October 18, 2022

Using Lightning for Smart TVs part 2 - The pros and cons for business

In his recent blog, 24i’s App Tech Strategy Lead, Matthijs Langedijk, took us deep into the practicalities of developing video streaming apps for Smart TVs and other streaming devices using the Lightning framework. In this follow-up blog, he moves on from the “how” of developing with Lightning, to look at the “why” question. Is it actually a good idea for video streaming services to consider making Lightning their framework of choice for Samsung, LG, Sony (Android TV) screens and Amazon (Fire TV) devices?

If you’ve read my previous blog in this series, you’ll know it’s possible to port a video streaming app made in LightningJS to various big screen devices like Smart TVs. You’ll probably also be able to tell that Lightning has clearly become my personal framework of choice for building TV applications. But does it make sense from a business perspective for OTT and Pay TV streaming companies considering their next moves in streaming? 

The benefits (super quick summary)

Let’s not drag this out too long. The answer to the question “does Lightning make sense for business?” is yes. Lightning brings a lot of things to the table, all of which contribute to two major benefits: saving time and thus saving money. Sounds attractive, right? Now that I’ve caught your attention, let’s look in more detail at how it brings those benefits. 

Cross-platform out of the box

While Lightning is predominantly an RDK-targeted application framework, it can also be used on a lot of other devices. In my own tests, I’ve successfully been able to run the application on televisions and streaming sticks from Samsung, LG, Sony, Amazon, and others. This all with minimal effort due to Lightning’s usage of WebGL rather than relying on typical HTML5 and CSS functionality (which often bring cross-platform issues). So if you’re already building an app for RDK with Lightning, it would be a missed opportunity not to use the same codebase for other platforms too.

Optimized for performance

Another massive benefit of using Lightning is its performance. Lightning has been developed to work on even some of the lowest-powered set-top boxes. Because of that, your application performance will be great even on a set-top box that you would normally dread working with. If anything, using Lightning will mean you’re able to achieve a higher level of performance with some cool animations than you would using any DOM-based framework like React or Vue.

Just for TV-apps

React, Vue, Angular, Svelte, and any other popular Javascript frameworks all have something in common. They are not specifically built to work on TV-type devices; rather they were conceived for building regular websites. Now, it’s certainly possible to use them on TV, but not out of the box. You’ll have to find a library, or build your own, for focus management — which can be an incredibly difficult thing to manage properly. And that goes for other specific features of TV apps like remote-key input, visual elements like carousels and lists. You name it, TV apps need it! All of these things are available by default in Lightning, which will save you a lot of time and headaches compared to developing this yourself (with support for many platforms in mind).

It’s open source

Something that Lightning and the frameworks mentioned above do have in common, is the fact that it’s open source. This means you’ll be able to contribute to the framework, as well as taking all the contributions from others and using them inside your application(s). Given that the TV app development market is relatively small, you’ll actually get the benefit of open source even more. Since all code changes are specific to our market, you’re almost always going to have a direct use case for any code written by others. That’s something you definitely can’t say about the likes of React or Vue. In those cases, there is so much code made available by others, it’s hard to see if it’s providing value to you or not.


Lightning is honestly a game-changer in the world of TV apps. The hard work has already been done for you! With its cross-platform support out of the box, optimized to the best possible performance, you’re guaranteed to be able to offer the best user experience to your users. You’re going to save even more time and money since things like focus management are also already available. And that’s before you consider that the framework is free to use and comes with the hard work that others will continue to put into improving and expanding it. Lightning is a great choice for your TV apps, and it would be a shame to miss out.

By Matthijs Langedijk, App Tech Strategy Lead at 24i

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