September 11, 2018

Getting the most out of your Big Screen OTT experience

Televisions are often the big center piece of a living room. Chairs are faced towards the device, usually a table for drinks in front of it, and nice speakers attached for the best home-cinema experience. Which means it would be a shame if you are not present on the big screen. How can you compete with the likes of Netflix, HBO GO and Amazon Prime Video, when it comes to bringing video into the living room -- if you don’t actually have a SmartTV app?

The thing with SmartTV applications, what people often forget, is that televisions are actually not that smart. They are big, immobile devices taking up a big space in your room. You’re forced to point a small remote to it, which often does not work all that well. And last, they are often just terribly slow. Unless you are willing to pay big bucks for the latest high-end model, of course.So how do you develop applications for such a peculiar device? What are some of the pitfalls and which kind of elements do you use most. In short: how do you provide the best experience to your users? Down below we will go over some of these pitfalls and elements. It should give you a pretty clear idea how you can get the most out of your big screen OTT experience.


Let’s face it. Everybody looks at Netflix. They are simply the biggest out there, and have the biggest budget to spend. That also means that Netflix is typically on the cutting edge when it comes to user experiences. They do a lot of A/B testing, and gain a lot of user insight very quick (due to their massive user base). This allows Netflix to respond to what works and what does not, at an amazing pace. Any party can however learn from this. We can learn from the experience that has proven to be working, and adapt it to provide our own OTT experience. Copying does not always mean it is bad.

What Netflix does really well on the big screen, is actually quite simple. They do as little as possible. Through a lot of tests, it has become clear that users find navigating on televisions rather clunky. Providing a simple to use navigation flow, allows users to quickly find content that matters to them. Users spend less and less time navigating to content, and more time actually watching it. This means: don’t provide the user with overly complex user interfaces. Stick with simple carousels, hero displays and video cards.

Simplicity in SmartTV apps, is by all means, key.

Showing the right content

Now that you have an easy to use interface, you still have to interest users in actually watching something. Providing carefully selected amounts of content is really important here. You wouldn’t spend much time in an app if all that was visible was Hello Kitty videos. Then again, who am I to question your preference.

What I’m trying to say is quite simple: tailor the experience towards individual users or user groups. You want to spark interest of the user by showing content similar to what has been used already. If a user has watched a lot of sports, you will want to show more sports related content. This would translate to one or more recommended content rows. Typically shown as soon as the user enters the application. It often leads to a shorter time-to-watch.

Next to related content, there are obviously more ways to spark a users’ interest. You will obviously want to show them content that they have not finished watching yet. A so-called ‘continue watching’ row is usually one of the starting points for users.

Lastly, you can use rows or even hero displays to showcase content that is specifically important to you. Things like newly added items, very popular content and even things like live channels. As long as they are tailored for specific users, they do justice. If they are just ‘thrown’ onto the page, users often skip the row quickly and resort to content closer to their liking.

In short: know your audience.


People watch content everywhere. Whether they are at home in bed on their laptop, in the train on a smartphone or in the living room with a big-ass television -- your content is (and should be) available everywhere. This opens up for some most user-friendly experiences. SmartTVs are characterised as big and clunky, and uneasy to use. So why don’t we try to solve that with a device that is much more user friendly?

This is where interconnectivity comes into place. From a user perspective, it is really nice to start watching on my phone from the kitchen. Perhaps while cooking dinner. At some point, dinner will be ready and I am making my way to the living room (who eats dinner without television nowadays). This is when I will want to continue watching on my big screen. It should remember position, and seamlessly transfer from smartphone to television. By allowing this, you are leveraging your platforms to their maximum potential. They are completing each other and make the experience that much better.

Another interconnectivity aspect is really important -- especially when it comes to dealing with SmartTV. We can solve one of the most annoying pitfalls that SmartTV offers: navigation. Have you ever tried to enter your full email address or password with a tv-remote? It can take hours! Let alone you have to register for a new account, entering your residential details and what-not. Moving these to the easier-to-use devices, will improve the SmartTV experience a lot. It means introducing things like connect-code features, which allows users to connect to a TV through their smartphone or personal computer. This allows you to remove some of the nasty SmartTV experiences, and replace them with a much nicer experience.

Summing up

There are a lot of sides to making a big screen application work well. Keeping a simplistic user interface, showing the specific content users will like, and improving the user experience across devices are just some of those sides. And I have only gone over them at a very high level -- there are a lot more details that make your big screen application a success. But this should be a good start to get you going.

Meet with 24i at IBC

Would you like to know what 24i can do to help you get the most out of your OTT experience? We are at IBC this weekend from September 13th to September 18th. You can meet us at booth 14.A39. And who knows, perhaps together we can lift your OTT experience to a whole new level.

Schedule a meeting with us at IBC

Blog post by Matthijs Langendijk, Software Developer at 24i

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