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BBC takes its TV Application Layer open source

As building Connected TV applications becomes increasingly complicated, UK broadcaster the BBC has decided to make its own TV Application Layer available as open source code, with benefits expected for both the BBC and the wider Connected TV industry.

The TV Application Layer allows the BBC to write an application once and enable it to work on all HTML-based Connected TV devices, by abstracting the differences between devices and creating some TV-specific graphical building blocks like carousels, data grids and lists.

Comprised of a number of Javascript libraries, the TV Application Layer operates across a wide range of different Connected TVs, IPTVs, games consoles, set top boxes and Blu-ray devices in the market.

Pete Lasko, Technical Product Manager at the BBC

Pete Lasko, Technical Product Manager at the BBC

Writing on the BBC’s Internet Blog, Pete Lasko, Technical Product Manager for BBC Future Media TV and Mobile Platforms, comments: “We find that the TV Application Layer allows us to concentrate on building the features our audience want rather than addressing device specific differences that we have already solved before.”

Lasko adds that the code and documentation for the TV Application Layer are being made available via the open source repository GitHub, and is the live and latest code being used to build and continually develop Connected TV applications.

Releasing the code in this way is expected to bring a few benefits: it will allow other parties to contribute suggestions to improving the TV Application Layer, and should also make it easier for external developers to build applications on TV, and therefore drive the uptake of what Lasko describes as a “nascent” technology.

It also lets the BBC find new ways to partner with the wider industry, according to Lasko, who describes it as a “great way to allow application developers to create applications for a large range of Connected TV Devices. Equally it helps device manufacturers increase the number of applications for their devices.”

The BBC is clearly keen to provide what support it can to this emerging industry: Daniel Danker, General Manager of On Demand at the BBC, told a packed auditorium at last week’s TV Connect 2013 event that he believes Connected TV is not showing the sort of growth rate the industry can be proud of, and that the industry needs to take urgent action to prevent it becoming a failure.

The open source code for the TV Application Layer can be found here

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