We can watch TV whenever we want—and it's not Thursdays

A file photo of an Apple TV and remote control
Philip Sowels | MacFormat Magazine | Getty Images
A file photo of an Apple TV and remote control

Gone are the glory days of the strong Thursday night television lineup.

More consumers are choosing to watch their favorite shows through "TV Everywhere" on-demand options, and when they have the freedom to choose, they don't choose Thursdays, according to new data from Adobe Digital Index.

The strong Thursday night lineup was always artificial—movie studios liked to advertise going into the weekend, so television programmers stacked the good shows on that day to make the most money. If we can watch the same programs on demand through a device, we tend to watch on Wednesdays and to binge-watch shows the most on Fridays, according to the data.

Currently, none of the top 10 broadcast prime-time television shows ranked by Nielsen runs on Wednesday nights. But consumers clearly prefer to watch their on-demand videos on those nights—enough so that advertisers may start to take notice, considering that on-demand viewing is up almost 300 percent over last year, said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst at Adobe Digital Index.

"Programmers set up Thursday nights to have the most audience, that's what happens in a world where programmers dictate when we get to watch something," said Gaffney. "Consumers are redefining primetime."

The data seem to support a suspicion that has existed for years—that Thursday night is losing its power, and on-demand video options may be the final blow.

Nearly half of all TV Everywhere authentications are on iOS, but it's "over-the-top" devices like AppleTV, Roku and Xbox that saw the biggest gains last quarter compared to a year ago. Consumers went from watching only 6 percent of their on-demand shows through such devices to 24 percent, abandoning their laptops for viewing in favor of devices plugged into their at-home televisions.

Growing market is an opportunity for Apple

Among over-the-top devices, Apple TV saw huge market gains recently, jumping from 5 percent of views before Christmas to 10 percent in the first quarter of 2015. Overall, Apple devices drive 62 percent of all pay-TV video views, according to the Adobe Digital Index data. That was even before HBO Now was released exclusively for Apple devices and AppleTV prices dropped, which could lead to a second buying spree.

"A lot of AppleTVs were under the Christmas tree," said Gaffney. "Apple is in an amazing position to monetize television content in the future."

It remains to be seen whether Apple will take advantage of that opportunity—maybe we will see at the company's WWDC developer's conference next week. But the chance to dominate the market with attractive content will be short lived, said Gaffney.

"People are starting to decide right now which device they want to attach, and they only have so many ports," she said. "The land grab is on, and you're either going to get it right or not in the next six months. If Apple waits too long to develop the content side, it may be too late."