Unlike the traditional mobile app development world where Apple iOS and Google Android dominate over 99 percent of the global mobile OS market share, the world of OTT app development is much more fragmented.
When it comes to OTT apps, audiences aren’t loyal to one or two platforms or devices for everything; they use multiple platforms at any given time, sometimes simultaneously. They may start one video at home from a Samsung connected TV (CTV), and then continue watching on their iPad on Apple TV during their walk in the park. Changing media consumption behaviors and the proliferation of technologies that allow consumers to access content in new ways has forced entertainment and media providers to rethink how and where they engage with their viewers.
This varied and complex ecosystem has content providers asking a simple question: what platform do we build for next? To take advantage of this “be everywhere all the time” experience, content distributors must build OTT apps that work well everywhere their audiences live, or in whatever way they choose to enjoy their content. Cross platform development is the process of creating apps that work seamlessly on their different devices and platforms.
However, that’s easier said than done. This post will help you make informed choices for your connected TV and OTT app strategy by analyzing the connected TV ecosystem, including platform and device statistics and recommendations for what platforms to target based on available market data.
To make an informed choice on what platforms to build for, it’s important to first understand the current market. Both streaming media devices (sticks and boxes) and smart TVs are increasing in terms of in-home prevalence, and are forecasted to keep growing. In fact, a recent report from Nielson states that connected TV viewing has grown from 2.7 billion hours during the pre-pandemic week of March 2 to 3.9 billion hours during the weeks of March 23, March 30 and April 6 during the height of the Pandemic. A year over year growth of 81 percent. Additionally:
What these statistics demonstrate is that connected devices – whether media streaming boxes or Smart TVs – are what consumers are increasingly choosing in order to access media content.
Analyzing the statistics listed above can give some valuable insights into what platforms you should be pursuing. However, your particular strategy will be dependent on factors including your target market, your audience, your organization’s experience with connected TV, and more.
Companies that have a more mature connected TV strategy will likely already have a presence on one or more major platforms such as Apple TV or Chromecast. These companies will be best served to go after other platforms that have gained significant market share and audience base (40 million plus) in recent years. Platforms like Amazon FireTV and Roku have now emerged as leaders in the space, and are good candidates for companies in this position that are focusing on reaching a wider audience.
For companies that don’t yet have a presence in the connected TV space, Chromecast is likely the most sensible platform to target. Chromecast may be the simplest choice if you already have an existing app and simply want it to push content to the Chromecast, as you can use the Cast SDK to make Android, iOS or Chrome apps cast content to TVs that have a Chromecast connected. However, in order to customize the display on Chromecast (for example, the look of the player) or do anything more complex, you will have to build a receiver app.
Roku and Amazon Fire TV are also good candidates given their market share and wide audience base; widely available developer documentation; and maturity of the platforms. They are also particularly prevalent in the US, so if that is your geographical market, these are platforms you should consider.
In terms of development, all of these platforms carry their own challenges, and the choice you make should be informed by your organizational goals, any data or insights you have about your target audience and their viewing behavior, and other considerations like your ability to support development internally or find the right connected TV development partner.
It ultimately comes down to the goals of your connected TV strategy and your target user base. If your organization doesn’t have an existing connected TV presence, it’s likely best to start with the most popular established platforms like Roku or Amazon Fire TV. For brands that already have a presence on Chromecast or Apple TV, it would be wise to also invest in Roku and Amazon Fire TV platforms solely based on market share and audience base. However, before making any decision, it is important to take the time to gather data on your target audience and identify what platforms they are migrating to or actively using.