TV Apps to Drive Next Sea Change in Viewing Habits

By Tara Seals February 20, 2014

Mobile consumption of video is driving usage of TV apps, with 55 percent of U.S. smartphone owners and 61 percent of tablet owners using a TV-related app at least once a month. The number of global TV app users on smartphones will reach 1.29 billion by 2018, according to new research from Parks Associates.

TV apps can sync across PCs, tablets, smartphones and TVs as well, so they drive the consumption of media in new ways.

"TV app usage is altering the use cases for multiple connected devices; currently 57 percent of connected game console owners are using the device to watch TV shows," said Stuart Sikes, president at Parks Associates. "We are also seeing new revenue opportunities emerge through in-app solutions in the smart home and Internet of Things.”

Taken to the ultimate conclusion, smart TV apps represent the latest threat to the traditional pay-TV industry. That’s only set to be more and more true as consumers adopt less expensive game consoles and third-party STBs, which transform traditional TVs into smart TVs with access to app stores. At least 20 percent of U.S. consumers already have their TVs connected in one of these ways.

Further, more than 70 percent of TV-app users are satisfied with the TV show or network apps they use. Typically, those apps have been pretty basic and typical: More than 23 percent of U.S. smartphone owners 18 to 34 have used a TV app on their smartphone to schedule a DVR recording. Over 22 percent have used an app that transforms their smartphone into a remote control for their TV or set-top box.

But moves like Google’s decision to open the software developer’s kit (SDK) for the $35 Chromecast over-the-top (OTT) dongle could usher in a new era of TV consumption. The search giant also has partnered with Brightcover to offer ad insertion for Chromecast apps, so developers are likely to embrace the platform. Much like its approach to the Android mobile ecosystem, the decision to throw the doors open to offerings beyond DVR programming and OTT fare like Netflix could result in a veritable flood of creative, interesting apps for the big screen—everything from lifestyle companions/concierge services to gaming to home automation and beyond.

“Apple and Google seem like logical smart-TV leaders — Apple through its skill of designing and marketing great platforms, and Google through its prowess in digital video and advertising,” said BI Intelligence in a recent report. “Also, pay attention to Samsung and Microsoft, among others. But consumers won't gravitate to smart TV apps until the app stores are stocked with well-curated collections of great software.”

Ultimately, developers, using the right platforms, have the power to foment a synchronized and harmonious user experience across the TV and the mobile device in a way that boosts consumption, discovery, monetization and engagement—which is good for everyone in the ecosystem.

However, the firm also pointed out that the arena is still nascent and messy. The existing smart TV app market is fragmented between a half-dozen or so immature platforms, most of which are difficult to develop for. Over time though, standardisation on technologies like HTML5 and the maturing ecosystems of Google, Apple and others will bring the market around, BI Intelligence concluded.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

TechZone360 Contributor

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