RTÉ has confirmed it will be releasing iPad, iPhone and Android versions of its successful RTÉ Player catch-up TV service later this year. The broadcaster says the upcoming apps will contain ‘social’ features to suit today’s generation of watch-tweet-and-share viewers.
In recent months, RTÉ told Siliconrepublic.com that no imminent plans were in place to release iOS or Android apps. However, the head of platform development at RTÉ, Aisling McCabe, confirmed last night that mobile apps are in the works and will debut later this year.
“Mobile has always been on the road map for RTÉ Player. When we launched it two years ago, the first thing we wanted was to make it international and in January last year we launched an international version ahead of worldwide players.
“Because we focus on the small screen (phone), middle screen (PC) and large screen (TV) as a strategy, we had to prioritise certain things over others. For example, we launched the iPlayer XL on the PlayStation 3 and some of our viewers plug their laptops into the large-screen TV at home via a HDMI input.”
McCabe agreed that agreeing rights with content owners is challenging in the case of bringing out products like the RTÉ Player, but the broadcaster has been making good headway.
Overall, RTÉ’s mobile apps strategy is blazing ahead. McCabe said some 14,000 people downloaded the recently launched NewsNow iPad app. “To give you context, there were some 25,000 iPads sold so far, so that has been a total success.”
RTÉ layered live streaming with the NewsNow iPad app, along with on-demand clips.
McCabe said the on-demand content revolution is in full swing. “When you want it, you got it. You have a choice of what you want to consume. Most popular right now are The Late Late Show, Mrs Brown’s Boys and Grey’s Anatomy, as well as local shows, like Hardy Bucks, Savage Eye and Fade Street.”
She said that peak viewing times on the iPad are between 9pm and 11pm, which I thought was quite strange, considering that is also the period for prime-time TV.
“I guess that is a reflection of busy lives, people like to relax and watch a full programme and it seems to be taking them more time than before. Also people are less likely to enjoy the full catch-up experience at work.”
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McCabe said delivering content to a myriad of mobile devices will be an area of intense focus for the broadcaster in the coming year. “It’s really about innovating how you deliver your content. The future is all about devices, but that’s also a challenge because there are so many different standards.
“The whole world of content distribution is changing and we want to be in a position to embrace those changes. The challenge is combining it all into a great user experience.”
Functionality and user testing is core to delivering new products she explained, but ultimately content is king.
“We aim to embrace social media in our online products as much as possible. Our research shows that 80pc of people in Europe today use a second screen, like a tablet or a smartphone while watching TV, which is phenomenal.
“Facebook has already overtaken Google in terms of traffic. It has 175m people logging in every day, some 65m of them do so by mobile device.
“And we have 2m Irish people using Facebook while watching TV. So it’s about extending the linear TV experience, what people are calling the two-screens experience. We want to enhance that engagement. It’s really about embracing the opportunity.”
I asked McCabe would RTÉ be charging for the Player apps when they come available. “At this stage we will be making them available for free,” she said.