To start with, we should state the obvious: “The future of TV is apps”. This has been repeated ad nauseam by every pundit and journalist. What we think is interesting is how we will interact with different kinds of apps at different times. After talking with countless video publishers, from independent producers right through to global brands, we think we have a good sense of how the app landscape will arrange itself. Broadly, we see four main type of “TV apps” emerging:
1 The Mainstream
We are going through something of TV show renaissance right now. Whilst commercial imperatives have forced movies to become predictable prequels and sequels, we have seen series after series of beautifully produced television: Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Planet Earth 2, Stranger Things, Terrace House… the list goes on.
These are the Goliaths of the new TV landscape: Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, maybe a handful more. In our opinion these apps and services will provide the core of what people consume on TV. They provide brilliant content, with a mass appeal that requires a large economy of scale to create.
However, these are far from the only game in town, there are three more types of TV app that will shaping the new landscape.
2 The Niche
Netflix is awesome, but how many great programs does it have on art? One, maybe two? Sky Sports is great for football but how often do they cover judo competitions? Once every four years?
We are really excited about the potential for niche TV. Several trends are aligning which are making it easier than ever for niche services to emerge with great quality content. Quality equipment is cheaper, software is more available and TV is shifting from antennas and cables to data.
A great example of a niche player is ikonoTV, an art broadcaster based in Berlin. IkonoTV create and commission sublime videos covering art, dance and culture. They also have a 24/7 live stream of content. They proved early critics wrong by quickly gaining 400k downloads across Android TV sets.
In the near future we envision a world where, not only do you have your mainstream apps, but you also have 4–5 niche apps covering the subjects that you really care about: this could be art, opera, engineering or specialist sports.
Shameless Plug: Twivel exists to help these niche video publishers create stunning apps for TV, tablet and mobile with no development, just simple drag and drop content management.
3 The YouTube
And then there is YouTube, which we think deserves a category of its own. There is nothing quite like it in terms of scale, variety and, well, junk. The internet’s dumping ground for video, YouTube has traditionally been the go-to place for cat videos, talking dogs and nineties music videos.
However, amongst all the noise, there is undeniable gold. If you search hard enough you can find almost anything and everything you are looking for.
It remains to be seen what role YouTube will play in the brave new world of TV. It will be important for sure, but we think it will be more popular for search and discovery than for engaged viewing or following channels. The typical use case is something along the lines of:
“OMG you don’t know [insert obscure 90s song here]?? let me show you!”
“I wonder what Venice looks like in wintertime, let’s see if there are any videos on YouTube”
YouTube has a chance at becoming the platform of choice for the niche video producers but they will have to overcome the hurdles of terrible UX, onerous revenue shares and a reputation of quantity over quality.
4 The Curators
With this abundance of video across the Mainstream, the Niches and sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo, discovery becomes a really important problem to solve.
Just as sites like Reddit, Hacker News and Facebook have acted as a layer of aggregation and filtering on web content, we think the equivalent will emerge for video. Hyper, recently acquired by Mic, is a brilliant example of this. One video every hour is selected and presented to users. With the recent announcement of the “TV” app, Apple is looking to get into this game too.
Apps like this provide a digital version of analogue channel surfing, a perfect way to kill 10 minutes with no cognitive overhead.
The future of TV, whether viewed on a 42”, 9” or 5.5” display, is going to be provided by four kinds of app. Mainstream apps will provide high budget, wildly popular video. We will see a “Cambrian explosion” of well produced niche video that will be loved by superfans. Sharing sites like YouTube, will be ever present and used for finding one-off videos. Curators like Hyper will help sift through the mountain of content, providing us with some hand picked gems.