RTÉ and Samsung in deal to bring Player app to smart TVs

7 Jun 2012

Samsung's Brendan Carr and RTÉ's Marcus O'Doherty

Ireland’s national broadcaster RTÉ has revealed Samsung will be the first TV brand to offer the RTÉ Player app, bringing catch-up TV to the physical TV.

Until now, the catch-up TV phenomenon has been a smartphone, PC and tablet experience but that is about to change.

The agreement between Samsung and RTÉ will allow Samsung Smart TV users to access a selection of RTÉ’s flagship programmes, via the RTÉ Player App which is available on Samsung smart TVs, from June.  

RTÉ Player will join an ever-growing collection of services available on Samsung smart TVs, such as, YouTube, Netflix, Muzu.tv, Facebook and Twitter, giving viewers a huge choice of content and entertainment through their televisions.

Samsung Apps is the first and biggest app store available for TVs, with more than 20m apps already downloaded worldwide, proof that consumers are rapidly embracing the smart TV format. RTÉ Player is also now available online, on mobile, on the PlayStation 3, and most recently on UPC via its on-demand service.

The RTÉ Player app will work with all Samsung 2012 smart TVs and smart Blu-ray Players, as well as Samsung 2011 smart TVs and Blu-ray players. Samsung’s newly launched ES8000 features Samsung’s 5mm (0.2-inch) ultra-slim bezel and also sports a slim 38mm (1.5-inch) profile which provides more viewing room without increasing the size of the TV.

Speaking with Siliconrepublic.com, Marcus O’Doherty, head of technology for RTÉ Digital, explained: “From an RTÉ perspective, this is a significant milestone for the RTÉ Player which was first deployed in 2009. It is the first smart TV large-screen deployment and brings the Player right into the living room.”

O’Doherty explained it opens up a new audience for the ‘leanback’ experience of the Player and the development required a new user interface design to operate via the remote control. “Pictures are larger as are menu structures. Because users will be using a remote control it requires different ways of accessing content. But it’s quite an intuitive user interface design.”

O’Doherty said the RTÉ Player was rebuilt especially for Samsung’s smart TV platform using CE-HTML which enables back-end streaming to deliver high-quality imagery on large screens. He pointed out that different manufacturers’ TV platforms are quite different in terms of streaming protocols, SDKs, etc, but the team at RTÉ has used CE-HTML as the basis for which other manufacturers of TV sets will eventually be able to host the Player.

“This is the first step in terms of deployment of the RTÉ Player across hybrid platforms,” he said.

Heart of the matter – the user experience

Samsung Ireland’s product marketing manager Brendan Carr explained the manufacturer is keen to push the boundaries of smart television in Irish homes and pointed to the new ES8000 LED TV that includes voice and motion control, as well as facial recognition.

“It is all about keeping in step with trends. Today’s TV consumer is switched on to video-on-demand, catch-up TV services and we are seeing a significant proportion of activation rates. Popular apps right now are Netflix and other movie-on-demand services.

“RTÉ’s Player app is a timely introduction as it is a local app for the Irish market where people need to be future-proofing their TVs for the future, which includes open web browsers, apps and videoconferencing, as well as Facebook and Twitter social networking.”

Carr said video apps like Skype, in particular, are going to prove popular in the living room but said it is vital that consumer electronics retailers in Ireland educate the consumer about these opportunities.

Jonathan Lundberg, technology infrastructure manager at RTÉ Digital, said in order to deliver an RTÉ Player experience on a large-format TV screen, the key challenge was increasing bitrate streaming to deliver an experience equal to the average DVR replay.

“By increasing the bitrate streams we are able to ensure that people with bad internet connections can still enjoy a quality experience.”

He said a key aspect to watch out for is the ability to share content socially via the app. “In the smart TV space there is a general move towards HTTP-based adaptive streaming which allows content providers or broadcasters to share content.

“But the No 1 prerequisite is to guarantee at all times the consumers’ experiences get better and better,” Lundberg said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years