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From Mobile Apps to TV Apps

November 11, 2014 | Comments

For all practical purposes, the word "app" didn't exist before the iPhone hit the scene in 2007. Today, well over a million apps are available through Apple's App Store alone, and "app" has become an accepted and commonplace part of the vernacular.

(In case you're wondering, app is short for application, a term that's been used in computer circles for decades.)

But when we talk about apps, we're mostly referring to the mobile apps that live on our phones and make everyday life a little bit easier. For many of us, apps have become somewhat of an obsession, providing one-touch access to every imaginable kind of entertainment, information, or service. It's quite possible that "the app" is becoming America's new favorite pastime.

TV apps are a more recent phenomenon, having been popularized by streaming media players such as Apple TV and the Roku Streaming Stick and, more recently, the new generation of "smart TVs" with built-in Internet connectivity for surfing the Web and streaming audio and video.

Make no mistake about it: Streaming is ramping up very quickly as a growing number of Americans shun traditional disc-based media in favor of Netflix, which is 36 million domestic subscribers strong and accounts for one third of peak-period web traffic in the U.S.

Like mobile apps, TV apps provide one-click access to a wealth of information and content. But they tend to be focused on entertainment. As you've probably guessed, Netflix is the runaway star of TV apps.

In a recent national survey, the NPD Group found that 75 percent of "connected TV users" describe video apps as "extremely" or "very" important and rank Netflix as their favorite TV app. Other apps that made NPD's Top 10 list (in descending order) are: YouTube, The Weather Channel, HuluPlus, History Channel, Amazon Instant/Prime Video, HBO Go, Fox News, PBS, and WatchESPN.

What's driving the popularity of TV apps? NPD analysts say the number one factor is the convenience of being able to scroll through and select from a variety of programming options right on the TV screen, which is why smart TVs come pre-loaded with apps. But in addition to the entertainment-oriented apps on NPD's Top 10 list, today's connected TVs offer dozens of other apps, some of which might surprise you.

Here's a partial list of apps offered on popular-brand TVs - all free:

  • Rovi TV - An interactive onscreen TV guide
  • Travel Wizard - Videos on exotic travel
  • Fandango - For help in deciding which movie to see when you decide to venture outside of your home theater
  • Pandora - Internet radio you can personalize
  • Fitness - One-stop shopping for workout routines
  • SyncPlus - Real-time information associated with the program you're watching
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Skype

Of course, we're just scratching the surface here. Some TVs even offer an app that lets you "fling" content from the TV to your smartphone or tablet - that's right, the opposite of what devices like Chromecast let you do. As it turns out, the popular saying "there's an app for that" applies to smart TVs every bit as much as smartphones.

To learn more about the latest audio/video technology and home entertainment options, consult a CEDIA professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.