Thinking. Folks (including me) have been talking about the Appification of TV via second screen TV apps for sometime now. This expectation has led to a plethora of announced and implied corporate second screen strategies. No one seems to have put a number on how many of these announcements are backed up by concrete apps, and how those apps are doing. This is a ‘start small’ exercise towards putting some numbers to that picture.
The simple exercise here is to collect and quantify app data in the Android marketplace by doing a bit of marketplace scraping and some R ‘data wrangling’ to understand the Google Play TV App landscape.
The Data at First Blush. To my knowledge there are no public Java API’s to datamine Google Play, but thanks to the android market api, and some tediousness – one gets the following preliminary result. There are about 500 (543 being the exact result returned by the API) TV apps in Android. Their breakdown in terms of categories, and the relative distribution of app downloads is shown in the pie charts below.
Some of the more interesting observations here are:
- Equal distributions of apps self-categorizing as Media, Entertainment & Games. Games is the Rodney Dangerfield category – with the exception of Mark Suster, no one else in the community has called out Games as a category deserving of respect, and perhaps a disproportionate amount of investment.
- A 10-15% representation of Sport? – both surprising and not so surprising. Sports Apps aren’t easy to write, but if written well they find a ready and enthusiastic audience.
- Now to the downloads. If one thinks of 100K or less downloads as the ‘poverty line’ (i.e. no amount of cleverness can lead you to a lucrative $ number in terms of app monetization), about 66% of TV Apps live below the poverty line.
Speculation. So why is the data the way it is? A few theories:
- Why so many games? Because independent publishers can create compelling (largely textual) experiences even without access to copyrighted TV related content — that is assuming a Twitter future that is still somewhat ‘open access’.
- Why the relative paucity of apps? 500 is a lot better than the 5 interactive TV applications that was the recent past, but a disproportionately small proportion of the app space. Why – because good apps need good content. On mobile, the content is the user + web services, for TV Apps – the content is (copyrighted) TV.
- Why the paucity of downloads? Because a TV show is currently the best way of getting a TV app discovered, and not every app developer owns a TV show. Advances in the App Discovery space could go a long way in making the download picture less bleak. A product punch line from Apple’s acquisition of Chomp, and more activity around TV App containers could change the picture rather quickly.
Unfinished Business. There’s a bunch of stuff I haven’t covered here (left for future little experiments). The state of TV Apps on iOS. A monetization argument for why I consider 100K downloads the poverty line. Extent of replication of capability (e.g. TV guide) across geographies. App property variance across large studios vs small developers. And several other topics.
- The Android Market scraping isn’t foolproof – due to its limited query capability. True – however, 550 is a large enough sample size that I would posit it to mirror the actual TV app population in terms of statistical behavior, even if the actual population size is off by a bit.
- Google Play isn’t 100% of the Android market. It may not include the dark matter (other marketplaces, or direct downloads from large publishers). But for our purposes, it’s close enough.
- Why focus on downloads, after all downloads do not equal engagement? – It’s true that downloads may not imply dwell time. But lack of downloads is likely to imply lack of engagement with an App, which is the pertinent point here.