Published November 18th, 2019
By About two weeks ago, Netflix announced it would be dropping support for their applications on older Samsung and Vizio SmartTVs. People with a Samsung from 2010 or 2011, will no longer be able to stream Netflix on their device. Vizio devices go even further, and will already see devices from as late as 2014 no longer have a Netflix app.
The outcry following Netflix’s announcement, as well as the lack in platform-years that are supported by Disney+, has led many people to question whether and for how long they can still use their own TV to watch their favourite Netflix or Disney+ series. And I don’t blame them.
So how can we make sure that your apps continue to run on older televisions? How can we make sure that your users can continue to use your apps as they please? That’s what this blog is all about: supporting old televisions.
Let’s face it. Old televisions are, well, old. Maybe you still remember that time when you had Internet Explorer 6 on your Windows computer. It worked, but it was very quirky and had issues sometimes. And then we haven’t even talked about programming for it yet. Well, that is sort of what you are dealing with when you think of the oldest SmartTVs out there.
Making sure your application still continues to run fine on these old devices, is in some way very easy. Users are already expecting a relatively slow experience. So all you have to do is the following: keep it simple. Forget fancy animations, forget autoplay when hovering over an item in your carousel. Just simply make sure your content can be watched.
By making your application as simple as possible, there is no need for developers to try and work their way around all the device limitations there are. You won’t be able to implement fancy animations anyways, because the device simply won’t be able to handle it. Keeping it to a few simple carousels, and correct placement of the most important series, is all you need.
Although not confirmed by Netflix, it is presumed they cancelled support because of DRM. These old devices don’t have support for the more relevant DRM types like PlayReady or Widevine. To me, it is of no surprise that these devices were dropped by them at this point. From 2012, we do see support from Samsung for PlayReady. Since this still relevant today on most SmartTV platforms, they can continue to support 2012 and higher devices. As PlayReady is still widely used today to support newer SmartTV platforms, as well as Internet Explorer for example, I don’t see many issues in the foreseeable future. PlayReady is still the way to go to continue to support most platforms.
The same issue applies for types of video streaming out there. You may think that MPEG-Dash is widely adopted on SmartTVs now, but in reality, a lot of devices haven’t received support for it yet. And because updates rarely make their way to older televisions, let alone to those from 2012, you’re looking to support different types of video streaming. Smooth Streaming in general is the way to go to support both Live and VOD.
Continuing to support video for older televisions is, as you can tell, relatively easy. You just have to know the combinations of video types and DRM that are supported by the devices.
Just because you still want to support older televisions, doesn’t mean you have to stop improving on your application. You can still for example experiment with different ways of placing your carousels, order of the content that is shown or, for example, switching from landscape to portrait images. Keeping your UI changes small for older SmartTVs, is however very important. These devices have, as explained, a lot of limitations.
But what about the newer devices? The devices that do support sweet animations, the devices that do have support for MPEG-Dash or different types of DRM? Very simple: tailor your application to execute differently depending on the device that opens it. When the application opens, you want to detect which type of TV it is. Is it a Samsung from 2012? Then serve your application without animations, and with the usage of Smooth Streaming and PlayReady. Is it an LG from 2019, then serve your application with animations, autoplay of video, MPEG-Dash and Widevine.
You can of-course try any other innovative features on newer devices. Just as you would do A-B testing for specific users and specific features, you can only use specific features (like autoplay of video) on devices that properly support them. It does take time and effort getting to know all the possibilities and limitations of all the devices out there. But once you do know all the options, or find a specialist that does (wink ;)), you can serve the best possible experience to your users.
Netflix removing support for devices from 2010 and 2011 due to technical limitations is kind of expected. Support for later devices will likely stay for a longer time, due to the technical support of Playready DRM. By understanding the possibilities and limitations of older SmartTVs, it is very much possible to continue to support them. It might take time and effort to do so, but your users will be very happy they don’t have to trade in their trusty TV after only a few years of use.
If I’ve sparked your interest in making sure your applications continue to work on old SmartTVs, perhaps you might want to learn more. You can reach me personally through Linkedin, or learn more about what we can do for you at 24i through our website.
Also published on Medium
What features does a video platform need to make a direct-to consumer video service successful? The EVP of Business Development at Pure Flix tells Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia what they needed, how they got it, and how well it is delivering.
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Jun 15, 2014
Mar 13, 2019
Parks Associates research has found that OTT video services have transitioned back into the home's living room, with a majority (52%) of U.S. broadband households now watching online video on a TV that is connected to the internet.
Its report, 360 View: Digital Media and Connected Consumers, also found that watching TV or films at home is the most popular leisure activity among US broadband households, with 55% selecting this among their top two favourite leisure activities.
"While the total number of hours consuming videos has declined, consumers are watching more internet video on the largest screen available," said Billy Nayden, research analyst, Parks Associates. "The number of hours consumers report watching video on a TV increased for the first time since 2014, with connected devices enabling internet video services on TV and shifting consumers away from PC and mobile viewing. As OTT competition becomes a battle for the living room, the challenge for device makers and content producers is finding the correct product mix to maximise both profit and utility."
The report also found that subscriptions are the dominant business model for OTT services. As more services emerge, many stakeholders fear an impending subscription overload in US households.
"As consumers' taste for OTT experimentation wanes, they will start to resist the push to add another monthly subscription to their households," Nayden said. "Many providers are starting to lead with freemium and ad-based models, in anticipation of this pushback."
Parks Associates also found that 19% of consumers subscribe to either Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video and another OTT service, compared to 13% in 2017; and overall, consumers watched 25.7 hours of video per week in 2018, down from 29.5 hours per week in 2016.
Source: Rapid TV News & Parks Associate
Nov 14, 2017
It may be no surprise to see Netflix, Amazon and Hulu maintain their position as the top guns in the US over-the-top (OTT) market, but research from Parks Associates has revealed that bubbling under the crucial three are now a number of interesting players.
Based on subscriber numbers, the researcher found that the top ten comprised Netflix, Amazon Video (Amazon Prime), Hulu (SVOD), MLB.TV, HBO Now, Starz, YouTube Red, Showtime, CBS All Access and Sling TV. Of most note is the velocity that the skinny bundles have gained in a short space of time. In addition, the HBO Now service has made particular progress.
Source: Rapid TV News