Apple’s next-gen TV features an updated set-top box and user interface, a touchscreen remote and universal search across apps, including iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Showtime to start, as well as a designated operating system for the TV, dubbed tvOS.
Beyond the viewing experience, apps, like one demoed by flash sale site Gilt, will allow people to shop from their sofa. Airbnb, MLB, Disney, Zillow, Activision and others also plan to debut apps for the Apple TV.
Apple’s claim that the future of television is apps “opens the door to revitalize its iAd business,” said Tom Edwards, Epsilon’s chief digital officer for agency clients.
“IAd is enhancing targeting capabilities, partnering with third-party ad tech firms and building out their programmatic capabilities,” Edwards said. “With Apple TV becoming the central hub and aggregation point for entertainment across streaming services, it opens up opportunities to connect with more audiences and map content and consumption behaviors, and reduces the friction to find content across devices.”
The TV also includes voice controls courtesy of Siri. For example, users can depress the Siri button on their Apple TV remote and say, “Show me funny shows,” and a selection of comedy programs will appear on the screen ranked by popularity. If they say, “Show me the episode of ‘Modern Family’ with Edward Norton,” the “Modern Family” content page will open up with the requested episode automatically selected.
In addition, users will be able to use voice control to search for content in the wider world, say weather or sports scores, which then appear at the bottom of the screen without disrupting the show or movie.
It’s a step toward making the connected TV experience more enjoyable, rather than what Rachel Pasqua, practice lead for mobile at MEC Global, North America, called “the horribly broken on-set TV search experience.” That will be attractive to brands.
“Consider how it’s now commonplace to use your phone or tablet to search for companion content, join related conversations, etc. – very common user behavior which will translate on this bigger screen,” Pasqua said. “For example, after I watch ‘Game of Thrones,’ I usually go right to the IMDB message board, but HBO could capture that conversation by opening a live chat within the app right after the show airs.”
In terms of straight-up advertising, Apple could theoretically tap into its trove of user and account-specific data to personalize ads and maybe even charge brands more per spot for this privilege, which would keep ad loads in check.
Whether Apple’s mulling anything like that is a “big if,” said Bob Hall, SVP of business development at RadiumOne. The bigger question is whether users will adopt Apple TV at scale.
“The only way for this to work is with massive adoption of the device,” Hall said. “So, let’s see what lures they add to the product to drive people to buy it.”