Your OTT App Build: In House or Out?

Whether or not you believe the future of TV is OTT (Over the Top, as in no cable box), having a solid strategy and solution that captures this continuing trend is paramount to any business that uses video or sees the overwhelming potential. It’s become common for consumers to “cut-the-cord” and give up cable TV and opt for SVOD services such as Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Now.

“Cord-shifting” is another phenomenon taking place, which involves consumers switching from a Pay TV service that delivers broadcast and cable TV via traditional distribution (cable or satellite) to a similar service delivered over the Internet. These types of services are referred to as vMVPDs, or Virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributors, and examples of these services include Sony Playstation Vue, DirecTV Now, and fuboTV. Viewership of vMVPD services has grown 108% year-over-year while traditional providers lost 1.28 million subscribers this past quarter.

However, there are clear problems with building an infrastructure for these services. Different Connected TV and mobile platforms have compatibility issues that prevent users from fully taking advantage of the infrastructure at their disposal.

For media and entertainment companies that seek to launch or expand their own services, there is a question of whether to buy or build. However, whatever they choose, they often need help. Building a sustainable vMVPD or OTT video service is very complex technically and requires a thorough understanding of some pretty advanced technologies that continue to evolve.

Where do we start…

Companies that want to launch their own OTT services face a very big question: where does one start? Unlike building apps for mobile, Connected TV apps are much more fragmented. There are so many devices and companies out there that it’s hard to decide what to start with. Not to mention the myriad of backend, app, monetization, customer management, and analytics platforms available.

Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Samsung Tizen, XBOX, etc. are all companies with their own separate development platforms. This makes project management extremely challenging from the start.

This is because all the different platforms have their unique coding languages and SDKs. Roku uses a language called Scenegraph, which is a mix of XML and their proprietary language, BrightScript. Android TV is based on, you guessed it, Android. Apple TV uses Objective-C, Swift, and Javascript. Amazon Fire TV can use either Android or HTML5 and many SmartTVs run purely on HTML5. So if you want to build for each of these…you need to have those skills, and they are often hard to find.

Another problem is to identify the target market that will actually use your service. For instance, someone buying a Roku box or a Chromecast can be expected to watch streaming video. However, someone who buys a Smart TV on sale may just hook it up to a standard cable connection and proceed to watch their favorite shows free of the internet. Hence, it can be tricky trying to find who you’re actually serving.

For content owners, the Build vs. Buy debate is broken up into various pros and cons. It all depends on how much you’re willing to invest and how quickly you want your product to hit the proverbial or physical shelf. It’s ultimately up to you to decide on the amount of resources and time you’re willing to devote to the project.

However, here are the pros and cons for each.

We can do it!

The popular belief around building OTT apps in-house is that you can “control” delivery, updates and improvements for multiple code bases much faster than if you outsource the investment. You can upgrade web platform assets to serve as connected TV front-end experiences and consolidate various operating systems into your package.

However, all this comes often at a cost of time and money in both the short, and the long term. You can’t hope to deliver the product as quickly as you might need when the required skill sets are so specialized and hard to find that hiring them full time often results in less experienced staff who don’t have a suite of app lunches under their belt. Also, the myriad of platforms you may require can often lead to overstaffing your design and engineering team to accommodate these specializations. It is a real risk that covering so many bases will eat into your budget and delay your launch.

We need help!

Buying will get you a competent team that is optimized to customize all sorts of solutions for your app to be delivered through various operating systems and ecosystems. An outsourced solution not only can be customized to your needs by skill sets that you lack, but the experience those teams or individuals bring to the table by having executed similar solutions can be an invaluable asset to your teams delivery velocity. Choosing the right mix of skills and a partner to collaborate with will allow you to cover a lot of bases more efficiently and do it at a lower cost than it takes to establish the entire infrastructure and hire all the talent needed to build and market the OTT products. The follow on support of an OTT app launch can come in many forms. Some of which can address a desire to have a rapid response support team available in some form, from completely in-house, fully outsourced, or a hybrid. The experience of successfully designing, delivering and launching that product with an outsource partner will only further inform your decision on which approach is right for you.

What is the Hybrid Approach?

At Zemoga, our team of OTT experts helps companies navigate the media landscape by providing an understanding of the pitfalls and opportunities while bringing transparency to the total cost of ownership. We put to work for you a wide range of experience across multiple disciplines. Leading Tier 1 and Tier 2 publishers have turned to Zemoga to help them solve challenges from Content Discovery to Monetization.

Whether your organization is of the Build or Buy mentality, our OTT app solutions range from providing Strategic Consultation, the rapid deployment of our zTV Framework, fully autonomous cross-functional retained teams to individual OTT app experts that can seamlessly integrate into your project team.

If there is a void, we can fill it.

We can help you Build Better

The OTT industry is changing rapidly, but the one constant of digital evolution is that great experience + great content wins.

Zemoga has been driving innovation in media and entertainment for over 15 years. We provide dedicated engineering and design talent to leading U.S companies. We fill talent gaps. Short term, long-term, on-site, and near shore.

Our extensive knowledge of media consumption behaviors – combined with expertise in attracting and retaining an audience through digital channels – allows us to help our clients such as Hulu, HBO, Sony Playstation Vue, and iHeartRadio push further and faster to ensure great products are delivered always, everywhere.

We’re committed to better process, better solutions, better efficiencies, better design, better people. It’s simple. We just Build Better.

About the author

DJ is CEO & Founder of Zemoga. He has worked in the digital design and production space for over 30 years specializing in developing customer engagement strategies & building teams and technologies that provide groundbreaking solutions for F500 Co's.