Intro to OTT cross-platform App development in 2020

Why is OTT cross-platform app development a major consideration for every OTT strategy? Use this primer to learn how it works, the pros and cons of multi-platform OTT mobile app dev, and more.

You’re making a smart move if you’re considering OTT cross-platform app development for your brand or business.

Unlike the traditional non-OTT app development space where Apple and Android dominate with over 99% of mobile OS market share, the OTT space is much more fractured: Roku, AppleTV, Amazon FireTV, Xbox, PS4, Chromecast, Smart TVs, Apple iOS, and Android round out just a few of the popular players that media brands have to consider building OTT apps for.

In the more traditional, non-OTT app development space, cross-platform app development seems to connote apps that can be deployed on multiple platforms using a single codebase, rather than having to develop the app multiple times using the respective native technologies for each platform.

In most OTT app development circles it means creating OTT apps for many different platforms and utilizing those platform’s native programming languages to do so.

However, a newer technology called React Native (not to be confused with Native), can allow the use of one codebase across many different popular platforms for OTT.

Because many brands and enterprises are making OTT cross-platform app development a priority in their budgeting and resource allocation, we want to give you some insight into the considerations of this type of development rollout since learning how to make cross-platform OTT apps for your brand isn’t for the inexperienced.

So this primer provides a rundown of everything you need to know to decide whether you want in on the game, and it starts with understanding why cross-platform app development is so important for OTT brands in 2020.

why ott cross-platform app development is important

Cross-platform app development will help your brand:

reach your target audience, anywhere

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Cross-platform apps let you sprinkle around your OTT content into several baskets (i.e., different devices/platforms) at once.

Rather than only reaching and engaging with viewers who choose one platform for their streaming OTT content, you’ll give them two or more options. Remember, the average household in the US has a dozen internet connected devices.

For example, viewers can watch and interact with your content at home on their Roku and then pick right up on their Apple smartphone when they’re on-the-go.

You’ll not only increase their personal use, but also give them the confidence to recommend your OTT content to others using different devices.

boost brand awareness

If your content only lives on your website or a single app, users must first know to navigate to those specific spaces to watch it.

But when your OTT content lives everywhere, you’ll immediately expand your reach, boost brand awareness, and increase your chances of organic discovery.

introduce new revenue streams

Each platform or device creates a new revenue stream for your brand to monetize. So investing in OTT cross-platform app development projects can result in multiple revenue-generating apps for your business, providing a great ROI on the initial investment.

enhance your marketing strategy

Each platform gives your team a whole new set of analytics to help your sales and marketing teams perform better.

You’ll uncover valuable insight about your users, their viewing habits, and more. Then you can use this intel to refine your content strategy/sales efforts to capture additional subscriptions or achieve other milestone goals.

generate revenue during the app review process

Anytime you create an app, you’ll need to wait for it to be approved by each platform’s marketplace before your audience can start using it.

Bad news? This stressful time of rigorous testing can last for weeks. Your app may even get rejected, which means you’ll need to start the process all over — sometimes with very little feedback as to why it wasn’t good enough.

All this time translates to lost revenue for your brand.

However, if you set up additional app streams, you can still generate revenue while you’re waiting for other apps to start turning a profit.

At Zemoga, we have a world-class, in-house Device Lab that is part of the development process of every OTT app we build. This process allows us to ensure the proper operation and usability of custom-built applications. It also ensures that the interfaces and mechanics are fully optimized, void of friction and deliver on the intention of the application for the business, and the user applications.

ott native vs ott react native app development: here’s the difference

What’s the difference between native vs React Native OTT app development?

ott native app development

Native app development means your development team will create an OTT app for a specific platform, device, or operating system.

For example, you’ll have a separate iOS codebase and a unique Android codebase if you want to run mobile OTT apps on both.

Because this code is so specific to the platform, it cannot be shared or reused for others. Each codebase must also be updated, tested, and maintained separately.

Then, if you want to expand your reach, you’ll need to hire a brand new team to recreate the process for another device or platform.

So as you can see, native app development and maintenance can get expensive and time-consuming.

However, native app development does offer the perk of a highly-specialized build, complete with a customized user experience tailored to each device, user demographics, and platform quirks. More on the pros and cons below.

ott react native app development

React Native has become a very popular OTT cross-platform app development solution because of its speed, reliability and flexibility: developers only have to create one framework of code that will work across all (or most) the devices/platforms you’re targeting.

This one-size-fits-all approach means you don’t have to spend a fortune hiring development teams for each specific platform or device.

You could have just one mobile OTT app codebase you’ll need to update, test, and maintain.

And your business only has to go through the development process once to launch OTT apps on mobile devices, game consoles, or Smart TVs simultaneously.

However, if you planned on releasing your app on Roku (which accounts for one of the two big players that comprise about 70% of the US streaming player base), you don’t have any choice. You’ll have to write it using Roku’s application development framework (SceneGraph) along with its proprietary language, BrightScript, rendering React Native not a feasible option to deploy it on this platform.

pros and cons of native app development for ott

Both native app development and React Native app development have their pros and cons. Understanding some of what you’ll get with native app development will help you decide if it is a better option for you.

pros of ott native app development

  1. user experience. There was once a time when the holy grail of app building was to create an app that was virtually indistinguishable across all platforms. While this sounds good on the surface, the trend in 2020 is to design according to the norms of the native platform. Trying to have a Roku app act like an iOS app, for example, can cause the user experience to suffer when the app is trying to play nice with platform defaults that work cohesively with one another. The best way to accomplish this app seamlessness is to hire designers who know well each platform’s existing UX patterns and create experience users are going to organically understand
  2. speed. A spinning loading sign can spell death for an app. This is why developers — and consumers — love apps that provide smoother and faster experiences. Native apps are thought to be much more lightweight than their “code once, deploy everywhere” counterparts because of the additional plugins that are required to replicate the core functionality of the native OS.
  3. features. In apps that are built natively, the full gamut of features are available. The same goes for native API’s and platform-specific functionality, things you might miss out on in React Native.
  4. app store positioning. Due to the above characteristics, you may find yourself with an OTT app that gets lots more positive ratings. These ratings can help the app be ranked more highly within respective app stores, giving way to more downloads and increased monetization.

cons of ott native app development

  1. resource intensive. In theory, the “code once, deploy everywhere” principle should save organizations money as native apps may require lots more employees and drum up costs. With React Native, apps can get published relatively quickly across multiple platforms, negate the need for specialized programmers who raise development costs, and reduce the need for tools and testing needed to push an app live.
  2. exposure. One-off apps mean all your apples are in one basket until the next app is built. For many brands, this means one app to market, one app to serve ads on or monetize, and one app in which to promote.

pros and cons of react native app development for ott

Now that you know some of the pros and cons of native app development for OTT, consider these talking points of React Native before you fully commit to making a move.

pros of ott react native app development

There are clear advantages of React Native platform app development, such as:

  1. reusable code. Native app development requires writing separate code for every platform. React Native development means you code once and get to reuse it for (nearly) every platform you expand to. easily customizable modules. Modules in React Native can often bridge the gap between areas of code where native code is the best option. These modules allow your developers to share functionality between platforms.
  2. cost-effective. Skip the pricey native app development team for each and every platform. React Native developers often know what it takes to program for every platform, making app-building faster and more cost-efficient. You don’t need a team of coding experts for each version or update of your app per platform. You just need one team of rockstars to keep up with everything.
  3. quicker go-to-market. Developing apps for each device and platform will widen your audience reach no matter what. But it also takes a lot of time to individually design each native app. React Native app development means your apps will get to market sooner, and you can start generating revenue ASAP.

cons of ott react native app development

The downsides of OTT React Native app development include:

  1. can’t build on roku. As mentioned above, React Native won’t work if you plan on deploying your app on Roku. Roku requires their OTT apps to be built using SceneGraph and BrightScript, their proprietary programming framework and language. While this may not be the end of the world for some brands, consider that Roku is usually fighting for the top spot in terms of a global user base.
  2. potential for performance issues. Native apps are programmed specifically for the perks and idiosyncrasies inherent in each device or platform. Some argue native apps perform better because they take this focused approach while React Native apps are more generalized to work on multiple devices. So app performance may vary slightly across devices.
  3. less tailored/customized user experience. Because React Native app development codes for every device/platform, you lose the ability to tailor each app for its specific home base. You won’t be able to leverage your app to take advantage of each platform’s unique features or work around their flaws.

For example, native functionality (like the Magic Remote from LG Smart TVs that lets users point at the screen like a Wii) may not be considered when designing a one-code-fits-all OTT app.

does native or react native ott app development save companies more money?

When it comes to your budget, it may seem like the “code once, deploy everywhere” model is a no-brainer. Well, this is not always the case.

React Native is certainly pitched as the shortcut that saves time and money, however some argue that this sort of solution adds more complexity than simplicity. For one, the developers working on app builds need to understand the entire, holistic framework as built in React Native. This type of skillset is rare as most developers are trained in specific programming languages.

Secondly, code that spans two, three, or six apps tends to be a lot more complicated, giving further separation between the amount of people who understand the whole system and those who are just players.

Finally, the assumption is that native app development on OTT usually produces the highest quality apps. In 2020, when market share is difficult to come by and the end product is the app itself, brands may want to consider the investment an app built to the highest standard (or lowest standard) can have on their long-term outlook.

build better with zemoga

OTT cross-platform app development should be a major consideration for any brand hoping to become omnipresent in their customers’ lives.

When you build cross-platform mobile apps, they will come… and they will subscribe and tell all their friends too.

ready to chat about your goals?

We design and build better digital experiences that drive business. And we’ll do the same for your OTT content.

At Zemoga we help our clients build better.