Greg Sandoval, writing for The Verge back in June 2013:
Getting HBO Go on the Apple TV might have taken longer had HBO not
begun to boost the number of engineers working at the company’s
new development center in Seattle. Apple TV was the first app that
HBO created completely in-house, said [HBO CTO Otto] Berkes, a
former Microsoft executive who started at HBO two years ago. Prior
to Apple TV, HBO teamed with third parties on its apps, but “this
was 100 percent created by our software and design staff,” Berkes
said. “It marks a turning point. I would say we’re two times
faster than just a year ago, and that will increase over time.”
Earlier today: “HBO CTO Otto Berkes Resigns After Network Enlists MLB to Build OTT Platform”:
“Recently HBO’s management decided to partner with a third party
to assist HBO in bringing our OTT service to market in 2015,”
Berkes wrote. “This is a change in direction from what I planned
with HBO and the approach will not utilize my overall
capabilities. Therefore, I feel that this is the right time for me
to move on from HBO so that I am able to fully pursue my passion
building world-class technology teams, products and businesses.”
Peter Kafka, writing for Recode:
The world’s biggest video service has refreshed its app for
Apple’s TV streaming box. The update means YouTube on Apple TV
will look similar to YouTube on Xbox and other devices, both in
terms of appearance and content.
The most consequential change is that YouTube videos on Apple TV
will run with ads. Which also means that all of the videos that
run on YouTube (most notably music videos) will now run on
YouTube’s Apple TV app.
It also (probably) means that Google’s team doesn’t think Apple is
planning a significant overhaul of Apple TV anytime soon, since it
(probably) wouldn’t spend the time on an app refresh if it thought
the device was going to change radically in the near future.
Kafka makes it sound like the apps for Apple TV are written by the third party companies, like with App Store apps for iOS. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, and that the YouTube “app” for today’s Apple TV is like the YouTube app for the original iPhone: written by Apple, but designed through some sort of partnership with Google. Surely, for example, it’s Google that wanted ads to play. But I really doubt they wrote the code for the app. Apple TV (as we know it) has tons of third-party content, but no third-party software.
Has anyone ever written about the dynamics between Apple and the partner “channels” they have for Apple TV, and how those apps get written and updated?
Update: I had forgotten about this year-old piece by Jordan Kahn for 9to5Mac, with behind-the-scenes information on the development of the then-new Bloomberg channel:
While Apple’s SDK allowed them to build the app and interface and
does include general guidelines and suggestions for video, the
backend powering the video experience is completely built and
maintained by Bloomberg. Apple actually has very little input in
the development process after handing over the SDK, which is a
good indication the development process could be transitioned into
a more open tool for all developers. You might have noticed that
the recently released apps on Apple TV all seem to have a similar
design, although slightly different when it comes to certain
features and layouts. That’s because Apple provides several
templates that XML developers can choose from and customize in a
variety of ways. Apple has also been working on improving the
templates for Apple TV apps in recent months. Its newer Apple TV
apps use navigation with tabs along the top of the screen, rather
than the older apps that use a list on the right of the screen
when first launching the app. Using Apple’s XML templates and
guidelines, Bloomberg built the app using its own server side
Do they actually get to write Objective-C code, though?
Erin Griffith, reporting for Fortune:
Moving HBO’s new streaming service to an external platform is a
blow to Otto Berkes, the chief technology officer of HBO. Since
becoming HBO’s CTO in 2012, Berkes has brought in a number of his
ex-colleagues from Microsoft and set up a large office in Seattle
with 55 engineers, laying off a number of longtime employees in
New York. The Seattle office, which is rumored to cost HBO as much
as $100 million per year, has been the source of internal
squabbling at the company. Insiders accused Berkes of building “a
Napoleonic empire” within HBO.
From a recent Glassdoor review:
The once great group, now called Digital Products, has been in
decline since about 2012. Change had been desperately needed,
but change we got is toxic and lacking unity, direction and
clarity. Culture is now unfriendly and full of back stabbing
done with a smile.
Earlier this year, HBO Go suffered several embarrassing outages
during episodes of Game of Thrones and True Detective. According
to sources, Berkes had known about a “memory leak” for nine months
but decided it was a “non-issue.” That leak eventually led to the
HBO Go outages. Internally, some accused Berkes of using the
outages as a way to ask for more money to invest in his Seattle
engineering team. He got the investment, but HBO executives have
not been pleased with what he’s delivered.
Pitch: an HBO series about an HBO-like premium cable channel going through the rough transition to the post-cable streaming world.