How FX Digital revived Eurosport’s connected TV experience

FX Digital has partnered with Eurosport to revamp and relaunch its connected TV experience – including console applications – to improve the end user experience and increase the reach of the platform. Eurosport Player is the OTT platform provided by Discovery’s sports entertainment brand Eurosport, designed to deliver video content to their European audience across Web, Mobile and TV.

Following the success of its work on Discovery’s DPlay project in 2018, FX Digital was approached to develop the new Eurosport Connected TV application as part of the digital overhaul the Eurosport brand was undergoing.

The new Eurosport application (unlike DPlay) was set to launch globally and across 5 platforms: Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Tizen, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. The project began in March, with a hard deadline to be completed and ready for launch by 8 October, 2019.

Time for a makeover

Eurosport’s existing TV offering was behind the times and had experienced its fair share of issues. The content was poorly organised and video playback was problematic. Along with a dated look and feel that did not reflect the current impressive state of the brand, this all amounted to some poor feedback from customers. Ultimately – digital overhaul or not – for Eurosport, there was a clear need for a presence on TV that improved customer experience and modern functionality.

FX Digital set out to develop a web-based TV application that would be supported across not only Connected TV platforms, but also the XBox One and PlayStation 4 consoles too. Through the development of an optimised Javascript application that integrated with native functionality of the various vendor platforms, the digital agency was able to create a performance and feature-rich TV and console experience.

With only six months to develop the entire experience for 5 platforms, it would be a challenge to plan, architect, build and deliver a solution that worked in each environment. Like any TV build, there was a multitude of moving parts to consider, from the performance of the UI and support for modern development approaches, to the specification of the video content and requirements of the player. An exceptional effort from the planning, design, development and QA teams at FX Digital would help to ensure the success of this enormous project.

How the sausage is made

A web hosted application was built using a custom developed framework modeled on modern web development approaches seen in the likes of React. The framework brought together typical TV functionality such as spatial navigation and platform support (for example, native keyboards) with expected web functionality such as a navigational router, along with the Eurosport specifics of interfacing with their back-end APIs.

This framework was then built upon to introduce the UI and components such as menus, rails, tiles and buttons. Building its own framework allowed FX Digital to optimise the codebase for performance on the less resourceful TVs and consoles, and also ensure integrations with the native aspects of the devices were as tight as possible.

Furthermore, a versatile video player was developed that consisted of a combination of no less than 5 players. This included those native to the platforms, such as Android TV’s ExoPlayer, along with HTML5 alternatives such as hls.js. Such a combination of players allows FX Digital the flexibility to support Dash, HLS and MSS video formats, multiple audio tracks, live playback with pause and rewind and DRM protection across all platforms.

The project wasn’t without its challenges however, and particular care and attention was given to the Playstation platform to ensure that the agency could onboard, understand, develop and release an application for the Playstation 4 in time for launch. Being the first to dive into the Playstation 4 test kit, it was important for FX to thoroughly document the approach and understanding of the process to help with client onboarding at a later date. Furthermore, significant research was undertaken to comprehensively understand the Playstation WebMAF environment and the accompanying playback APIs so that the agency could create a performance application.

Prepare for takeoff

Ultimately, the combination of a slick UI and a reliable and versatile video player help to deliver a robust and interactive TV experience across connected TV and console platforms that includes user authentication, dynamic content rails, a schedule of content and search amongst all else. Even more impressive, was that the entire project was delivered ahead of schedule after passing vendor testing across all vendors with very little feedback after initial application submissions.

Following a successful launch, FX continue to work with Eurosport to further enhance the application introducing new functionality and further improving the experience.

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