Create a TV app: A conversation with Float Left Interactive

Create a TV app: A conversation with Float Left Interactive

Did you know that for less than the price to rent the fanciest video camera for a month, you could have a whole television channel? Sort of. In this interview , Tom Schaeffer, Founder and CEO of Float Left Interactive, an IPTV software development firm, talks about their services, why you should consider creating  a TV app and how to bring attention to it once you do. If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it now, I believe in thinking big.

BTBO: Can you describe in as much detail as possible, the process of having a TV app created through FL Interactive? (Is there a requirements gathering process, how long do projects typically take?)

Tom: When a potential client engages FLI, we start with an initial meeting to discuss the application requirements.  The requirements gathering process can last from a day to a few weeks depending on the complexity.  Most clients are new to IPTV software and the capabilities of the various devices, so we always plan on adjustments in the requirements as the project proceeds.  Regardless, having a solid understanding of not only what the application will do, but what the client’s business goals are for the application is critical for success.  Once this process is complete, a typical project generally takes anywhere from 4-8 weeks.

BTBO: The app you created for the NBA looks very fancy (read: expensive), what’s the price range to have FLI create a TV app? Is it a flat fee model or other business model?

Tom: Prices vary based on the application requirements.  The NBA project was a special case since the solution had to overcome some unique challenges.  Projects such as these are quoted on a case by case basis.  For most clients, we do offer a more “out of the box” solution, including FLI.tv, which is our content aggregation network (currently under development).  For the average customer, a typical application starts around $3500.00 which will increase as additional features are added.  FLI offers a complete solution for our clients including a robust and scalable architecture for storage, delivery, analytics, and ad integration.

BTBO: What are the set top boxes that FL Interactive can make apps for?  What is the most requested one?

Tom: Currently, FLI develops applications for Roku, Boxee, PopBox, as well as platforms such as Vudu, and Yahoo TV Widgets.  We’re always trying to stay ahead of the game and as new devices and platforms become available, we’ll be looking into gaining a presence there.  The Roku Digital Media Player is the most requested set top box.  The Roku DVP is gaining tons of momentum and there’s quite a push to get more quality content there.  With this comes less constraints on getting content published.  This makes it an attractive option for most media publishers taking their first steps into this space.

BTBO: Once a content creator has a TV app made, what are the things they can do to make it stand out or drive attention to it?

Tom: Content publishers really need to be creative when it comes to spreading the word. Blogs, niche forums, press releases, social networking, and e-marketing are pretty rock solid methods.  Attending and presenting information about your products at conferences and meet-ups is another great way to get the message out there.

BTBO: How much content do you think a producer should have before considering a TV app?

Tom: I believe that it’s a matter of quality over quantity.  Even if a producer has a single asset, it’s still enough to be part of a larger channel or network.  As their content grows, they may consider breaking out into their own channel, but in the meantime, less content shouldn’t be a block of entry.

BTBO: Why is an app preferable to just streaming one’s content on say Vimeo and having Vimeo accessed from a Roku box?

Tom: Aside from the thrill of having a customized channel, it’s also much better in terms of visibility.  Having a few videos on Vimeo is good but there’s a greater risk of getting lost in the shuffle.  With so much content being uploaded each day, it’s not easy getting people to notice yours – there’s so much saturation.  With a customized, dedicated application on various devices, the visibility is much greater, especially now when things are just beginning to ramp up.

BTBO: What technical considerations might a producer keep in mind when preparing content for an app?

Tom: The biggest consideration should be having a solid, backend architecture to support the application, regardless of the platform.  This includes web servers, database software, and a solid technical team to assist us with whatever we may need.  The application is only the tip of the iceberg and having the proper infrastructure to support the development of the application really helps us streamline the process.  This is easier said than done of course and we expect that most publishers have no technical support whatsoever.  In these cases, FLI provides all the support they need.

BTBO: Any closing thoughts? (Feel free to wax poetic on online film distribution in general and why you think apps are the way to go)

Tom: This is such an exciting time to be in the IPTV industry, specifically in online film distribution.  Giving viewers the ability to watch what they want when they want it is empowering consumers.  That being said, it’s also empowering publishers who normally wouldn’t be given an opportunity to have their content reach potentially millions of viewers in their living rooms.  The boundaries are endless and it’s putting the programming in the hands of the viewers.

Applications give publishers complete control over what is being watched and most importantly the ability to monetize their investment via ad integration and analytics.