Despite lots of fanfare at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference last year and Tim Cook’s somewhat grandiose proclamation that “the future of television is apps,” a recent report from mobile app tracking company Adjust suggests that developers aren’t flocking to tvOS and that users are feeling pretty meh about it.
According to Adjust, Apple TV users aren’t engaging with apps on the platform – only 8.9% of users come back to a tvOS app a week after installing it as compared to 20% on tablets and 18.5% on smartphones. And that makes it difficult for developers to make money on advertising or in-app purchases.
But Reuters is seeing good engagement on its Apple TV app. In fact, Showman said engagement with the Reuters TV app on Apple TV is 30% to 40% higher than tablet or smartphone because people tap in when they have a little bit more time to spare. They might sit on their sofa and watch a 30-minute curated news roundup rather than the condensed 10-minute version they download for offline viewing on their phone during their daily commute.
That’s why over-the-top was a natural next step for Reuters TV, Showman said. But OTT still has a lot of maturing to do.
For one, most OTT experiences end up feeling like nothing more than a livestream of a regular TV broadcast, and many of the apps and services that exist don’t do much more than play video clips on a television screen. It ends up being a sort of awkward mix of traditional TV and web browsing.
“The technology exists for a better experience on OTT devices,” Showman said. “Now we just need to evolve those experiences.”
Personalization is a big part of that. The Reuters TV approach is a blend of automation and a human touch. Stated interests, the user’s location and observed consumptions patterns – what people watch and what they don’t watch – is informed by feedback from Reuters editors.
“The experience we’re trying to create is a positive friction between the user’s individual interests and our editors’ judgements about what’s going on in the world,” Showman said.
The question is how to make money on all this. Users can pay $1.99 a month for an ads-free subscription, but most users opt for the free version with limited advertising. Roughly 5% of overall viewing time on Reuters TV is dedicated to ads versus the average 25% ad load on traditional TV.
Video ads are interspersed between the story segments, and advertisers are asked to keep their creative short and sweet, around 15 seconds or so at most. “If you’re watching a 15-minute program and there are three or four ads, they can’t be more than 15 seconds,” Showman said.
Reuters uses a piece of homegrown technology to assemble a single stream of video content on the fly from multiple assets to make it seem like one seamless creation rather than just a series of clips. That same technology gives Reuters the flexibility to do its own server-side ad insertion and ensure that there’s a smooth transition between the ad and the content before and after.
Some advertisers, like Delta, choose to get a little more creative – and native. For example, the airline sponsored the opening sequence that appears before a user’s content starts playing with the image of an airplane taking off and the words “Brought to you by Delta” superimposed on the screen.
It’s actually a page out of TV’s playbook, like the original soap operas back in the day. But it works for the experience Reuters TV is looking to provide – awareness, branding and being associated with smart content for smart people.
Advertising on Reuters TV is “designed to help brands tell a story,” Showman said.
“If you want to drive a very specific sort of ad response, frankly, we’re not the best channel to do that,” he said. “This is a new way to consumer news, but in terms of advertising, it’s much closer to traditional TV, where it’s all about building affinity."