A new piece of research from The Diffusion Group (TDG) makes a head-scratching observation about tablet users.
They’re far more likely to use over-the-top apps that give them content from Netflix or Hulu or other OTT providers than they are to use TVEverywhere apps, now offered in some profusion by broadcasters and cable networks -- or, particularly, cable operators.
TDG’s data says 41% of tablet owners use OTT apps at least once a month. Just 26% use apps from ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. Another 21% use cable network apps. Only 16% use apps available from cable/satellite operators.
There are implications for everybody in data like that, but one big, fat question: Since tablets have become the second, or even first screen, why should OTT be so far ahead?
Michael Greeson, TDG president and director of research, gives a common-sense answer: Internet-based apps were there first.
As Netflix figured out instantly, they had to be there to meet the crowd that quickly acquired iPads.
“Broadcasters got their TVEverywhere apps together pretty quickly after that and so did cable channels."
That's not the end of the story. "What’s amazing to me is that for cable operators, it still doesn’t seem to be a priority for them,” Greeson says.
And if you think about it, he seems to have a point. Individual networks -- broadcast and cable -- advertise that you can download an app to watch episodes or the entire channel. If you watch any TV at all, you’re aware of it.
While cable operators offer that service, Greeson says it’s a message obscured by cable operators stressing the quality of service or pushing advanced services like Comcast’s X1 system (and its voice activation system).
According to TDG’s new data, 77% of the 1,500 table consumers interviewed say they never use apps provided by service providers. It’s a step ladder down to respectability from there: 69% say they never use cable apps; 63% say they never use broadcasters’ apps; and just 52% say they never use apps for OTT services.
To put it another way less than a quarter of tablet users ever use apps provided by their cable/satellite provider, while nearly half use apps provided by an OTT provider.
Indeed, the tablet app has to be the greatest thing that ever happened to Netflix.
Greeson acknowledges all those percentages might level off to the same point the longer the apps are around -- but then again, maybe not, especially if Netflix and others come up with more winning hands like “House of Cards.” Obviously, other online content providers out there will create big over-the-top followings that will keep tablet (and mobile) users occupied.
Operators might think their own TVEverywhere applications are just a safety net against the wily cable cord-cutter. “It seems the way they market it, it’s more like something they did just to get it done,” Greeson. “It seems kind of defensive.”
But he argues, “apps are the future of TV. Apps lead people back to their TVs eventually, and that’s what operators should want. I wonder, what are those guys thinking?”
He brings up another interesting theory: If consumers shop for TV and Internet content apps online through app stores, they might never realize the cable/satellite apps exist. Viewers watch programs, and Web sites and YouTube channels and maybe networks. Shopping for a cable app is the last thing on their minds, and, apparently on their tablets, too.