Among its many other uses -- magazine reader, game console, music library, news aggregator -- the iPad is also proving to be a compelling portable DVR for millions of users. ABC, the earliest and arguably most aggressive network TV presence on the iPad at its launch, now reports passing several milestones in streaming media to the tablet.
The company tells Online Media Daily that its full-episode ABC Player for the iPad has been downloaded 3 million times in more than a year and a half on the platform. That popularity has resulted in 47 million video streams served to the device so far.
Albert Cheng, EVP and chief product officer, digital media, Disney/ABC Television Group, says the app has proven to be an effective and integral extension of the prime-time strategy for the network. The iPad itself has become an exceptional vehicle as an on-demand viewing vehicle.
“ABC is committed to delivering the best possible viewing experiences to our fans wherever they are and in whatever format they choose,” he says. “The ABC Player iPad app is an important part of that strategy, and has given us key insights into consumer behavior. For instance, we've learned there is greater engagement with fans on an IPad [where] they love consuming media.”
Just as a number of media companies have discovered when comparing consumption patterns between the desktop-bound Web and tablets, the latter trumps the former when it comes to hang time and depth of involvement. “It's such a personal experience,” Cheng says. “As a result, we see greater engagement with our content, with people watching more episodes than those online.”
The ABC Player app offers the last four or five episodes of most of the current series for replay. The player can track and save a user’s progress in viewing episodes from sessions to sessions. The episodes include four or five sponsor breaks of about 30 seconds each. ABC says iPad viewing preferences generally follow on-air, with top-rated shows such as "Grey’s Anatomy," "Modern Family" and "Private Practice" proving among the most-watched on the app.
The ABC Player app remains the most popular free iPad app from a TV network in the Apple App Store -- ranked No. 5, right before NBC’s full-episode app (No. 6), HBO Go (No. 9) and Hulu+ (No. 10). TNT, PBS CineMax and Cartoon Network also now offer full-episode replay apps.