Cross platform media delivery: Key questions to ask before supporting a new platform
by Pieter-Jan Speelmans on February 4, 2021
This is article number 3 in our series on cross platform media delivery. In article one, we dove into the challenges we’ve seen the media industry struggle with and article two focussed on mitigating these challenges, and the costs encountered. This part will focus on the real question: “Should we add/keep support for platform X?”. Let’s dig in!
There are a lot of moving parts when trying to broaden the availability of your streaming service. Every additional platform to be supported (and even the version of a platform) has a cost. When deciding to support a new platform, it’s important to ask yourself some questions first. Is it all worth it? Will we gain enough revenue by adding this platform or version to our support matrix? But also, what is the cost of this? There is development, testing, maintenance, support, … and a lot of other factors which could increase total cost fast. Below you will find some key questions to guide you.
1. How many viewers make use of the platform/version combination?
It’s crucial to get an estimate on potential gains when expanding your support matrix. While having a long list of supported platforms seems nice, it’s worth trying to estimate if it’s all worth it. We’ve seen a customer roll out a new platform in the past, after which it was used only by a few dozens of viewers. They made the wrong bet.
Some sub-questions you might want to ask yourself to estimate the impact on revenue of your choice:
- Will our existing user base mostly migrate to use this platform (meaning no new revenue), or will we attract new viewers?
- How do we expect our viewer base’s adoption of the platform to evolve? When do we expect it to peak? When do we expect it to decline again?
- How many users could potentially churn to other services if we don’t support this platform?
2. What will the cost be to implement support for the platform/version combination?
Revenue is one thing, bust cost is another. A cost which often is not forgotten, is the cost for implementing support. It’s often a one-off cost, making it easier to estimate. However, this cost can become quite large. If you are deciding to support a device with a completely new form factor (requiring heavy UI changes), or in a new technology family (potentially requiring a lot of new code to be written), this question shouldn’t be taken lightly. In parallel, it is also important to consider your app publication approach, as it might impact time to market and require some rework if application store guidelines need to be followed (and especially if they were ignored in initial development or require rework of reused code).
Some important questions in this are are:
- Can we reuse existing code, or do we need to re-develop from scratch?
- Are changes to the UI framework needed?
- What is the impact on UX? Will we need to take into account specific input devices?
- What is our time to market? How long will the implementation take? How long will (if needed) publication in the device’s app store take?
3. Can we easily test on this platform/version combination?
Testing is crucial. Skipping this step can turn your PR dream into a nightmare fast. Launching a new platform just to have an article in the newspaper a few days later because there are issues is not what you want. Make sure to reserve some budget to test (and please keep in mind continued testing when new versions pop up, new devices get launched, …).
It is interesting to ask yourself:
- Which additional hardware do we need? Is it easy to source? Can we purchase it on all test centre locations? Do we need partnerships with the vendor to get these devices (potentially before release of new versions)?
- Which additional test cases do we need? Are there specific use cases which are more commonly used on these devices?
- What is the impact on testing costs? Can we test this automatically? How much will setup of automated tests cost? How many manual testers would we need? What is the impact on testing throughput and total regression testing time?
4. What will be the running cost on this platform/version combination?
Running costs are often ignored. People see the investment needed to build, but often forget to maintain, support and stay relevant. It doesn’t make sense to develop something if you have to shut it down a few months later because you didn’t anticipate a massive OS update, or notice users simply are unable to work with the UX you’ve set up.
Keep in mind to cover the following areas:
- Will we need specific streams/configurations? Is the DRM we use supported? Is the codec we are using supported?
- How often does the platform update and release new versions? How many man days will we need to ensure compatibility with new versions and devices?
- Will we need all new features to be available on this platform/version combination? How high are the odds that a new platform version will force us to implement new use cases?
- What are the common problems users on these platforms will encounter? Will DRM (and HDCP) introduce requirements on HDMI cables? Do customers expect to cast their screens? How will customers interact with this app, and what questions will it incur?
By answering these questions, you should be able to start estimating the actual value of supporting the platform. If the usage is low, and increase in revenue is limited, it might even be better to make the unpopular choice to not support the platform, or not to support specific versions. The same can be said when evaluating already supported older versions of specific platforms as user bases of old versions tend to reduce.
Getting a good view on these answers, the potential revenue gains and total cost of ownership for this platform should allow you to make an educated decision whether or not to pull through with your plans. Answering these questions should also help you to take a step back and see the bigger picture, bringing new aspects in, and help you pick the right approach for those platforms which make sense, often reducing the actual cost and time needed to launch. Or they might even help you to avoid support for a platform which doesn’t make sense so you can focus on those which really make a difference for your viewers and service. If you have any questions or insights you would like to share, our team has gone through these exercises multiple times. Don’t hesitate to reach out, and good luck!
Questions about our platform support? Contact our THEO experts.
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