Cross-platform app development is now a major consideration for every OTT strategy, and for good reason.
Unlike traditional non-OTT app development, where Apple and Android dominate the market with over 99% market share, the OTT space is much more fragmented. Roku, AppleTV, Amazon FireTV, Xbox, PS4, Chromecast, Smart TVs, Apple iOS, and Android are just a few of the popular platforms that media brands have to consider when deciding what to build their OTT app for.
When developing for multiple codebases, cross-platform app development enables brands to deploy their app on multiple platforms using a single codebase, rather than having to develop the app multiple times using the respective native technologies for each platform. React Native is an open-source mobile application framework created by Facebook that allows developers to do this.
Because so many media enterprises are making OTT cross-platform app development a priority in their budgeting and resource allocation, this post will focus on the pros and cons to React Native app development, and why cross-platform app development is so important for OTT brands in 2021.
Native app development means a dedicated development team will create an OTT app for a specific platform, device, or operating system. So, if you want your mobile OTT app to run on both iOS and Android platforms, for example, a separate iOS codebase and a unique Android codebase will need to be created.
Because this code is so specific to the platform, it cannot be shared or used for others. Each codebase must also be updated, tested, and maintained separately. Because of this, native app development and maintenance are time-consuming and expensive.
However, native app development does have its benefits. With native app development, you get a highly customized product, with a user experience tailored to each device, user demographics, and platform, giving your users the best experience.
React Native has become a very popular OTT cross-platform app development solution because of its speed, reliability, and flexibility. With react native, developers only have to create one codebase that will work across all (or most) devices and platforms you may be targeting.
For media brands, this one-size-fits-all approach means you don’t have to spend a fortune on hiring development teams for each specific platform or device. There will only be one codebase
to update, test, and maintain, and your organization only has to go through the development process once to launch OTT apps on mobile devices, game consoles, or Smart TVs simultaneously.
However, if you plan on releasing your app on Roku (a streaming platform favored by 26 percent of US users, you’ll need to have a seperate codebase written using Roku’s application development framework (SceneGraph) along with its proprietary language, BrightScript.
Native app development requires writing separate code for every platform. React Native development means your code once and get to reuse it for (nearly) every platform you expand to. easily customizable modules. Modules in React Native can often bridge the gap between areas of code where native code is the best option. These modules allow your developers to share functionality between platforms.
Skip the pricey native app development team for each and every platform. React Native developers often know what it takes to program for every platform, making app-building faster and more cost-efficient. You don’t need a team of coding experts for each version or update of your app per platform. You just need one team of rockstars to keep up with everything.
Developing apps for each device and platform will widen your audience reach no matter what. But it also takes a lot of time to individually design each native app. React Native app development means your apps will get to market sooner, and you can start generating revenue ASAP.
As mentioned above, React Native won’t work if you plan on deploying your app on Roku. Roku requires their OTT apps to be built using SceneGraph and BrightScript, their proprietary programming framework and language. While this may not be the end of the world for some brands, consider that Roku is usually fighting for the top spot in terms of a global user base.
Native apps are programmed specifically for the perks and idiosyncrasies inherent in each device or platform. Some argue native apps perform better because they take this focused approach while React Native apps are more generalized to work on multiple devices. So app performance may vary slightly across devices.
Because React Native app development codes for every device/platform, you lose the ability to tailor each app for its specific platform. You won’t be able to leverage your app to take advantage of each platform’s unique features or work around their flaws.
For example, native functionality (like the Magic Remote from LG Smart TVs that lets users point at the screen like a Wii) may not be considered when designing a one-code-fits-all OTT app.
When it comes to your budget, it may seem like the “code once, deploy everywhere” model is a no-brainer. But, this is not always the case. React Native is certainly pitched as the shortcut that saves time and money, however, some argue that this sort of solution adds more complexity than simplicity. For example, the developers working on the project need to understand the entire, holistic framework as built-in React Native. This type of skill set is rare as most developers are trained in specific programming languages. Secondly, code that spans two, three, or six apps tends to be a lot more complicated, giving further separation between the number of people who understand the whole system and those who are just players.
Clearbridge Mobile has extensive experience developing OTT apps for top media brands including NESN, and YES Network. If you’re interested in learning more about our approach to building OTT apps and using React Native, get in contact.