Pessimistic about TV Apps

I spoke on Guardian’s Tech Weekly Today, about how I see the future for dedicated TV Apps somewhat lacking.

I was on an episode of Tech Weekly today (23 minutes in) talking about Connected TV alongside the head of the DTG, Richard Lindsay-Davies. I was perhaps a bit down on TV apps and wanted to expand on that a little, in the hope of being more nuanced.

I think that Video Apps on the TV video are great: I love using iPlayer and NetFlix on my TV/PS3/AppleTV far more than on my laptop. You can glance away, and glance back when something interesting happens, in the way you watch TV. You’re not cmd-tabbing through windows to try and find the iPlayer tab before the interesting bit ends.

The BBC Olympics application will let fans have access to nearly all the sports, not constrained by how many channels the BBC has – a useful extension and I think it will be popular. The Twitter app on my TV? Not so much, I used it once, and used it to say how awful sending that tweet was.

I really don’t think we’ll manage to have that many TV-only apps. No developer without lots of video (the Broadcasters, Netflixs and YouTubes of the world) is going to pick up a TV SDK – they’re going to learn Android or iOS programming. There’s already a lot of fragmentation in the TV space and billing is never going to be as easy, and lucrative, as on the mobile platforms.

I think that in the future we’ll see some of these phone/tablet apps throwing interesting graphics and content to the TV screen, like the scores at the end of a round. There’s scope for real innovation here, but it’s about feedback, not interaction.

The TV should be the easiest screen to get content on, you shouldn’t have to think about how you get content there: It’s about leaning back and relaxing. We tried ordering pizza via TV in 1998, it didn’t really work. Today we’d just do it from our tablet or smartphone.

Have a listen, let me know what you think, am I being too pessimistic?

2 thoughts on “Pessimistic about TV Apps”

  1. Fundamentally I agree that people aren’t going to use twitter apps on their TV etc, but I think you underestimate the number of providers who have (or *could* have) interesting video that they could turn into a connected TV app.

    Just think of every sports franchise (I could easily imagine a Man City youview app where I could see every goal ever scored, plus loads of stats and analysis, for a reasonable fee, plus F1, PGA Golf, etc etc). Then you have most arts providers (I heard the Royal Opera House are very interested in doing their own apps, plus the Met Opera etc), many bands, orchestras, comedians, etc etc.

    I think it could lead to a huge increase in the amount of video being created and distributed, letting people own their own video content the same way people write blogs, make podcasts etc now.

    Sure it raises the barrier to entry a bit and favours people who actually have interesting content, but that’s not such a bad thing.

    Plus there will be the inevitable new batch of apps that use the new medium in ways that we haven’t even thought of yet… that’s when it will start to get really exciting.

    1. Brendan,

      Entirely agree with you, and my language is too specific. People like sports clubs and arts organisations will also have access to large amounts of video content.

      The only problem for a viewer will be knowing which app the content is in, and so hopefully more platforms will have unified search like Microsoft are on the Xbox Dashboard, so people don’t need to understand where the rights reside at a given time.

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