Connected TV Apps & Platform Fragmentation: What to Build For Next
Platform fragmentation has long been an issue for mobile developers, and it’s proving to be a challenge when it comes to TV apps, too. 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.
Streaming media devices and smart TVs with proprietary operating systems have fragmented not just platforms, but also audiences. The major players – Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, Amazon FireTV – are already enjoying tremendous success, and emerging contenders like Samsung (Tizen) and LG (webOS) are only increasing options for consumers.
The varied and complex ecosystem has content providers asking a simple question: what platform do we build for next?
The answer isn’t as simple as the question, but this post will help you make informed choices for your connected TV strategy through:
- Analyzing the connected TV ecosystem, including platform and device statistics
- Providing recommendations for what platforms to target based on available market data
The Connected TV Ecosystem
To make an informed choice on what platforms to build for, it’s prudent 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:
- 49% of households in the US use a streaming box (39%), smart TV (16%), or connected Blu-ray player (comScore, Home Sweet Digital Home)
- Globally, shipments of streaming media devices are expected to grow at a 10% compound annual growth rate from 240 million in 2016 to 382 million in 2021 (Business Insider)
- As people upgrade their TVs, the global installed base of smart TVs is expected to grow from 584 million in 2016 to 896 million in 2021 (Business Insider)
- Connected TV is forecasted to have an almost 27% penetration rate worldwide by 2018 (Statista)
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.
Quick Facts: Streaming Devices
Device Share Amongst OTT Streaming Devices in the USA (March 2016) – comScore
- Roku – 49%
- Chromecast – 22%
- Amazon FireTV – 16%
- Apple TV – 12%
- Other – 1%
Percent of US Broadband Households Using Streaming Media Devices (September 2016) – Statistic Brain
- Roku – 29%
- Chromecast – 19%
- Apple TV – 16%
- Amazon FireTV – 11%
Media Streaming Device Units Sold Worldwide (September 2016) – Statistic Brain
- Apple TV – 26 million
- Chromecast – 20 million
- Roku – 12 million
- Amazon Fire TV – 4.5 million
Chromecast appeals to younger households compared to Roku and Apple TV – comScore
Roku enjoys the highest usage based on avg. gigabytes received per household, followed by Apple TV and then Chromecast
Quick Facts: Smart TVs
Major players (Manufacturer & Platforms)
- Samsung (Tizen)
- Panasonic (Firefox OS)
- LG (webOS)
- Sony (Android TV)
- TCL, Sharp, Haier, Hisense, etc. (Roku TV)
4K TV Purchases Made in 2015 By Brand (Parks Associates)
- Samsung – 28%
- LG – 17%
- Sony – 13%
- Vizio – 11%
US Smart TV Market Share 2014 (BI Intelligence, The Internet of Everything 2015)
- Samsung – 34%
- Vizio – 26%
- Sharp – 15%
- Panasonic – 10%
- LG – 9%
TVs with the Android OS accounted for almost half of smart TVs shipped in the first quarter of 2016 (IHS Markit)
Tizen leads all regions and accounts for 43% of smart TVs shipped outside of China (source: IHS Markit)
Breaking Down The Data: What Platform Do I Target?
Analyzing the data 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 Roku. These companies will be best served to go after other platforms that have significant market share and audience base. An emerging platform like Amazon FireTV or Samsung’s Tizen 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, Roku, Apple TV, and Chromecast are likely the most sensible platforms 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.
Recommended Reading: The Chromecast Development Process
Roku and Apple 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.
Key Questions To Ask When Choosing A Platform
- Who is my target audience, and where are they viewing their content? Are they more prominent on a specific platform?
- Does the platform technology allow us to do what I need? Are there limitations to my product if I build an app for platform A vs. platform B?
- Is there any alignment between my target user base, the product I hope to build, and what each platform can offer?
- Will user acquisition be easier on one platform over another given your target audience and the strength of your brand?
- What are your goals for the application? How will you measure success? Is it viewership? Revenue? Brand awareness?
- Do you have/will you need platform partners for analytics, digital rights management, ads, etc? What are the dependencies? Will your current or future partners be able to support your needs on specific platforms?
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 Apple TV. For brands that already have a presence on the major platforms, a better strategy would be to look at emerging platforms that show promise, combined with data about what platforms your target audience is migrating to or actively using.