INTERVIEW: Capablue's Craig Chuter on TV apps and connected TVs

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craig-chuter-pic-175x175.jpgApp developers Capablue recently won Samsung’s App Developer Challenge, building an app for Astra that now features on Samsung’s range of connected Smart TVs. We caught up with Capablue’s Craig Chuter, Head of Business Development, to see what he thinks the future holds for TV apps and connected TVs, and the work that goes into making a successful TV app.

What unique challenges face app developers planning to work on connected TV platforms?

Largely due to the new technology and the evolving platforms, a major challenge is ensuring that we keep up to date with the latest releases and developments for each and every platform.

Another issue is with each platform having its own technology and a lack of platform standardisation means that each manufacturer requires a different application.
SDKs are developing and updating regularly as the technology matures.

A TV app is very different to a mobile especially and also the web, a blown up website to a large screen simply doesn’t work. Although there are different controllers out there, you can’t click and drag and you need to step to select, you don’t have a free cursor. Text entry via a remote is also a cumbersome process, so we have refined the user experience in our apps to minimise this wherever possible.

We have spent the last year or more understanding and moving our knowledge as the platforms evolve. We have specifically developed our own Connected platform so that content owners are able to deploy their content to multiple devices without having to build separate applications for each device. We hold the core service on a cloud based platform that then renders the application according to each devices specific technological requirements.

Is it more or less difficult designing apps for use on a television than it is making one for a smartphone?

We believe it is as much different as more difficult as it is a very unique user experience that needs to be completely intuitive as the users are also experiencing these platforms for the first time. The experiences need to educate the user at this stage.

The input control is a major difference with connected TVs, for most cases you need to build an experience that can be navigated with the up, down, left, right and select controls of TV remote. The user is also ordinarily a long way from a large screen – so the interface needs to recognise that as well. There can be less intricate interactions that you may have with a touch screen.

This is why we believe that the TV applications work best with video as a major contributor to the overall content.

Also the TV is not in any way mobile, so the content needs to work from a fixed location.

You specialise in creating VoD interfaces. Do you feel the growing use of video on demand portals will eventually do away with traditional programming schedules altogether?

Potentially it could but I think the appeal is the combination of catch-up and on-demand services alongside broadcast. The transmission date may become more of a ‘release date’ and as with most other media, the release date is when a large bulk of the public want to see something.

Catch-up and on–demand services also support broadcast with the discovery of series and reminders, enabling the literal catch-up before the next program is broadcast.

Archive also enable you to pick up on previous seasons of a series all your friends may be into, enabling you to catch the latest season.

Also people like to ‘lean back’ and see ‘what’s on’ not to search for something. Recommendations can help with this enabling pushed programming based on my programming but people often also want content discovery – finding something they might not have otherwise watched, this is where the concept for our content discovery application for the Samsung Smart TV Challenge came from. It enables content recommendations from a recommendations engine as well as feeding from your Facebook network, giving some more random but likely to be of interest results.

Do you ever see TV apps becoming as commonly used as those now available on mobile phones?

I wouldn’t have thought so, mobiles are with you everywhere, you have the ability to access your mobile location and services that go with you.

Connected TV apps I think will grow incredibly but will be a different experience entirely to mobile apps, the TV doesn’t move, it is a shared experience and you don’t want to be inputting too much text on your TV as the handset makes this difficult.

I think the TV apps will become an integral part of our TV viewing experience especially for TV catch-up and film services. There are also certain other applications that will work very well on the TV, we are building one such service now, which we think will catch the attention of everyone with a connected TV.

The opportunity for branded content and e-commerce will also begin to deliver more utilisation of these services.

How has being featured on the Samsung Smart TV portal helped Capablue? Is taking part in the App Developer Challenge something you’d recommend other developers doing?

Our relationship with Samsung has been great, winning the Smart TV Challenge helps us ensure prospective clients that we have a recognised ability within this arena alongside the other clients we are already working with.

I think the competition is a great driver for developers to think about the platform and the potential of combining this great living room screen with some of the capabilities an internet connection can bring.

Also the more interesting content there is on the platform at this stage, the better the uptake will be. We are glad to see more services coming on board alongside all the apps we are currently developing.

When the platform first launched, for the experimenting consumer, if all they can find on their initial try-out of the service are a few, shall we say, not great games that is probably more damaging than good for the platform.

I think Samsung have really pushed forward with driving an interesting and engaging content proposition that we are proud to be part of.

Gerald Lynch
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