first watchable piece of content channel visitors see, and with this great power comes great responsibility. Because when a good intro video captures a user, they are 900x more likely to subscribe. Yeah, you read that right. That's an actual stat. However, keep in mind that the intro video gets made for potential subscribers, and it's best to think of it as a pitch for your entire content offering on Special.tv.

One crucial best practice is to save longer-form videos, free content, or series-specific content for other channel areas (series, for example, can contain a mix of locked and unlocked content).

The details of each intro video will vary by brand, essence, and content. But generally speaking, if you answer "Why should users subscribe?" and "What can they expect by subscribing?" then you'll take the video in a positive direction.

Further guiding questions to consider for an intro video:


  • Who are you (as an individual, studio, or distributor), and what do you make? More important: why do you make it? Will seeing YOU be impactful (usually, yes)? What about snippets of your content in a reel or teaser video?
  • Why are you on Special.tv, and what is your channel all about?
  • What can audience members expect from a subscription, and how often will they get it?
  • What is the value of subscribing to your channel on Special? (Said differently, why not just follow your Instagram?) Think hard about this one—it ties directly to your creative vision and business goals. Perhaps your value proposition could be offering premium content with a cinematic experience -- without ads or algorithms -- on Special.tv. Maybe it's early bird access or exclusive content? Or all of the above?
  • What empowers you to make more content? (On Special.tv, subscriptions do— viewers subscribe directly to your content, and 90% of revenue goes directly to you.)

You want to anticipate and answer questions before a potential subscriber has an opportunity to ask. The game is chess, not checkers, and you set expectations for the what, where, when, and most importantly, why of your channel. Future-proof it by indicating future value, and do that through your intro video.


A few other tidbits worth mentioning...


If you have social media or other streaming sites, clarify the value of your content as presented on Special.tv and how it's different from social post content. Also, make it known if you are providing exclusive or specific content. Heck, maybe tell your audience why you chose Special.tv and how we benefit the subscriber (e.g., subscription money lets you make more content they love!). You know your audience, and you probably have a sense of what resonates best with them. If not, experiment and give it a try! 


Find what works for you, your content, and your audience. And if you do nothing else, please, for the love of SVOD...


BE. YOUR. AUTHENTIC. SELF.


This is what makes you special (see what we did there?!). Your uniqueness gets people to subscribe. Viewers show up for YOU. Let your personality freak flag fly. Being authentic also applies to studios and distributors because, if you’re part of one or both, you already built a foundation on a brand personality. So be quirky, be raw, and be honest. Be YOU.


Step Three: Choose a Channel Structure & Dress It Up with Quality Imagery

On Special.tv, "properties" are how you structure your content. We'll use that term for ease of understanding here. The property you select then determines how content displays on your channel, how it gets viewed, and what content displays as "up next."


There are three types of properties on Special.tv: features, series, and shows. A feature contains only one piece of content (a short film, a feature film, a special event, a documentary, or another type of standalone content). Series and shows contain multiple videos organized as episodes; series' episodes go from 1-2-3-4 and shows display from most recently added on down: 4-3-2-1. When a video gets uploaded, it must be organized into one of these three property types--and you can have as many properties and property types as you need. That choice impacts how content appears in the interface and the order in which curious visitors and loyal subscribers engage with channel videos. That's why it's worthwhile to think through how a property type can work best for your content and creative vision.


Consider this structure as your channel's nervous system. Structure aligns with a creative vision but also ties into branding. A good user experience determines how well an audience interacts with that channel, navigates to content, and if they're going to keep coming back. Sure, you might have a stellar series, but if it's hard to get to, you're going to see less repeat business. 


And here's where imagery comes into play. High-quality matters, but also make sure those images don't get repetitive. Instead, they are pieces that add to each video as another subtle way to engage users (they also have the excellent benefit of helping users navigate seamlessly while defining a channel's brand.) 


Oh, and be sure to spend time on a thumbnail strategy if you have a series or show. When it comes to thumbnails and overall image choices, your channel isn't YouTube. Users chose to arrive at YOUR branded channel, so there's no need for a desperate draw of attention to all manner of different content. Your content is at center stage and enhanced by your branding, channel structure, and imagery. Premium video should never be clickbait, and here, it doesn't need to be. 


On Special.tv, viewers engage directly with your content catalog that never serves them advertisements or recommendations for other creators. This way, your content thumbnails remain surrounded by your other video thumbnails, all specific to the unique branded experience you want to cultivate. Small but mighty thumbnails present content through an engaging, branded interface and ultimately lead to higher subscriber acquisition and retention.

Step Four: Market & Promote the Work

We'll be honest here. The topic of marketing for SVOD creators can, and likely will, be covered in-depth through several articles—and we work 1:1 with each of our creators to create a strategy unique to their content, creative vision, and goals. So, for today, your focus can linger on creating an SVOD service, solidifying your brand, and optimizing your user experience for subscriber conversion-- all as Special.tv does 98% of the heavy lifting.

Okay, you created content, structured your channel wisely, thought up on-point branding, cut a channel intro video, selected imagery for your channel, and those properties and thumbnails display boldly, beautifully, and help users navigate. Now comes the part that many creators find challenging, and for a good reason. Marketing and promotion, done successfully, is freakin' tricky. They are, quite frankly, a massive undertaking that people specialize in and build careers and con artist dumpster Fyre Festivals endorsed by Ja Rule on. But the difficulty level doesn't mean you can't get into the game. A thoughtful, consistent strategy can elevate branding because you have the not-so-secret advantage of being the preeminent subject matter expert on your content.

Really, your first marketing task is making sure your channel is navigable, has high-quality images, and offers excellent content with enough of a library to justify a month's worth of subscription (at minimum) or a plan to add value continuously. We see you too, intro video!. Then support that plan with cadence for how you shout from the digital mountain top that your channel has arrived.

So, some steps within this overall step:


  1. Package up work on your channel, structure it, and define your brand first to make your life easier.
  2. Cut a trailer, or ideally two if possible, that you then advertise / "tease" across the worldwide webs.
  3. Design a poster complemented by a variety of static images. 
  4. That hard part, where most creatives fall off... marketing. 


We're not going to get into the nitty-gritty of Google ad campaigns because that would require dozens of articles. But, don't stress because a little bit of strategic marketing effort goes the proverbial long way. Speaking of the search engine monolith of our times, one of the most underrated values of subscription content is that it serves as a valuable SEO (search engine optimization) tool. If you're not aware of the benefits of SEO, here's the skinny: when an audience searches for you on Google, you want to rank highest on the results page by being one click away, naturally. 


But did you know that locked videos have a specific search engine optimized landing page that allows you to drive organic traffic to your video/series page that then leads to increased viewers and subscribers? 


Now you do. Knowledge is power. Wield it carefully.


Let Special.tv Be Your Guide

In summary: follow a version of the above process, trust your channel to capture your audience, feel free to experiment, and remember that Special.tv is here to help you.

Whew, deep breath. Glad you're still with us. This piece may be a heady read at times, but most things worthwhile live on the other side of effort, and creating your own SVOD service is no different.

We at Special.tv understand this truth just as we know most every pain point along the continuum of creators, film distributors, and media companies. We also believe this piece can help you. That's why our team, aka your Yoda-like guide, plans to keep on sharing knowledge as we learn it or have learned from it. Stay tuned.

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