Smart TVs have become integral to modern households, offering users a seamless blend of entertainment, information, and interactivity. With content owners constantly tailoring their streaming service to their end-user’s needs, OEM vendors are launching Smart TVs with technological advancements that further drive their demand. According to Conviva’s State of Streaming report, Smart TVs posted the highest viewing hours among all devices, capturing 35.3% of the global market share by viewing hours.
In this blog, we will delve into everything you need to know about developing video-centric apps for Smart TV devices. From understanding the diverse Smart TV platforms to navigating the intricacies of video playback, certification processes, and app maintenance, this guide will provide information and direction to help you succeed in your Smart TV app development initiatives.
Developing an OTT app for Smart TV platforms requires understanding the nuances and requirements of various available operating systems. Before considering which route to take, it is essential to understand each device platform's unique advantages: a broad user base, device-specific performance needs, design principles, well-laid-out app submission guidelines, or integration capabilities. On another note, Smart TVs and Connected TV devices are often used interchangeably. For clarification, when discussing Smart TV operating systems, we’ll exclude Connected TV devices such as Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV and focus on the two mentioned below.
Leading TV brands like Samsung, LG, and others have embraced web-based platforms for their Smart TV apps. However, it's crucial to note that this ecosystem is far from uniform. Each Smart TV operating system has its own quirks and requirements, necessitating the development of different app versions for each brand (and there are plenty).
How can Accedo help here?
To streamline development, Accedo offers optimized frameworks like Accedo Build, which significantly reduce the cost and time associated with multi-platform development by allowing you to port a core codebase to various other supported device platforms.
An increasing number of OEM brands, including Sony and Hisense, are adopting Android TV as the operating system for their Smart TVs. Android TV offers advantages in terms of ease of use, higher performance capacity, and seamless integration into the existing Android ecosystem. However, these benefits come with higher hardware requirements that are expensive making manufactures more selective in their choice of the ecosystem.
Developing a Smart TV app is a complex endeavor with several distinctive aspects. Video playback is arguably the most important of these, but it's also important to highlight things like the development environment, low-performance devices, and the lack of developer communities and resources.
Video playback is the cornerstone of Smart TV apps, but it's also one of the most challenging aspects. While platforms provide compatibility matrices listing supported video, streaming, encoding, and DRM formats, the reality is far more complex. Each format and configuration has countless variations, potentially leading to playback issues and unexpected behavior. The fragmentation among operating systems (even on devices of the same brand) further complicates matters, with video playback bugs surfacing only on specific device models. This causes added complexity when trying to track and solve these types of issues. It’s highly recommended that you work with a reputable Smart TV app development partner to help you navigate the complexities of achieving optimal playback across devices for your app experiences.
Unlike mobile or desktop app development, Smart TV app development requires an extensive array of physical devices. Compared to one or two computers and maybe a drawer full of phones and tablets, verifying the development across multiple Smart TV brands and models can mean you need an entire room full of devices. Additionally, each platform utilizes a different Integrated Development Environment (IDE) software, adding further complexity to your development setup.
Smart TV shoppers often prioritize display quality over processing power, resulting in a market full of TVs with underwhelming processors and generally low performance. This limitation necessitates careful consideration of performance throughout every step of the development process. For example, every animation and visual effect needs to be evaluated for performance impact during the design phase, and developers should aim to minimize API calls and processing during each interaction.
Smart TV development lacks the robust online communities found in mobile and web development. When facing challenges and seeking solutions to stubborn bugs or new complex requirements, Smart TV developers can't rely on the vast community knowledge on platforms like Google or Stack Overflow. Instead, they must lean on their in-house expertise and accumulated team knowledge because most of these issues are specific to the Smart TV OS and device models.
Each Smart TV manufacturer operates its own app store and certification process with its unique set of criteria. There is enough nuance to each that could warrant an entire article dedicated to app certification for Smart TV platforms, but for the time being, below is a summarized list of the most important points to be aware of when certifying your app. Understanding these processes is critical for a successful app launch.
Certification timelines vary among manufacturers, ranging from a couple of weeks to several months. It's imperative to factor in certification time when planning your app's release. Delays in certification can greatly impact your launch strategy and are one of the most commonly overlooked factors in timeline expectations.
How can Accedo help here?
Accedo customers benefit from the efficiencies learned through countless certified app launches and its strong relationships with Smart TV OEMs.
Manufacturers have specific certification criteria and requirements. These requirements can differ significantly between brands, forcing developers to adapt their app behavior to meet various manufacturer-specific standards. Early consideration of these requirements during the product design and developing stage is essential to an efficient and successful launch. Some examples of these requirements include:
Smart TV app development doesn't conclude upon initial release; it marks the beginning of a product life cycle. The long-term success of your product relies on proper support and ongoing maintenance. It is also recommended that you have a post-launch standing team in place to allow for new features and functionality to be released periodically, along with updated versions to include minor bug fixes.
Given the sensitivity of video formats on Smart TV devices, it's advisable to rigorously test backend changes across a wide range of devices in a controlled environment before deploying them to production. Even after testing, having a responsive support team ready to address production issues is indispensable.'
Releasing updates or fixes for your app often involves revisiting the manufacturer's certification process. While some manufacturers expedite certification for previously published apps, others require a full certification process. For the latter group, deployment delays may be unavoidable. To mitigate this, consider implementing an App Configuration Management System during development. This approach allows you to modify your app's appearance and tailor user experience without code changes, facilitating quicker deployments and reducing certification delays.
How can Accedo help here?
Accedo offers an Application Management System called Accedo Control that allows you to quickly create new features (e.g., swimlanes, menu changes, etc.) and design how your video application functions.
Developing video-centric apps for Smart TV devices presents unique challenges but also significant opportunities. Understanding the intricacies of Smart TV platforms, video playback, development environments, certification processes, and post-launch maintenance is essential for success. As the Smart TV landscape continues in this growth trend, adaptability and a commitment to user experience are key to maintaining a competitive edge. With the right knowledge, partners, and tools, you can navigate the complexities of Smart TV app development and deliver engaging experiences to users across all of your targeted platforms.
Accedo will be attending CES 2024. If you're curious about building a Smart TV app for your streaming service, we'd be happy to share our approach at the event. We’ll be at The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas. To book a meeting or find out more, go to https://www.accedo.tv/event/ces-2024.