It’s not TV. It’s a new app platform.
Following yesterday’s announcement from Apple that it is making its TV a full-fledged app platform, we checked in with companies who make their living through apps and their ads to see how — or if — it mattered.
If it catches on, the TV-as-app-platform could help to reverse the ad-blindness of many TV viewers who, like me, mute ads — or even fast forward through most commercials, since most of the TV I watch is recorded. Ads in apps on TV could be a different thing.
Ad measurement firm Tune CEO Peter Hamilton told me that mobile has shown “native app environments are the most effective way to reach audiences with tailored ad experiences.” The ad experience, he suggested, might be enhanced by connecting across different devices, like a gamified ad that you start on your TV and continue on your phone.
But Craig Palli, chief strategy officer of mobile marketer Fiksu, suggested that we now need to redefine “mobile.”
“‘Mobile’ is no longer about a screen size, or even actually moving around,” he proposed. “It’s about tying a person’s digital activities together.”
Soon, he said, this mobility will extend beyond the work desk, TV screen, phone, or wrist to a bigger Apple presence in the car.
The “iOS-everywhere strategy has one overwhelming advantage,” he pointed out: data.
Not just a large iPhone
This collection of cross-device user data across a day can be used to improve the person’s experience, he noted, as well as give advertisers better targeting and profiling info.
Raj Aggarwal, CEO of mobile marketing platform Localytics, similarly told me, “Apps are the best way, across any device, to engage users.” But Guillaume Lelait, general manager of mobile marketer Fetch, noted that most (if not all) of the video content-related ads on the Apple TV platform will be video-based, such as pre- and post-roll. Ads for video content and ads for apps may stay in two different areas on the platform.
Parks Associates director of research Brett Sappington said that he expects Apple to keep its user interface free of ads, given the brand’s emphasis on elegant design.
But, he added, you shouldn’t think of the new TV platform as just a very large iPhone, despite the relation between tvOS and iOS.
“I suspect the list of top Apple TV apps will be quite different than the lists of top apps for Apple’s mobile devices,” he said.
Sappington also noted that Roku and smart TV makers have already tried out the idea of a TV-as-app platform.
But I would note that Apple has a long and very successful history of moving into markets where the existing players are simply not nailing the basic opportunity and then putting the pieces together with elegant design to make it work.
My family owns a smart Samsung HDTV, which was rated one of the most advanced on the market when I got it. But I find using the apps on it — even Netflix — is so clunky we rarely do it.
In-app purchases during TV breaks
Sean Cullen, executive vice president at ad platform Fluent, sees the new TV App Store as “a tremendous opportunity for advertisers and marketers to reach consumers as they migrate to streaming video.” He noted that Apple comes to this from a “leadership position in the streaming market,” even though TV was previously an afterthought.
Dave McIninch, chief revenue officer at pay-per-click ad provider Acquisio, said the App Store opens up the gaming market for Apple to contest the dominance of Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation game consoles. Free apps with ads “will find massive new audiences,” he said, “in combination with a new platform to leverage the Wii-like capabilities of the redone Apple TV remote.”
He envisioned a day when viewers of the new Apple TV might be targeted to make in-app purchases on the TV during breaks in live events. “The ability to gamify that viewing experience and run contests during big live events could be tremendous,” he said.
Video ad platform Videology CEO and chairman Scott Ferber emphasized the cross-device opportunities for “consumers who want to view and interact with [content] across devices” and for advertisers who are finding it difficult to reach users in a consistent way.
He also said that the move “brings Apple closer to becoming ‘a virtual MVPD'” or multichannel video program distributor.
“In other words,” Ferber told me, “consumers bring their own Internet connection, and Apple brings the distribution and the content. I think this dovetails with speculation that Apple may be developing original programming, similar to Netflix or Amazon.”
The TV App Store, he pointed out, could be the engine that finally allows Apple TV to take off, just as their App Stores propelled the iPod and the iPhone.