How We Tried Something New and Made an IPTV App

A startup from the EU approached us. The client came up with an idea of an app that would replace subscriptions to dozens of streaming services and TV channels. This is how we started developing this product, despite the fact that we had never dealt with the playlist reseller market and had no experience in developing apps for Android TV and OS TV.

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Table of contents

A hundred-and-one subscription

We are used to paying for content. We make donations to our favorite bloggers and buy subscriptions to media and services. It’s convenient — creators make money by doing what they love, businesses get profit by connecting with creators, users, and platforms, and we enjoy high-quality series, movies, and music. But there are a few issues:

  1. There are too many subscriptions, and they cost too much. Let’s look at this issue from the POV of the European citizens. According to a study by ING — the biggest banking group in the Netherlands — on average, Europeans spend €130 on subscriptions. This makes up 5% of the total household expenses.
  2. You need one thing, but have to buy everything. An average European from France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the UK has subscriptions to three video services like Netflix. This costs €23-28. Let’s imagine a student from France. They have neither extra money nor the desire to drown in comparing various services. They have a hard life as it is. The only way for them to relax is to watch their favorite “House of the Dragon” on HBO MAX (€9-14 per month + VPN cost), “Tiger King” on Netflix (€6-19 per month), and a couple of sports broadcasts on Sky (one-time subscription for a month — €30). This results in at least €45 streaming from the poor student’s wallet to the accounts of corporations. Not to mention that this student needs their Sky subscription only for the FIFA World Cup.
  3. Downloading from torrents is illegal. Europe has very strict laws against copyright infringement. For example, French authorities recently cut off content pirates from the Internet after their third warning. In Italy, the same law enforcement agency tracks smugglers, drug dealers, and torrent users. At the same time, in Germany, everyone, including minors, can get fines between €155 and €1000 per unit of content.

To make their lives easier, the Europeans use various tricks. For example, they turn to resellers of custom playlists.

What are playlist resellers?

Resellers are services that resell access to popular content platforms, or to specific contents, to be exact. You buy a subscription not to the entire service, but to specific series, movies, TV shows, broadcasts, or radio programs.

Let’s go back to the student eager to watch the dragons from the House Targaryen. They have several options: to give at least €45 to the corporations, download the series in low quality, and risk being fined, or to approach a reseller who will take just €10 for a customized playlist and access to the content of multiple platforms. Of course, they will choose the reseller.

Once a customer pays for the access, they get a m3u/.m3u8 file of around 8 MB. The file contains tons of incomprehensible text and links to the content. Each link redirects the user to a specific website. These things do make customers happy, but it’s very inconvenient to use.

This is where our clients come to the rescue.

This is what the content of a typical playlist looks like.

App for unpacking playlists

The client came to us with the idea of creating a cross-platform app that would convert IP playlists into a format resembling a streaming service. Users would download custom playlists from resellers and get a beautiful UI with a functional video player instead of the chaos of links and texts. This is how IPTV apps work.

IPTV stands for Internet Protocol Television. Just like regular TV, it broadcasts content, but it uses the Internet instead of satellite antennas. IPTV gives users access to broadcasts and on-demand videos.

IPTV apps resemble online video-sharing platforms like YouTube and Vimeo. Also, they are similar to services like Netflix, which provide access to content. But IPTV apps function in an isolated ecosystem and go beyond the licensed content. Users can download links to any videos: legal, pirated, or even their own.

Users look for content or playlists in IPTV apps so often that providers add disclaimers right into the product description

An IPTV app is a framework for delivering content like a browser or traditional video player. Users choose what links to open and what to listen to or watch.

While people watch content on their devices after downloading playlists, our clients get profit from a few channels:

  1. Ads. There is a free app version where users see advertising banners or videos while watching the content or just browsing the app. After a few seconds, they can close these ads and continue using the app for free.
  2. Premium subscription for the mobile app. To remove ads from the mobile app, users buy the lifetime subscription for ~€5,99. It’s a one-time payment.
  3. Free test period in the TV app. A user watches content for free and without ads for a week. Afterward, they must pay for the access by buying the premium status on the website for €8,99. It’s a one-time payment.
We had to make a combo of 6 apps united by well-known brands: apps for Samsung and LG TVs + mobile apps for Android and iOS and their versions for Android TV and TV OS from Apple. Plus, the website was on our list, too.

It turned out that we got into a real adventure series with dramatic plot twists!

1. Lost in translation

At the start, we thoroughly discussed the project with the client to have a better understanding of their product. We talked about the concept, features, user behavior, and business processes. In this project, many things were new and unusual for us:

  1. Unfamiliar business niche. It was hard to understand the mechanics of the product — we worked with the playlist reseller market for the first time. The clients used the terms, common in their business, but unfamiliar to us.
  2. New experience. Our developers hadn’t made apps for Android TV and TV OS. Their experience included only TV apps on Tizen. It’s an open OS based on the Linux kernel and often used for smart TVs and digital cameras.

We had no doubts about working together. Firstly, the project was interesting — we wanted to make a content app. Secondly, anything can happen when you work with startups and innovative ideas — our team is always ready for surprises.

2. Common, yet unique

We had to make a streaming platform without making a streaming platform. On the one hand, we had a typical content app with classic features: to show a user a beautiful window with pictures, play videos with different subtitles and voice-overs, etc. On the other hand, it was just a framework for uploading custom playlists. The client gave us a few references, but in many respects, we developed the app’s logic from scratch.

Mind map. We created the logic of the app — user journey, navigation, etc. — considering the references and research. We built the mind map of the TV and web apps based on the user scenarios created by designers.

The content apps have well-established patterns. It was important for us to preserve them to make app navigation easier for users. In certain parts, we improved the basic set. For example, in the playlists, downloaded by users, content is originally grouped only by topics. In our app, we added filtering by languages — with just two clicks, users can choose the voice-over and subtitles. We not only made the users’ lives much easier, but also distinguished the brand against the competitors, as other IPTV apps don’t have such features.

Users can select a voice-over and subtitles just by clicking the flag icon at the top of the screen

Wireframes. Just like in the case of the mind map, it was vital for us to preserve the architecture users were familiar with. We built it quickly enough, taking similar content apps into consideration.

Mockup. Our clients outlined their preferences and fully trusted the Purrweb designers with the project. There was no need to reinvent the wheel, and we made an app with an emphasis on big posters of movies, series, and shows. This is what users come for.

Minimalistic design is a must-have for a content app

We used a dark theme as the basis to make users feel like they’re in a cinema — a familiar environment that helps people focus on the visual content. We offered our clients two color palettes: purple or green accents. The client chose the latter.

In this app, users can not only watch TV or videos but also listen to their favorite radio stations

Also, we picked our favorite Roboto typeface. It’s as neutral as a typeface can be, and it has a wide range of styles. It helped us make it easier for users to perceive the app — they can quickly and easily read the texts and focus their attention on the posters. Also, we saved the client’s money due to the open-source license of this typeface.

Roboto is a universal typeface our designers are loyal to

3. Troubles with subtitles and voice-overs

We spent a long time looking for a video player that would meet our criteria: it’s MKV and stream-friendly, works with Android and Apple, has great support from the development team, and, ideally, is free. It turned out that only a few cross-platform players meet all the criteria, and even fewer support mkv format, often found in custom playlists.

After testing various options, we chose React Native-based VLC media player. By default, users can’t change voice-overs and subtitles, but there is a guide for this in the VLCkit — player library for iOS. On top of that, it is editable, as VLCkit has an open-source license. Our developers took the opportunity, and rewrote a part of the React Native VLC media player.

The audience has a wide choice of voice-overs and subtitles.

To make the watching process as convenient as possible, we integrated EPG — Electronic Program Guide. When a user watches a TV channel, they can click a special button to see information about the show they are watching, its duration, and what’s coming next on this particular channel.

EPG is a traditional feature of TV content apps. A user can watch a broadcast and see the channel program at the same time.

4. 18+ content

When we were developing the app, we spotted an interesting bug. After unpacking a standard playlist, all the 18+ content was at the top of the list. Once the user opened the app, they immediately saw its huge catchy posters. Considering the taboo on the sex topic and the abundance of curious kids in modern society, it was not the best advertising tool. Besides, our testers didn’t actually plan to watch 18+ content at work.

We rewrote the code a bit and removed the XXX-marked content from the top of the list. Also, we added the “Hide the 18+ content” option to the settings. Just two clicks, users can completely remove 18+ content from the list — they will need a PIN code to get it back.

Access settings for the 18+ content


Our clients got six apps for downloading custom playlists and watching content. Plus, we made them a website. The mobile and TV apps have already been released in app stores, and our clients already earn profit by selling the premium status and showing ads.

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