Connected TV devices have now been with us for a good number of years, in fact Apple TV was launched in 2007, with ROKU and other smart TVs launching around 2010. However, it is only in the last year or two that the ability to launch apps across all devices has shifted up to a higher gear. It is now easier than ever for an operator, content owner, or broadcaster to maximise their audience reach across multiple devices. Why? To find the answer you have to look at both ends of the content pipeline – with the devices themselves but also with companies that have set out to solve the problem, such as Applicaster.
A bit of history
The first target for operators wanting to add to their set-top box based in-home offering or for broadcasters going beyond their traditional broadcast medium has always been the web, followed by apps on mobile phones and tablets. Fast forward to the present day and these apps are now in their 4th generation versions or beyond. Despite the relative broad availability of apps, development times were long, features and user experience could be inconsistent across platforms, and dealing with different OS generations or HTML5 consistency across browsers raised complex problems to solve. It would be interesting to compare the development cost spreadsheet revisions over those years!
Meanwhile, TV devices caused long discussions and many questions for media content providers. Having knowledge of the development resources and cost to produce for mobile and web, any other platform was seen as a multiplication factor for dedicated resources. Why? For the same reasons mentioned above: inconsistency across and within devices.
The result was that each platform had to be treated separately, both in resource effort and cost. Significant changes to any device platform by the manufacturer meant updates to apps year on year with extensive and continuous QA to ensure compatibility. The end result was a fragmented approach to apps for TV devices, and for those that did make the effort the user experience could be very different per platform – a brand nightmare for the media companies and a user experience nightmare for the audience.
So what has changed?
At the delivery end of the story the present day has brought a significant improvement in the areas of consistency.
- Apple TV's tvOS is now well established. The hardware is very capable and 4th generation has been in the market long enough to provide consistency. Apple put a lot of effort into high quality native user experiences.
- The current generation of Android TV has made significant market impact since its unveiling in 2014 with both operators and TV manufacturers adopting it leading to scalability. Leveraging the Google Play Store makes app management a far more familiar territory.
- Android Fire TV has high levels of compatibility to Android by using AOSP.
- Smart TV brands, either those that support their own app store such as Samsung and LG or those that use a 3rd party app store are largely centred on Chromium based HTML5 solutions. Some significant Smart TV brands such as Sony and others have made the move to Android TV.
- Roku remains with its Brightscript platform but the provision of a good development environment has helped the dramatic market growth of this platform.
OK, but I still need to develop an app per platform?
The above is of course an over simplification of the last 10 years or so. However, app generation and management across multiple platforms has got a whole lot easier with Applicaster Zapp. With TV platform support launched earlier this year to complement its established mobile app tools, TV app generation can now be managed in days not months.
A TV app UI can be constructed in minutes and applied to any target device along with your standard or custom built plugins. A simple press of the build button, and a few minutes later you have debug apps to load on to all devices for testing and feedback.
Customers seeing TV apps built in front of them with Applicaster Zapp at the first customer meeting realize TV is no longer the development minefield it once was. Applicaster Zapp is a game changer for app creation and management.
This leaves you able to concentrate on what really matters: audience growth and the joys that that will bring.