Apps surpass TV as America’s favorite pastime

By DAN BOWEN // The intersection of connectivity, app functionality and mobility have given rise to a new phenomenon. Call it interactive, call it enhanced or social. Whatever you name it, it’s changed the way we watch TV.

Just how big is the impact? Huge. Today, 78 percent of Americans watch traditional TV while using another device. And most of us do it on a regular basis. The practice is especially common among smartphone users, almost 70 percent of whom use the mobile web regularly while watching TV.

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Dan Bowen

So, what do we do while watching TV?

We engage in social commentary on Facebook and Twitter. We complete tasks during commercial breaks. Some of us play smartphone games with the TV as background noise, others keep the Internet within an arm’s length to Google television-related facts on the spot. (What’s the show Peter Dinklage stars in? Game of Thrones. Available streaming, by the way, for as little as 67 cents an episode.)

More than ever, mobile apps have edged their way into our lives. In fact, the average U.S. consumer now spends more time inside mobile applications than watching TV: For every 168 minutes spent watching the tube, we spend another 198 minutes inside mobile apps.

But that’s only the beginning. The 198 minutes excludes the time we spend in the mobile web browser, which is not technically an app.  Factor that in, and we spend a total of 220 minutes – or three hours and 40 minutes – per day on a mobile device.

It’s harder to quantify the exact time we spend watching television – that is, being actually engaged in the broadcast, not just using the TV as background noise for texting or bill-paying or some other pursuit.

One thing we are able to quantify is global mobile revenue. In 2014, app stores generated $21 billion worldwide. The mobile ad industry generated another $23 billion. This year, in-app purchases are predicted to exceed $33 billion. The ad industry – excluding search – is expected to generate its own $31 billion.

What does this mean for traditional television? It’s no secret consumers are cutting the cord on their pricey set-top boxes in favor of Netflix and Amazon subscriptions, in what many believe is the same kind of seismic shift that occurred when cable operators took over from the original broadcast networks.

Consider this: Sixty percent of paid TV consumption already takes place though an Apple device. No surprise, then, that Apple is rumored to be starting its own streaming TV content. Media and entertainment companies likely to follow the trend include Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, Spotify and Pandora.

Television? There will definitely be an app for that.

Bowen is founder and CEO of Mineola-based Bowen Media. Contact him with questions or comments via dan@bowenmedia.com.