In 2014, the World Surf League reached out to us to build their website, and ahead of the 2015 season we added native apps to their digital product offering. Approaching the 2016 season, their ambitions turned to connected devices and we partnered to build their first offerings on Apple TV and the Samsung Tizen platform.
Breath of Fresh Air
Developing for Apple TV has one great advantage over developing for regular iOS and Android. And it's something I could get used to. You are essentially developing for one piece of hardware and one screen resolution. This makes the whole process so much easier. You aren't wrangling multiple versions of assets. You aren't worrying about whether some piece of functionality that you have written will work on an ancient piece of hardware that someone is using to run your app. You do have to worry about how some tv's may have overscan turned on and how that affects the outside margins of your app. Once you understand the "safe-zone" though, it's usually full speed ahead.
TvML or Native?
We definitely think of the Apple TV app as a different beast from our mobile apps. We have been developing the mobile apps for a while now and there is a fair amount of information and content available to users. Not only can users see content written by editors but they can also set their fantasy lineup, view slideshows, see individual judge wave scores, AND watch live events and video on demand. With the Apple TV app, we were definitely concentrating on the video experience and opening up as much of our video content to our users as possible. We also made sure that the live event experience was familiar to our current mobile app users but also fit within the Apple TV design guidelines. Lists of videos for an event use the familiar Apple TV carousels while colors and iconography for event status follow what we've done on mobile.
What the Future Holds
We are hoping our users are happy with the experience. It's going to be interesting to see what they like and use the most. In future releases, we are hoping to make the experience as immersive and easy as possible. We realize that people aren't always able to tune in to live events so we are hoping to make it easier to play back an event on the users time and without spoilers. We also hope to include heat and wave scores for those people who are following along live.