4 Challenges in Developing Smart TV Applications

There are already more than 16 million Smart TVs in Brazilian homes, but challenges around applications for this new market remain

Despite a late entry into the world of connected TVs, which the first release was about ten years ago, the Brazilian household market now counts more than 16 million Smart TVs across the country. High-quality broadband and affordable Smart TV prices have fueled this market’s exponential growth.

Since most software developers are not familiar with creating apps for Smart TVs, they need to go through a series of lengthy learning curves that can considerably slow time to market.

This is exactly why Globosat, a multichannel satellite and TV service provider in Brazil, called on Cinq to develop their first Smart TV app. As part of their best practices, Cinq identified four specific challenges the team faced during this project.

Check them out:

1. Adapting for best user performance

Like any enterprise network worth its salt, Globosat has the infrastructure in place to support peak traffic demands. However, bandwidth quality on the user side, that is, their paying customer is beyond their control. To ensure the best possible user experience, Cinq configured the video player with adaptive streaming and set buffering time to auto-adjust per the user’s bandwidth.


2. Variety of Operating Systems

Like at the onset of any new technology, standardizing on a single operational system does not happen overnight. The number one spot for SmartTvs is still up for grabs, with Firefox OS, Tizen, WebOS, and Android TV all elbowing for the position. “Today the big challenge is the difference between platforms,” said Cinq’s CTO and co-founder Bill Coutinho, “Take your pick as to which will come out on top, so you’d better be prepared for anything.”

Of course, the obvious choice in this situation is a web app (we chose React), but even this route poses challenges as the app has to well perform on a multitude of SmartTV models. During the development, we had to modify and adapt app versions according to each device.

For example, we discovered that Samsung sets have libraries that abstract some functionality, such as the player (AVPlay). Most other platforms use simple HTML video tag layer technologies for video consumption, so the app has to be sophisticated enough to understand the peculiarities of each platform, like not loading a dependency on Samsung when the app is running on an LG model. Another obstacle to overcome is mapping a wide variety of remote controls. Despite common commands (up, down, left, right, enter), just about every remote control has special functions that the app has to recognize and execute.


3. Usability / Limited Remote Control

Complicated navigation becomes a problem when an application has too many options or requires multiple steps for configuration. Here, development takes a backseat to user experience (UX) to layout the best pathways for users to move around within menu items, keeping clicks to a minimum and trying to imbue a sense of logic to an otherwise illogical universe. Our in-house UX talent designed a custom framework centered on simplifying flow around this dynamic, resulting in an intuitive and easy to use and control system.


4. Lack of references to follow in the market

As this market is still in its initial stage, clear documentation and benchmarking is hard to come by.

“There are few references we can find around the world,” said Bill Coutinho. “The platforms are still highly fragmented.”

There is the expectation that a predominant SmartTV OS will emerge as the market matures, as previously occurred in the smartphone industry. For now, companies looking to jump into this market must create their own methodologies.

“These things will evolve over time,” explained Cinq’s director. “But there were several things we had to learn and create along the way.”


How CINQ overcame the challenges of creating one of the first apps for Smart TVs in the country

Being one of the first Brazilian companies to develop applications for Smart TVs has its advantages: learning from the first-hand experience and garnering valuable expertise.
During the development phase, Cinq leveraged its relationship with SmartTV manufacturers in Brazil to gather insights and run ideas across internal teams. As part of Cinq’s best practices, testing was performed with a variety of at-home users to ensure that the application would run flawlessly on different models.


Can a Smart TV app help your business?

If you are kicking the idea around, reach out to us, and we can assess the impact this initiative could have on your business.


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