Published January 6th, 2020
By DONALD MCGARVA, Group Chief Executive Officer, Amino
As we start a new year and decade at CES 2020, we cannot help but think about how we gain clarity around what the future of the TV looks like. We have seen significant change in the past several years as consumers opt out of Pay TV contracts and pursue seemingly endless alternatives in the form of vMVPD, SVOD or D2C services. Even as more content is being produced, the future of TV is dependent on what consumers really want.
We believe consumers want what we call a modern TV experience. A modern TV experience gives the consumer rich, engaging, flexible and personalised ways to access and consume video content. We already know that consumers are using more devices than ever before to watch videos. While the TV itself is still a meaningful device it is. by its very nature, limited to in-home viewing. Networks continue to advance with 5G rollouts underway and improved WiFi solutions fulfilling consumer demand for connectivity on any device.
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Watch Amino’s year in review
By: Matthijs Langendijk, Lead Smart TV Developer, 24i.
The beginning of each year is always a joy, as we get to see the latest developments in the world of television. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), many companies showcase their latest and greatest. It is also an opportune moment to look at the year ahead — which televisions we can expect, what technologies are pushing the boundaries and if anything is clearly standing high above the others. In the blog we take a look at the TV announcements and demonstrations we’ve seen during CES 2020.
This time last year, we saw the first 8K televisions getting announced by LG, Samsung and others. Well, they are back with more. But before we dive into them, maybe it’s good to evaluate what 8K televisions actually can offer.
The amount of 8K content is still virtually non-existent. So that’s not what you should be getting it for. SmartTV apps are generally also still running in Full HD, so what is the benefit there? In terms of pricing it also definitely isn’t mainstream yet. With 4K televisions starting around the €1000 mark, don’t expect 8K televisions to be cheap, yet.
Maybe it is still a bit too soon for 8K. But that doesn’t mean the progress on 8K television isn’t good. 4K started out the very same way, with there being virtually no content for it. The 8K association did announce a certification program at the end of last year, which will hopefully accelerate the adoption of the technology. Manufacturers are also definitely on board, so let’s take a look at their TVs.
You could say that LG and Samsung have been in a bit of a battle when it comes to 8K. With LG claiming to offer a ‘Real 8K’ experience, they are definitely betting big on 8K televisions. They announced a whopping 8 models featuring an 8K screen. Two of them are OLED screens, coming at 77 and 88 inch. Next to this, there are 6 LCD models sporting LG’s NanoCell technology. That’s a lot of 8K. But are they more than just a screen with a high resolution?
Well, yes and no. The televisions are supporting most of the codecs you would expect; AVC1, HEVC and VP9, and you can also expect the relevant HDR technologies you’ve seen before. But that doesn’t make it interesting. What does however make it interesting, is their insanely thin television. As demonstrated in the image above, it is basically just a frame (ring any bells?) you put on a wall. If they manage to put all this technology into such a small television, I would be very much impressed.
Samsung obviously can not stay behind in this warfare. And they definitely don’t, with their demonstration of the 8K QLED Q950-series. It is to most extent a pretty ‘normal’ 8K television. Supporting the AVC1 codec for 8K video, a custom SOC called ‘AI Quantum 8K’, so it basically hits the marks you would expect.
There is however a really interesting feature that makes it stand out: there are almost no bezels. The screen to bezel ratio is a whopping 99%, where you typically see a ratio of 94%. So you get more screen for the TV that you have, which is definitely standing out among the 8K televisions announced.
LG and Samsung are obviously not the only manufacturers showing their 8K goods at CES. We’ve seen 8K televisions many of the manufacturers you know and love. Sony has joined the party with a single 8K model, that sadly still features the same processor as last years’, which is a bit disappointing. TCL demonstrated their 8K models sporting their new so-called Vidrian Mini-Led technology, which seem promising.
The odd one in the bunch, is a to me previously unknown manufacturer: Skyworth. This Chinese company, last evaluated at 19 billion dollars, has made a big effort to make their debut on the US market known. They had previously been selling budget televisions in the US already, but their name hasn’t been big. Until now, perhaps. With their announcement of various 8K and OLED televisions, it is yet another party trying to take a chunk of the television market. Which means yet another brand to get your apps on.
Nice resolutions are great and everything, but what about the technology behind them? I’ve already mentioned some of the video codecs supported to get 8K content going, like AVC1. But besides this, what more can we expect that content owners should be wary of?
I have to admit, I am a bit pleased by this fact: there is no new operating system announced! As a Smart TV developer, we already have to deal with a lot of operating systems and their variants. The operating systems we all know and love will continue as expected: Samsung still puts all bets on their own Tizen, and LG following the same with their WebOS platform.
On the other hand, we have Roku and Android TV which both are doing very well in gathering more support. Roku boasts many partners using Roku on their TV, with TCL, Hisense and others announcing multiple TVs this year. Oddly enough, the same brands also have announced televisions with AndroidTV. Philips is another manufacturer betting on two horses, having both televisions with Saphi, their own operating system, and others with AndroidTV.
At CES last year, we have seen the same thing as we have this year. A version-up with minimal changes here, another TV with AndroidTV or Roku there. Given these limited changes and additions, I don’t expect any issues for current-gen applications. Most will continue to work with minimal effort on the new televisions announced.
The new kid on the block has to be ATSC 3.0. In short: ATSC 3.0 is the latest version of a standard, describing how television signals should be broadcasted and interpreted. Dubbed as ‘NextGen TV’, the standard is a big step towards getting a clear interface for bringing 4K TV, HDR and other new technologies into your home. Many TVs announced at CES, support the standard, opening up the way for a broad adoption of the standard.
Given that many manufacturers have opted to support the standard in their new product lines, this can potentially make app-development for SmartTVs a lot easier. If the standard is properly implemented on all brands, the possibility opens to develop an application once, and deploy everywhere. Now, we’ve seen this before with HbbTV, where the application standard was ‘loosely implemented’, so time will have to tell if the application standard is going to work well. But it is definitely worth investing into, as many brands have started supporting the standard in their new line-up.
Like last years, most manufacturers showcased their new line-up sporting 4K, OLED, QLED, HDR and other technologies. Panasonic is one of them. And their new 4K OLED flagship is definitely very beautiful, which will definitely be favoured by many. Philips also announced a bunch of televisions in sizes ranging from 43 to 75 inch, catering to basically everybody, including gamers. Vizio, third highest selling manufacturer in the US, is finally adding OLED models to their line-up, making OLED yet a bit more accessible.
Last year we also saw LG showcase their upwards-rolling television. It was expected that they would launch last year already, but they sadly haven’t yet. At CES this year, they showcased more rollable televisions. And now they can also roll downwards from the ceiling. LG expects to have some of these models up for sale somewhere this year, starting around €60.000. Given their price, they are sadly not for the masses yet, but hopefully the technology will develop further over the next few years.
So LG has the rolling televisions. Well, now Samsung has rotating ones. Yes, rotating. It still boggles my mind that this is now a thing. I am not sure if there is even a use case for it, but it is definitely interesting. Samsung showcased their rotating ‘Sero’ series. More details regarding the price and release date are still uncertain, but the feature is definitely an eye-catcher.
OLED is also finally getting smaller. Previously, the smallest OLED screen was 55 inch, which for many homes was too big and too expensive. However, both LG and Sony announced 48 inch 4K OLED televisions. With the smaller size, the entry price for OLED televisions will hopefully decrease as well. This could decrease the barrier a lot for people to finally move over to OLED televisions, and might have some interesting effects on sales, as Samsung still bets on QLED.
Appwise, there is also some news from CES. Apple has announced that their streaming service AppleTV+ is coming to LG, Sony and Vizio SmartTVs in the near future. Demonstrating Apple’s growing intent to reach more users with their service, regardless of which device is used.
Yet another year where many manufacturers are betting big on 8K. I doubt we’ll see the prices drop much though, so 8K will definitely be one bridge too far for the big public. 4K however will become a lot more mainstream with the addition of cheaper 48 inch models.
ATSC 3.0 could cause a shift in application development, as many brands have opted to already support the standard in their new line-up. However, Roku and AndroidTV are still big and used by a lot of manufacturers. LG, Samsung and Philips also still put a lot of focus on their own operating systems (WebOS, Tizen, Saphi). So don’t expect to be able to develop only one app for the foreseeable future.
In short, many developments could have an impact on the world of television. We will just have to wait and see what the upcoming year has to offer, when the TVs announced make their way to market. If you would like to know more about SmartTV, ATSC 3.0, HbbTV or anything else television, feel free to reach out through email or LinkedIn. Thank you for reading!
Also published on MEDIUM
Jul 01, 2020
There is much debate around the future of
TV, from both a production and consumption perspective. One thing is clear,
however, that while we mostly take the User Interface of our TV and video
services for granted, it is often a key deciding factor when the time comes to
renew our subscription(s).
In a recent interview published for International Women's Day, hosted by Women in Streaming Media, Peggy Dau, Founder & Managing Partner, MAD Perspectives, and Yujin Joung, UI Designer at 24i, discuss the often hidden importance of UI design for TV and streaming services. The lively and informative discussion covers:
1: UI/UX is gaining a lot of attention with the increased number of OTT services. Why is UI/UX important to pay-TV and OTT Providers?
As we already know, today the market is very competitive and fast-growing. Service providers need to build their own clear strategy for UI/UX in order to retain their customers. We can help them by creating distinguished features that users love to have. We look at the market trends and see if they are relevant to our clients based on their users and their own content. For example, let’s look at autoplay. This is when the video service automatically starts playing the next episode when you are watching a TV series. There is no need to manually select the next episode. If all services don’t have this same feature, subscribers will get annoyed by the services that don’t have it. This is a good example where the UI/UX anticipates the user’s needs. This small feature improves the general perception of the product.
Why has the UI/UX design with rows of images become the "standard"
for video services?
I think the rows of images started from the experience at the movie theatre when you see posters next to each other on the wall. We wanted to provide a similar experience which was the start of a trend that has become the standard.
We are more attracted to visual images than text. Images are easy to consume because they require less cognitive effort. Big images are more eye-catching than long boring texts. I believe the same to be true for video services. TV is a visual platform, not made for reading text. Instead, TV is mostly made for consuming media. Therefore, we need to make an easier and more usable product for the content.
3: What's new in UI/UX design?
There is a lot of focus on personalizing
the user experience. Artificial Intelligence helps to understand your profile
and what you like to watch. You see relevant content directly from the
homepage, instead of using the menu to find what you’re looking for. The
content comes to you, instead of you going to the content. The product can
understand how you use it, and adapts its interface.
One of my colleagues gave me an amazing example of this. He has a video app and uses the same channel every Monday. This app collects the data about what and when he watches. The app now shows the same channel every Monday for him. That’s really impressive. Just imagine how this will evolve in the future.
Why is UI/UX important to consumers?
I think I can explain this with my personal experience. Recently I wanted to get more fit and I was looking for a fitness app which allows me to choose any kind of gym. So, I decided to download a few of them and just compare which one I want to use.
In one app, it was hard to understand what’s what; in general, it was just too difficult to use. I tried to use the map function which would allow me to see the nearest gym, but the result was just a chaos of data and images. Also, the look and feel of the app felt old, which made me wonder if the information provided by the app would be trustworthy. The content of an app is very important, but how we present it is also crucial. UI/UX helps consumers to experience the app in the best possible way. This is why UI/UX is important.
5: What's important as we move ahead?
Users all behave differently and experience
products in their own way. We need to keep looking for new solutions and
technologies to improve the experience.
There must be a "wow" experience when they start to use the product. We need to make the user instantly fall in love with the services we create. Beautiful graphic design, playful animations, and easy interaction are examples of ways to impress the users.
Apr 06, 2020
In just a few weeks, all our lives have needed to adapt to a new way of working - in the broadest sense of the word. The focus of our work has had to shift several times already and is sure to change again as the needs of our customers and their subscribers change.
We are all adapting to working at home, each having our own very individual environments and complications. From finding space for additional TVs for development and testing, to combining conference calls with home schooling, or even simply adjusting our situation after the workday ends. We need to work on staying connected with each other while practicing social distancing and, most of all, we must stay safe.
These circumstances can bring out the 'Darwinian' in all of us. Since founding 24i over 10 years ago, our team has always used shifts in consumer behaviour to accelerate, adapt and innovate. Little did we know that change would take on such a dramatically new perspective in 2020.
I could not be more proud of how the entire Amino and 24i family is showing strength and solidarity during this new kind of disruption. Not only are we helping each other to stay connected but also providing extra support to our customers and communities while keeping ourselves and our families safe at home. It is not a surprise, but certainly inspiring, that some of our team have put technology to work to help their local communities tackle the COVID-19 virus where they can. In many countries, there is a problem with a shortage of protective tools, especially in the medical field. In our Brno office, in the Czech Republic, we have a team working together with Industra Lab to 3D print protective face shields for hospital medical staff, dentists and paediatricians. We have already printed over 60 shields and we are looking to find ways to accelerate the process so we can get more into the field.
While we may not be on the frontline fighting this terrible virus, we are doing what we can within our communities and by helping our customers provide streaming video services. Through these efforts, we hope to make the lives of the people now staying home a little bit more comfortable.
Finally, I look forward to when we can meet in person and look back on how this truly testing time has brought us together, made us take greater care of each other, and inspired us to use technology and creativity to innovate for a better future.
Until then, thank you and stay safe.
Martijn van Horssen, Joint-CEO, 24i
Jun 10, 2020
Putting the customer first is a prerequisite for any successful service - especially in the competitive world of #videostreaming.
In episode 2 of #In Conversation With… , Ramon Duivenvoorden, 24i's CCO explains the Customer-Centric principles to 24i's product development and the crucial role #microservices play in providing Video Service Providers with flexibility and mass customization.
Hosted by Craig Kierce and produced from Ramon's home in LA, we hope you enjoy watching and invite you to check out Ramon's blog on the subject here.