There seems to be a gusher of post-holiday, well, gushing, around the tablet. Since it proved to be the consumer electronic gift of choice this past season, all eyes are on the in-between screen as an even more promising marketing and e-commerce platform than the smartphone itself. As we report today, IDC's estimates are that 52 million units moved worldwide in Q4. The other day Martini Media CEO Skip Brand argued for a tablet-specific search strategy. I wrote the other day on consumer willingness to spend via their tablets.
And market intelligence service TDG reminds us this week that all of those tablets will have to have some overall effect on media mind and time shares. In a new report the group boldly predicts that by 2017 U.S. tablet owners will view 58 billion hours of video on these devices, well beyond the 38 billion hours of total video viewed in 2011 online and via over the top (OOT) boxes connected to TVs. This 58 billion hours still pales by comparison to the 520 billion hours viewed via TV.
TDG is basing the projection on accelerated tablet sales, the likelihood of multiple tablets in the house, and evolving video viewing patterns. They believe that by 2017 65% of U.S. households will have tablets and that the number of tablets per household will double. “A significant shift in American media consumption is underway,” says TDG Senior Analyst Bill Niemeyer.
As much as tablet dweebs like me like to talk about the potential of "second screen" interactivity with the TV screen, I recognize that only a small share of consumers are bothering with these full-bore second-screen app experiences. Our columnist and Executive Director, Marketing of the Media Behavior Institute Mike Bloxham had a good post on this the other day. In talking with focus groups about their use of devices in tandem with other media, Mike discovered a surprising lack of awareness and interest in TV-related apps.
My guess is this is quite right. As much as I like the idea of these apps, and consult them during major TV events to check the insta-zeitgeist, they actually take more focus and endurance than most users care to devote when, after all, they are in relaxation mode. This is less the case with show devotees who appreciate the ancillary content, constant stream of like-minded chatter, and annotations. For most TV viewing, however, the second-screen experience is good for a drive-by check in. In the beautifully crafted Zeebox app, for instance, I like the idea of the pop-up tags related to actors and mentions in the show, but I rarely use them. Hey, I like "Downton Abbey" and all that, but "Gravity’s Rainbow" it ain’t. It's not as if I need an annotated companion.
Which is all to underscore the implication of TDG’s research, that the tablet’s biggest impact in the home may be as an alternate TV screen rather than as a second screen. Clearly the MSOs know this, since already we see the likes of Comcast and Dish porting their VOD offerings and cross-screen functionality to the tablet apps. While the TV networks and mobile start-ups were the first-in when it came to TV apps, the cable and satellite providers have considerable leverage in the hardware itself.
I suspect that one of the longer-term effects tablets will have on TV consumption patterns will be in personalization and portability. For decades the TV experience has been married to a room and often communal viewing. Even when viewing was solo (in bedrooms and such) the technology was the same as in the living room. True portability untethers TV from a place and from the communal experience. Imagine the added services that an MSO, who controls the fat pipe, could make of that with a little creativity.