December 10, 2020

Creating and Maintaining a Killer OTT App

From sports leagues to broadcasters, cable operators to news outlets, OTT streaming through DTC apps is redefining how brands engage with their audiences and, ultimately, monetize their services. Yet the current landscape for OTT app creation is not only incredibly diverse but is also becoming much harder to navigate.

As the demands of the OTT app market become increasingly complex, what are the best practices brands and services can take when designing and delivering a killer OTT app?

I recently took part in a fantastic panel session as part of the OTT Executive Summit. The lively discussion on the OTT app market included other speakers including HBO veteran Doris Casap, Andrea Clarke (Tubi), Chris Hall (Xumo), and Laura Frankel (Qurate Retail Group). Here are my top takeaways from the event:

Keeping it simple

Bells and whistles such as interactive graphics and e-commerce widgets have been in apps for years. Yet the essential aspect of any OTT app is still to get people to their content as quickly as possible. Given the huge number of content choices available today, the ability to have an easy, effortless experience is critical. Simplicity can often be the biggest challenge, with the risk that the 'wouldn't it be cool if…' feature can get in the way of the fundamentals of a streaming service.

The sheer number of devices in the market and the difficulty of getting a proper User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) on each adds to app complexity. The reality is that creating a frictionless experience on every platform should always come first and foremost. Our engineering teams are dedicated to delivering constant improvements and updates throughout the app's lifecycle, as well as building bells and whistles where they really deliver for the consumer.

Content delivery comes first

By curating and presenting content in a targeted way, apps can significantly boost consumer engagement. 24i’s Backstage CMS does just this, allowing 24i customers to create apps that respond to end-users’ preferences and profile. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) can hugely help with personalization and having a point-and-click configuration and UI flexibility is just as important if you want to keep your app’s content experience fresh and easy to maintain.

Any modern OTT app must also offer immediate access to personalized and tailored content. In a weather app, for example, consumers expect to see the weather forecast for their current location as soon as they open the app. News services need to show local and relevant stories. Sports apps need to take the consumer directly to content relating to their favorite team or player. This functionality is critical to engagement, and at 24i, we're already coming up with new ways to customize apps based on region, language, and content preference.

Maintaining an OTT app

Building an app is just the start – maintaining it involves an entirely different toolset and skill. Preparing for periods of growth is an important aspect of app maintenance, and OTT services can do this by forecasting and investing in robust backend infrastructure. First-class backend support is crucial to ensuring minimal latency and buffering. Having a 24/7 support team and active app monitoring that is hyper-focused on traffic load and issues within the live environment helps our apps deliver the best possible experience to end users.

A second challenge in maintaining app quality and performance over time is ensuring it continues to run well on a myriad of legacy and new operating systems and devices. At 24i, we have extensive testing labs in our Amsterdam and Brno offices with hundreds of devices to ensure that all of the apps we create are working and functioning efficiently on every screen. To resolve issues before they occur, 24i's next-generation development framework allows services to actively circumvent this fragmentation, relying on our flexible and framework-oriented system to guarantee smooth operation.

What lies ahead for OTT apps?

Creating a frictionless and robust user experience is an ongoing pursuit, and it's something 24i continually invests and innovates around. From advanced search and discovery to enhanced analytics, we're continually advising our customers on how to optimize performance across all platforms.

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By Linda Abrams, Head of Business Development, North America, 24i

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