The way that we consume television has been changing for a number of years now. The typical linear experience of times gone has been replaced by a modern ‘on-demand’ alternative. Audiences can now watch what they want, when they want it. What began with concepts such as the BBC’s Red Button has now brought us to the age of the internet connected television, otherwise known as Smart TV. Smart TV devices provide audiences with the capability to install TV applications that deliver their favourite shows and videos on-demand. With Smart TVs expected to achieve over 50% penetration rate in the UK market,it’s now more important than ever for media companies to consider having their own presence on these devices.
Whilst the growth and penetration of Smart TV has already lured a lot of today’s big media brands including Netflix, BBC, and Disney, some others still need convincing. For those unsure whether to invest into TV app development, there are a multitude of reasons why now could be the perfect time to come aboard for this connected journey.
Meeting rising audience expectations
Audiences are changing the way they consume content, opting for an on-demand approach and with this their expectations are changing too. There is a growing expectation held by customers of large media brands that these brands should have apps available on modern Smart TV devices or consoles. Not having a presence on these devices leads to customer dissatisfaction.
If you want to avoid customer disappointment, it’s now key that you have a presence on the vendor platforms that your audience prefer to use; Whether it is Samsung, LG, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, or even consoles such as the XBox One and PlayStation 4. ITV in particular are beginning to experience the effects of this, with their lack of a PlayStation 4 application causing some rumblings across social media.
Runaway train: why the progression of technology means Smart TV penetration will only increase
In the 4th quarter of 2018, 76.5% of all televisions shipped in Western Europe were smart TVs. It is becoming increasingly difficult to buy a TV that isn’t a Smart TV. In the same way that the mobile market flooded with Smart devices in 2007, the same is now happening with TV. This will undoubtedly bring the prices of Smart TVs down and increase the frequency at which consumers decide to turn-in their existing TV for a brand new alternative with all the mod-cons; and TV mod-cons really have come a long way in recent times.
A brief look at the most up to date feature list for the Android TV tells us to expect curated content, actor and actress bios, voice search via remote, and even games capabilities. However, trumping all of these features, is the integration that the platform now has with Google Assistant. In a time when smart speakers and modern mobile phones are integrated with this AI, upgrading from older TVs to a Smart enabled device will bring a more connected experience for users throughout their lives and home.
If that isn’t enough for consumers to purchase an Android TV, Google’s Android strategy of allowing other manufacturers to use their operating system will no doubt ensure that whether consumers like it or not, Android TV will likely be found on their favourite living room device.
This packed feature list and aggressive strategy is proving to be working, with Android TV seeing their list of partners increase exponentially, and their active units more than double each year since 2016. Android will likely find the same success in the TV market as they have in the mobile market. Android is set to become one of the most popular Smart TV operating systems, driving further growth in the market as audiences flock to it for its rich features and home integration.
Of the people, by the people, for the people
In years gone by in order to publish video content you’d be expected to pitch ideas to TV network operators or rely on the backing of advertisers and publishers to serve your content to the intended audience. With the development of the internet and platforms such as YouTube, that’s no longer the case. It is now possible for content producers to serve their content directly to their audience through their chosen platform. Suddenly, the audience is in control of what succeeds and what doesn’t. Content is becoming decentralised.
Smart TVs allow producers to control and distribute their own content by designing and building their own TV applications that can be accessed from Smart TVs such as Samsung’s Tizen, LG’s WebOS or Android TV.
For those cohorts that already have a successful YouTube or Twitch presence, or companies that own substantial amounts of content, a TV application should be something that they consider as a further channel to reach their audience. Not only is it an additional channel, but it’s an opportunity to serve content on larger screens, in a living or family room environment.
Early adopter opportunities
Currently, there are some big players that dominate the Smart TV application space. These are the likes of Netflix, Amazon and the BBC. However the space is still relatively new and by having a Smart TV application, you have the opportunity to go shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Netflix on a user’s Smart TV home screen.
As more and more of the publishers follow in the success of Netflix and release TV applications, this opportunity will pass by as users home screens become consumed with applications from Disney and Apple.
Take a look at your phone's home screen - how many of those apps are big social apps? Probably a fair few. It won’t be long before TV mimics this, with most of a users applications being from these big organisations.
Changes in commission structures
As things stand, TV vendors such as Samsung and Apple have a conventional 70/30 revenue share model for anyone wishing to take subscriptions through their application. This is similar to the model used across the stores on mobile, and is prohibitively expensive for some. However, as this space develops, questions are being asked over the fairness of this arrangement. In particular, Spotify have taken aim at Apple who they deem to be giving an unfair advantage to their own Apple Music service on mobile, claiming that whilst they are being charged this 30% commission, Apple Music is not.
Granted, this discussion is more relevant to the mobile services being offered, but how long before the same discussion is had when speaking about TV? Expect it very soon considering Apple have recently launched Apple TV+ on their own TV platform. More palatable revenue share models will only encourage further adoption of TV applications for content producers.
A nod to the future: connected technologies
As AI assistants become more integrated into people's lives through TVs, smart speakers, mobile phones and toilet seats, users will begin to operate their TVs by interfacing with an assistant.
In one simple command such as “Google/Alexa, play Game of Thrones on my Living Room TV”, a user can begin playback of their favourite show. This convenience, coupled with the ability to use similar commands to control playback (play/pause etc.) will see more users moving away from a traditional remote interface to this voice alternative. By having a TV application and surfacing content to a TV platform’s universal search, brands will be able to further improve and increase the distribution of their content, giving many more the opportunity to enjoy their content in the most seamless way possible.
Furthermore Amazon recently released the Video Skills API as an addition to their Video Skills Kit, enabling developers to build experiences that allow both users of Echo Shows and Fire TV to easily find and consume video content without invoking a specific skill. For example, a user could ask Alexa to ‘play Star Wars, Rogue One’ without specifying a streaming provider, and this could in turn open your TV application and play your content. The potential organic reach of this distribution method is enormous, and it provides content owners with another means to dram users in to their TV application.
Why it pays to be an early adopter
The growth of the Smart TV space has been exponential in recent years. It’s only set to continue as more Smart TV devices are shipped and the lure of convenient connected functionality becomes an expectation of TV users.
Content producers now have the platforms available to them to distribute content as they wish, and if they move early they could find themselves sharing screen space with the likes of Netflix and the BBC on some users devices. Further to this, a watchful eye is being kept on the revenue share models of vendors and how fair these are deemed to be, as they begin to release applications of their own that compete with their customers.
As the connected home continues to evolve, the TV will be front and center. It’s important to make sure that your content can be surfaced to your audience easily through interactions with a preferred AI assistant such as Alexa or Google Assistant.
It is only a matter of time until Smart TVs become flooded with applications from content providers of all shapes and sizes - grab a piece of the action before it’s too late.
Ramsey Marwan, marketing manager, FX Digital & Matt Duhig, co-founder, FX Digital