The app future for broadcast channels

The disruption of broadcasting starts with an app, not a whimper, at least that’s how it seems as channels choose to offer up their programming on mobile devices using apps, a trend begun with the BBC’s widely used iPlayer app.

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Appy chappy

This seems to have become a trend, and could in future be extended to the provision of local content to international markets via subscription-based apps, meaning foreign nationals in any territory may in future be able to watch shows from their home country using their devices.

Is this true? Apple’s recent software update to its Apple TV system hints at an app future for broadcasters. The update adds a Sky News TV app to the system in the UK, while in the US the device also gains HBO Go and WatchESPN as an app-based option on the screen.

While what’s available to UK users seems a little limited, it’s not unusual for the company to focus on its home turf when launching new features: the iTunes Music Store was launched in the US way before the company reached the deals it needed to offer up similar services to an international audience.

US Apple TV owners also gain access to shows that appeal to smaller audiences, such as Crunchyroll – a video streaming service specialising in Japanese animé and Asian media – as well as Qello, an on-demand streaming service for high-definition concerts and music documentaries.

The company also shared a few facts and figures that show iTunes users are making impressive use of these services:

Over 800,000 TV episodes and 350,000 films are purchased via iTunes every day. There have been 380 million films purchased through the service since it launched, the company said. Apple, of course, takes its usual 30 percent slice of the cash it charges for content.

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Evolving the business plan

What’s interesting is that other charges continue to be made for access to the content. The US-only HBOGo app offers Apple TV users free access to that company’s vast library of content (including Game of Thrones Season 3), but only to those who are existing HBOGo subscribers.

This may not mean much on first glance, but it’s fairly important really, as it means Apple has found a way to provide access to such content from within existing subscription models.

Accenture’s latest research on consumer viewing habits finds that fully 62 percent of TV viewers are concurrently using a computer or a laptop and 41 percent are using a mobile phone.

This app-based, fee-based future is certainly part of what Netflix has been building toward. Company CEO, Reed Hastings told the Canadian Digital Media Network 3.0 Conference that he expects the future of Internet TV to be filed with apps.

“The simplest explanation is if you take your iPad and you stretch it out to be two metres and hang it on a wall that’s what it will look like. It will be beautiful, it will have all kinds of applications and it’s constantly getting better,” he said.

Better for creatives?

Hastings argued that as more stakeholders begin to offer up their content via apps, we will also see increased ingenuity applied within the apps, for example users might be able to get player information when watching sporting events without leaving the app, or the show.

So is this good for creatives? Hastings thinks it should be, as it should foster a situation in which:

“There are more bidders for content, so the content owners are happy and there are more choices for all of you.”

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