Apple begins reaching out to developers, sending invitations to register to use its Apple TV SDK
As ad dollars shift from print to digital, online to mobile, some media companies are looking to bolster their video content efforts in order to attract new ad dollars and retain old clients
The big news from yesterday’s iPhone event was not the new iPhones, though Apple CEO Tim Cook tried his hardest to make it seem as if the new iPhones were anything really new. No, Live Photos will not revolutionize photography, though it may prove a novelty.
No, the big news may be that the Apple TV will now have its own app store, with apps developed using its tvOS operating system. Apple is not the first to offer an app store that developers can use to offer TV channels to viewers. Roku has had a store for a while now, along with its own developer program.
But Apple’s database of registered developers dwarfs all others, and late yesterday Apple emailed their developers (including TNM) to start the ball rolling. Developers can download the SDK and register for the Apple TV Developer Kit which will allow them to test their new tvOS apps.
Working with tvOS will be a little like the early days of iPhone and iPad app development – developers of native apps will find it easy to move forward, but those media people who have depended on digital publishing platforms to come up with easier app solutions may be intimidated.
Apple has created a App Programming Guide for tvOS, but I admit this stuff is way over my head. But I have noticed that there are services that help you create your own Roku app, so my bet is that there will be new services arising to help novice media developers. (After all, app building is like the restaurant design business: there is more money to be made in designing restaurants that go in an out of business than there is in the actual restaurant business.)
Of course, this means a ton of really silly apps will get added to Apple’s new Apple TV app store. Remember when Apple banned new fart apps in 2010? “We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store,” Apple said. “We don’t need any more Fart apps. If your app doesn’t do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted.”
Guess what? Apple had to repeat its ban for apps developed for the Apple Watch.
You’re a digital publisher, should you really consider creating a TV channel for the Apple TV? My advice is the same as it was for digital editions: you should consider what you would do, decide for yourself if you can create a superior product, then come to a conclusion.
Sadly, this is not the way most publishers have been thinking about their digital products. Instead, far too many have seen the new digital platforms as merely new distribution channels for their print products, convinced by some vendors that there is a cheap and easy way to launch a new digital product that requires little or no additional work by their staffs. This is not the way to look at launching a new product – not in print, and certainly not in digital.
That means most publishers should likely wait. But some may be ready to go, after all, may have been busy building up their video libraries, encouraging reporters to video interviews, etc. I think that if The New York Times isn’t seriously thinking about a channel they are failing to understand the opportunity.
Magazine companies in need of diversifying their product lines and attracting video advertising may be looking closely at the opportunity, as well. TIME Magazine already has a Roku channel, but it is merely a collection of videos that are probably also housed on their website and on a branded YouTube channel. (TNM has its own YouTube channel, by the way).
Some magazines, I fear, have missed the boat. For years, for instance, I have said that if I were the publisher of a certain food magazine (I won’t mention its title) I would have encouraging my freelancers and staff writers to be shooting video, knowing that there would be a need for video both for the website, but also for the magazine’s digital editions and a potential TV app channel. Instead, that magazine has pursued a replica edition strategy that has left its website sorely outdated.
What are the consequences of failing to pursue video? The loss of print advertising.
The reality is that advertising is moving from print to digital, and from desktop to mobile, from online display to digital video. Brands are also moving ad dollars from branding efforts to shopper marketing efforts. For most publishers, they don’t understand this and are instead continuing to go after the same dollars, from the same ad buyers yet those ad buyers are seeing their budgets reduced and the money moved to new areas. This is one reason why Google and Facebook dominate digital ad budgets, traditional publishers are failing to develop their own digital ad solutions that might attract these dollars. (One excuse continues to be fear that the new digital ad solutions will bring in smaller CPMs – they will, but this is where the money is going, either get on board and starting going after these dollars, or choose not to compete.)
Is the new Apple TV really a revolution for television viewing? No, of course not. TV viewing has been going in the direction of apps and time shifting for years. Apple’s own older Apple TV has been used by viewers for years, and their failure to update the product didn’t stop the growth of third party TV boxes – instead, Google, Amazon, Roku and others leaped in and started to take market share away. Apple is actually late, very late, and will have to depend on its ability to get developers on board to recover.
But for the cable companies, time is running out. In his review of the new Apple TV, the WSJ’s Geoffrey Fowler complains that the new Apple TV doesn’t deliver enough content, but more importantly “doesn’t free us from the tyranny of the monthly cable subscription.”
That’s the way just about all cable TV customers feel. Comcast and the other cable companies are among America’s most hated companies. TV is too expensive, service and technology is bad.
“After putting the desktop web in their rear view mirror, apps now reign supreme as the top media channel in the United States, even without the help of the mobile browser. For the first time ever, time spent inside mobile applications by the average US consumer has exceeded that of TV,” said Khalaf.
What is also being seen is that viewers are willing to pay for content, at least if it helps them cut the cord. Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Spotify and Pandora are doing well attracting paid subscribers. This may not mean that viewers will be willing to pay for TV channels from publishers, but it does mean that money is shifting from big cable bills to individual apps residing inside the new TV box ecosystems.
“This year, it’s estimated that revenues from in-app purchases will exceed advertising revenues for the first time,” Khalaf said. “In 2014, app stores generated $21 billion in sales on a worldwide basis, while the mobile ads industry generated $23 billion during the same time. This year, we expect in-app purchases to exceed $33 billion and the ads industry (excluding search) is expected to generate $31 billion.”
Publishers have been torn between paid content strategies and advertising strategies, thinking that they can only pursue one or the other. But in the area of TV, it appears that money is flowing to both in-app purchases (read: programming) and mobile advertising (read: video ads, as well as display). This means that media companies will have a strong incentive to continue their emphasis on growing video, and it is video content that allows a publisher to at least consider whether they are in a position to explore TV apps.
Note: Future posts will likely explore the TV app form itself – what kind of content can work, is there are need for live content, app design and other issues involving the platform.