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7 October 2021

Lightning strikes at major broadcaster for 24i Media’s RDK skills   

With the RDK community not fond of frequent public appearances, it has proven difficult to provide readers with an alternative to the disappointment of a few weeks ago when Faultline was abruptly halted at the pearly gates of the members-only RDK Global Summit, despite receiving an invitation well in advance.

Fortunately, we have been saved by video app developer 24i Media, part of UK-based Amino, as well as separate announcements from Deutsche Telekom and Metrological (see two other standalone stories in this issue). 24i Media has been talking about the latest and greatest things RDK, while the Dutch vendor has topped this off with a win at French streaming platform Cinessance, which admittedly is not RDK-related, but is still a credit to 24i’s technology that we’ll be tucking into in more detail shortly.

To RDK first, with 24i Media revealing it has been working with a major broadcaster, which unfortunately remains unnamed, on porting its video streaming app into the JavaScript-based Lightning SDK – to bring this broadcaster’s OTT video experience to set tops deployed by a (again anonymous) top pay TV operator.

Despite the redactions, there are lessons to be learned here. 24i Media’s Metodi Deribanov, a specialist JavaScript developer, features in the latest 24i Spotlight blogpost, predicting a “shake-up” of set tops in the field that has been “a long time coming.”

This hardware shake-up is already well underway at operators around the globe, as they embrace new technologies such as high-performance WebGL for rendering, which eliminates a lot of the typical heavy programming language lifting involved in set top app development – such as HTML, CSS, and Document Object Model (DOM). Removing these from the equation creates something of a level playing field between devices.

With that level playing field comes faster app development across a range of set top hardware, with fewer inconsistencies between devices, meaning your range of target devices already in the field, as an operator, is greatly enlarged.

Deribanov explains that performance benefits can be realized when applying settings for the same app on a per-device basis. For example, upscaling and downscaling resolution based on target device capabilities is capable with Lightning, meaning legacy set tops can be upcycled to a capacity capable of coping with demanding modern graphics.

We also learned that, as well as set tops, Lightning is an option for some smart TVs that lack the computing power to run React Native, the Facebook-backed open source development framework that allows developers to configure applications to retrieve all UX elements dynamically from a server, including layout, styling, and motion, without requiring recertification.

24i Media’s CEO, Joachim Bergman, notes that Lightning gives his company a compelling alternative route into lower powered and legacy devices, via an approach that is worlds away from the frameworks used on mobiles, web browsers, and the popular connected TV devices from the likes of Roku and Amazon. Bergman was careful, however, to reiterate that 24i is not giving up exploring the compatibility of React Native, and will continue developing regular JavaScript apps for the most modern screens.

Speaking of modern screens, 24i Media is helping its latest customer, Cinessance, target French cinema fans with a globally-available streaming platform with SVoD and TVoD payment options – ahead of a North American expansion coming later this year.

Cinessance is using 24i’s Smart Video for backend support, while its Smart Apps product is handling the front-end development, and then it also has the Backstage feature for content and application management. CDN services are also included in the package, while partner company Cleeng is providing subscriber management capabilities.

We hear a lot about so-called end-to-end systems, but this really does sound like a well-rounded cloud-based package, covering content ingest, encoding, and management, all the way to multi-device applications. We could pick holes and say well it doesn’t appear to have a comprehensive QoE analytics suite, and the answer to that is you can just plug one in. The same is true of anti-piracy tools – simply choose your own later down the line, such is the nature of afterthoughts in security.

This is testament to both the in-house development teams at 24i Media and the acquisition choices of Amino – which is why we can talk about legacy pay TV operators, broadcasters, and brand new streaming services all in the same breath.

Not only has Amino brought 24i under its wing and allowed the vendor to continue operating independently (for now), but it then acquired Danish middleware developer Nordija in June this year. Nordija’s flagship fokusOn platform has since been combined with 24i’s video application development platform for deploying live and on-demand UIs.

Cinessance has identified an opportunity comprising hundreds of millions of Francophiles the world over, although one immediate limitation to its global launch is that only English subtitles are being offered. French-speaking territories will of course be the primary targets for the new streaming venture, but it will need to quickly expand its subtitling options.