Boasting the potential to generate billions in additional revenues, apps for TV should actually stay off the screen, at least for our puny screen present.
There's expert agreement apps will command a serious chunk of viewer attention and will open up new revenue generating opportunities on a huge scale.
NDS Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Nigel Smith joined Steve Godman, Commercial Director for Skinker and Access' Neale Foster, Vice President, Global Sales, for an NDS Perspectives panel session on apps and television, at IBC 2011.
For one thing, viewer experience must be shielded from disruption. "TV is actually a lean back experience. Apps must not interfere with that, but they can seriously enhance that experience", says Neale Foster.
Steve Godman is enthusiastic about apps attached to live broadcasting. "There is enhancement of the experience for anyone interested in live events, particularly current affairs and sports.
"For brands now using TV apps, they should have a companion app on the go." That is for devices such as iPads and smartphones.
NDS believes in a lot of caution around on-screen apps. "The idea of having something interrupting on the screen is just crazy," says Nigel Smith.
"People watching TV is a communal experience. Going interactive through an app is singular."
However, enriching the viewer experience through companion apps on other devices is something else.
"Audience spikes show people are using their Internet while watching TV," he says, pointing to the success of web associations with popular content, especially reality and talent programming. "A companion app can bring it all together in a convincing way."
Neale Foster: "It's taking viewer experience to another level. It's not about putting the web on TV; it's about companion devices. It's a complete mix and we're already seeing a lot of apps."
Critical to the success of televisions, on screen or near to hand on an iPad, is opening up the head-ends. "Our approach is to take advantage and open the API at the head-end - thousands of developers can then easily develop new apps," says Nigel Smith.
In such an app-rich environment, the potential revenue opportunities are seductive. "When the advertisers and media buying agencies get hold of it, it's going to go stellar," says Steve Godman.
TV advertising is general and difficult to target. Addressable ads aimed through an app, or embedded in the app itself promise to generate billions of revenue dollars.
According to the NDS panelists, TV apps must work coherently between devices, but contextually as well. Users won't want to miss television screen experience while waving their mobile phone around to scan a QR code.
Whatever the current caution about them, on-screen apps do have a future, in a big-TV world at least. Nigel Smith predicts a time when television walls will enable viewers to choose between employing the whole screen for content such as movies and sport, while reducing the viewing area for news and framing the screen with apps designed to connect and enhance that experience.