While the time spent in apps may be starting to challenge television, mobile analytics firm Flurry examined today what it takes to reach a TV-sized audience on mobile, comparing U.S. app usage to traditional media as well as to other online audience measurements. During “primetime,” which for apps also includes those “after-work” hours of around 7 to 10 p.m., app usage among the top 250 iOS and Android applications spikes to a peak of 52 million consumers, the company found.
App usage tends to drop off overnight, and weekends see higher daytime app usage through the day (9-5). During the normal workday, people use apps at least 75 percent as much as on weekends, the data shows.
Of course, this is collective usage. In order to target an audience that size using traditional media, you would need to combine the audiences of the three most highly rated primetime TV shows on a good week, says Flurry. Or you’d have to combine the circulation of the largest 200 weekend newspapers in the U.S.
“We believe this comparison says a couple of important things about the app audience: first that it has reached critical mass, and second that it is still highly fragmented relative to more traditional forms of media,” notes Flurry head of research Mary Ellen Gordon on the company blog.
The firm also noted that reaching the key 18 to 49-year-old demographic using traditional media will become increasingly difficult as they turn towards digital media more. Flurry cited a report from Morgan Stanley, which showed that there has been a 50 percent decline in TV audience ratings since 2002, illustrating this point.
For what it’s worth, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings pointed to this same trend in a mission statement released yesterday, noting specifically that we’re moving towards a time when apps will replace channels. “Existing networks that fail to develop first-class apps will lose viewing and revenue,” Hastings said.
It may be some time yet until that transition completes (if you even believe in this “either/or” scenario, that is). But meanwhile, when app usage is compared with the Internet audience using desktops and laptops, things are more even. During February, for example, Flurry saw 224 million monthly actives using mobile apps in the U.S. That same month, comScore reported 221 million desktop and laptop users of the top 50 U.S. digital properties.
Or in other words, though the app audience is fragmented, it’s roughly equal to the (non-mobile) online audience in the U.S. today.