Making FilmStruck Available on Roku is Just Another Example of Turner Reimagining TV
July 13, 2017
A Conversation Between Turner Classic Movies Executive Richard Steiner and You.i TV VP of Marketing Trisha Cooke
Fans are what it’s all about when it comes to creating and delivering content. We continue to take a fan-centric approach at Turner and are constantly using innovative technologies to help us deliver. A recent example of this is Turner’s FilmStruck service – the largest streaming library of contemporary and classic arthouse, indie, foreign and cult films and the exclusive streaming home to the Criterion Collection. The technical deployment and availability across Amazon Fire TV, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Chromecast and Android handsets and tablets was a massive company-wide effort led by our technologists in the Global Technology & Operations division.
Now FilmStruck is available on Roku. Fans were asking for it, and we were able to make it happen thanks to dedicated teams across Turner, including a key partner, You.i TV – a leading application platform company – that we made an investment in last year.
To explain how Filmstruck became available on Roku, You.i TV VP of Marketing Trisha Cooke and Richard Steiner, vice president of digital activation for Turner Classic Movies, sat down to discuss why this release was such an achievement and what fans can expect.
(This Q&A originally appeared on the You.i TV medium page)
(Trisha Cooke) Q: Filmstruck has already been so well received by the market. With the highest engagement in the industry, adding Roku to your lineup is like adding fuel to the fire. Is there anything new or noteworthy film fans should be looking for from this release?
(Richard Steiner) A: Since our launch, there has definitely been vocal interest about FilmStruck on Roku, given its market share with film fans, so we’re excited to have it available on that device for our subscribers.
The Roku launch was definitely a team effort with many groups throughout Turner, including the Media Software and Services group under our Global Technology & Operations umbrella. We all worked closely with You.i TV’s team to leverage our core app on Roku and to deliver Filmstruck in a way that is just as richly in-depth and satisfying as any other device supporting FilmStruck. The result is an app that minimizes the space on a user’s Roku device without compromising any of the overall experience elements or Roku certification criteria that we knew were key for this launch. Given how unique Fimstruck is as a movie service with its rich library of bonus content from the Criterion Collection and hundreds of programmed themes, it remains important to create a highly engaged, robust, and consistent app across all platforms, including Roku.
(Trisha Cooke) Q: TCM and Criterion both have created significant standalone brands with a loyal and passionate community, which we know has been a huge driver of design decisions throughout this process. How did you ensure both brands were represented well within the Roku interface?
(Richard Steiner) A: That was always the design challenge for FilmStruck: bringing two brands into one app with a single elegant experience. We wanted our users to have two great programmed experiences in one app - from a curated selection of films to deep dives on a single film - across every platform.
Device reach and features parity were core to our decision-making process; we didn’t want to branch our app or compromise on features and design, and we worked to preserve the FilmStruck experience throughout the development. We’re happy with the result, and we think fans will be, too.
(Trisha Cooke) Q: So with Filmstruck’s vision to create experience parity across devices, there’s always work to optimize for each platform as needed. How did the Roku experience fit within that vision?
(Richard Steiner) A: When we’re planning apps for different platforms, we’re first and foremost concerned with the user experience: will it fit and exceed their expectations, based on their familiarity with the platform? There’s always work to do regardless of the platform to adjust to things like screen interactions, player controls, animation limitations, etc. and that was no different as we brought Filmstruck to Roku.
We do gain efficiencies from our You.i Engine codebase, but there’s always going to be 10-20% or so that needs to be adjusted to make sure each platform is a great experience for the user. We did it on tvOS, and those adjustments contributed to the app being featured in the tvOS App Store. You still need to be strategic in utilizing near-native design and features where it makes sense.
For Roku we also needed to consider performance implications. We were able to leverage the 86KB footprint of a You.i Engine app on Roku and pull in SceneGraph elements and assets on run time to get people into the viewing experience faster and deliver fast page load times. It’s phenomenal how well our incredibly feature reach app performs on low memory units.
(Trisha Cooke) Q: What’s next in the evolution of the service?
(Richard Steiner) A: With our core app cross-platform approach combined with the platform reach we currently have, we have at our disposal a process that is much smoother than if we were looking at delivering updates in five standalone codebases, which is a huge accelerator for us. It gives us the freedom to add features and deliver even more value to subscribers at pace. There’s something thrilling and genuinely innovative about developing or augmenting root features and components on your master app, and then easily propagating these to your distributed applications quickly and easily. Everyone has the dream of utilizing shared libraries to iterate and execute faster, but it’s remarkable to see it happen so quickly in the complicated and desperate world of OTT platforms. We are well on our way from “platform-specific launches” to feature-based launches across our entire customer base. Fundamentally, this is what it means to run a direct-to-consumer business today.
To learn more about the Filmstruck app or to download it to your device and subscribe, click here.