As lead front end engineer on this this HbbTV application there were many lessons leaned and obstacles overcome that ranged from technical, managerial and geographical. Each of these aspects of the project are deserving of their own write-up but this article will just give an overview of the application and some insight into the technology.
The HbbTV application for Freeview New Zealand is an ambitions project that bridges the gap between free to air TV and On Demand online content. When a user watches TV, they are presented with a mini-guide over the broadcast that acts as a gateways to the Freeview platform. On the mini-guide users canL - view current and upcoming shows on all channels - changes channels - navigate into the show page for any particular show - record or set reminders for a show - open up the full EPG and On Demand sections of the app
The full-guide or EPG provides a sophisticated programme navigator. Given the complexity and difficulties of developing an EPG on the HbbTV platform we see this as quite an achievement. We spent much time optimising the EPG to load data efficiently across all platforms to give users as responsive and fluid experience as possible. From the EPG the users has all of the functionality offered bt the mini-guide but with the advantage of allowing the user to see a lot more of the content at a glance.
The On-Demand section of the app is the killer feature that will draw more viewers to the platform. Users can get recommendations and see what’s popular as well as navigate the full catalogue of VoD content offered up by New Zealand’s major broadcasters: TVNZ, MediaWorks and MaoriTV. Users can browse content by genre or channel as well as search directly for it on the search screen.
In order to view content, users need to sign up to the service and authenticate. Our backend integrates with the AWS service Cognito to provide login with email and via Facebook.
The media player used by the app to provide playback is Switch’s own Universal Media player. This player is feature rich with integration to analytics, server and client side add insertion support, DRM support and the ability to fully customise the UI. Again for this component of the app, much time was spent testing and optimising across the huge landscape of devices that we needed to support.
The app backend call CAPI was built from the ground up as the new content delivery platform for broadcast applications provided by Switch Media. The front-end integrates using REST APIs that provide a rich set of querying and filtering capability.
Analytics in the app are handled by: - Google Tag Manager for tracking user interactions in the app. - Telemetry for playback analytics, which is Switches specialist playback analytics platform.
The front-end was built with TypeScript using a custom framework developed by Switch for TV platforms call the Bao framework. The app integrated with the HbbTV platform using another library developed at Switch which we simply call the Switch HbbTV SDK.
After launch the app was a resounding success in New Zealand and user engagement doubled.
You can check out the project Case Study on the Switch Media website.