Futuresource Consulting has identified the most popular apps being used on connected TVs worldwide and John Bird, the Principal Consultant at the market research and intelligence company, points out that the high ranking for Facebook may come as a surprise to many. The social networking app is the joint second most popular app (ranking alongside eBay and after YouTube) in Germany, third most popular in the UK (after BBC iPlayer and YouTube), fourth most popular in France (after M6 Replay, TF1 and YouTube), and third most popular in the U.S. (after YouTube and Netflix).
â€œThe power of Facebook is beyond belief,â€ he declares. â€œPeople said that consumers would not want to use Facebook on television because it is not a computer but they were wrong. People are always connected to their community and â€˜always-onâ€™. Facebook adds lots of value and the key thing is how broadcast TV will interact with it.â€
Bird points out that it is free streaming video that is driving Connected TV usage today, whether it is YouTube, broadcaster catch-up like BBC iPlayer or VOD movies that are bundled free with a DVD rental. â€œPremium content will come long-term, as an alternative to physical media,â€ he suggests.
Futuresource is convinced, like others, that there is a market for apps on the television including games and novelty apps but we will not witness the vast apps stores seen on mobile, at least in the immediate future. Bird points out that Samsung, which is the global market share leader for connected TVs, has around 550 apps available worldwide compared to 300,000 Android apps available for the Samsung Galaxy smartphone. â€œThere will be fewer, more important apps,â€ Bird says.
He expects the apps choice to grow, however, and that will be partly driven by broadcaster apps covering particular shows, rather than just whole channels, with each app making a few things happen on the TV. The national broadcaster apps will be important, something that is already apparent from the list of the most popular apps in Europe. The most widely available apps (not necessarily the most popular) on Samsung connected TVs (as of mid-2011) are games (23%) and educational (23%), following by information (20%) and video (14%).
Using its own â€˜Living with Digitalâ€™ consumer research, Futuresource has outlined the actual usage of apps in various countries across all connected TV brands. These are:
Germany: YouTube (49%), Facebook (37%), eBay (37%) Pro7 (27%), Skype (24%), LOVEFiLM (10%) Twitter (8%) and Acetrax (8%).
UK: BBC iPlayer (58%), YouTube (54%), Facebook (41%), eBay (31%), Skype (25%), LOVEFiLM (22%) and Twitter (22%).
France: M6 Replay (65%), TF1 (62%), YouTube (40%), Facebook (39%), Dailymotion (33%), Skype (23%), eBay (20%) and Twitter (9%).
U.S.: YouTube (53%), Netflix (50%) Facebook (48%), eBay (27%), Skype (23%) and Twitter (20%).
Taking the top six apps in each of these countries and adding them together provides a total of 523% for video related apps and 375% for non-video apps (like auctions, communications, social networking etc). Though video is clearly the most popular apps activity on Samsung connected TVs we are actually surprised at how important the non-video apps seem to be. Bird notes that the main reason people are buying new televisions is still to increase their screen size, though connectivity is becoming a buying reason, and for those interested in connectivity it is the video services that are tempting people to buy.
Bird says that with some notable exceptions, broadcast brands have been hesitant about exploiting Connected TV but that is going to change, especially as one-third of the population of Europe is now watching some form of catch-up TV. â€œThe catch-up services on Virgin Media [the UK cable operator, which makes services like BBC iPlayer available as managed VOD] demonstrates clearly that if you put that back on the big screen where it is supposed to be, people love it. All the major broadcaster brands are going to be on these devices [connected TVs] in 2012,â€ he predicts.
Bird expects Google and Android to become one of the big stories in Connected TV this year. â€œThere is no doubt that they want to see a re-run of the mobile market and we expect Google to appear in many TVs next year. We expect most of the ranges to run a Google brand if not commit to it entirely. Some of the smaller brands will not have a choice, like if they only have 2% market share. I can see a scenario where Google TV is the Android for television, where they are presenting the market with a platform that can be shared among many manufacturers.â€
Bird will not speculate about the entry of Apple into the Connected TV market with a more serious proposition than its current Apple TV media streamer but he notes the attraction of the $100 billion TV market to a CE company and predicts that â€œat a stroke, they would deepen consumer engagement [with the concept of Connected TV] immediately.â€
Bird emphasises that it is still very early days for the Connected TV market, despite the impressive momentum in terms of device penetration. â€œWe are in the formative phase of the market but the important thing is that we are arming the population with a very powerful product,â€ he adds. And on a separate but related note, Futuresource expects Pay TV operators to harness connected TVs as thin clients to save Capex, but the company views this as a long-term trend.