Second screen tablet apps: Hits, misses, and what you need to know for success

May 21, 2013

I recently moderated a great panel at the Digital Hollywood Content Summit in Los Angeles that included, David Feldstein (Fox Sports), Geoff Katz (WatchWith), Jury Hahn (Megaphone TV), Lisa Ferris (Get*This) and Peter Szabo (Shazam Entertainment). During our presentation, we explored successes, failures and trends in the fast-evolving second screen space.

Here are the main takeaways about the second screen app market from that conversation:

  • Consumers are ready and willing.

  • Hardware platforms (mobile, STB, TV, Game consoles) are in place.

  • App stores are up and running at full speed.

  • Producers, distributors, content owners, advertisers and agencies are all engaged. 

However, the market has only moved in fits and starts and the question remains – Why haven’t we seen any runaway hits?

Crossing over or jumping the shark?

A flurry of recent articles and research attest to the frothy nature of the second screen market. For example, the Second Screen Society blog highlights meaningful download and engagement numbers (graphic below) from some of the major players believes second screen is ready for “Prime Time,” and a more sobering perspective on the low numbers of second screen users is offered by MediaPost. Additionally, Lost Remote asks, “Are second screen apps facing a ‘Crossing the Chasm’ moment?

And, finally, recently published research from The NPD Group indicates that second screen destinations for viewers already exist – they just aren’t dedicated apps.

According to the study, "The most common TV-to-second-screen interaction was learning more about the TV program they were watching, and finding out about the actors in that program.

“Viggle, Zeebox and other apps designed to enhance second-screen engagement are not commonly used by consumers. Instead, of those TV watchers who engage in second screen activities, most interact with their TV experience by visiting IMDb, Wikipedia and social networks."  

Lessons from those who were first to market

It’s worth a quick look back at the some of the early entrants in the second screen market and the consumer value propositions that have emerged over the past few years. Since some of the first big-name second screen apps appeared (My Generation was followed by Grey’s Anatomy Sync from ABC and Media-Sync) the user experience has largely centered on the following types of interaction.

  • Synced Content (metadata, commentary, pictures, videos, games, etc.)

  • Engaging Polls & Quizzes

  • Gamification (Points & Rewards)

  • Social TV Sharing (Check-ins & Community Participation)

  • Discovery, Utility, Reminders & Set-Top Box Controls

  • Commerce (Digital & Physical Goods)

So the raw materials appear to be in place and we can certainly find pockets of success here and there but nobody has been able to drive repeat usage at meaningful scale. So now let’s look forward to a few interesting trends that may point the way.

  • Concurrent Media: Concurrent media steals a page from the second-screen playbook in that it delivers experiences like those above only it does so on the same screen on which the video is playing.

Simply think of watching a show on a tablet and having the ability to view contextual content in the moment. Imagine synced tweets or cast info related to the scene you’re watching appearing as video overlays. WatchWith does a great job enabling this experience for movies on Kindle Fire.

  • Integrating the Second Screen UX Further Upstream: Most second screen apps today display material that has been curated long after the programming has been created.  Alternatively, we’re seeing some very compelling examples of second screen experiences that are more deeply integrated further upstream in the programming workflow.

  • Shazam showed a great example of this in the Red Bull Supernatural snowboarding competition. Users who “Shazamed” the program unlocked a second screen experience on a mobile device that provided video feeds from the helmet cams of the snowboarders. This was only possible because the second screen user experience was considered from the beginning and integrated early into the production process.

  • Another example of this is Megaphone TV. This is the magic behind Bravo’s Play Live feature. “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen” integrates viewer polls directly into the programming. During the show, Andy cues up live polls for the audience. Viewers can vote in real-time via their mobile browser and see results displayed directly during the show.  It feels seamless and immediate and makes viewers a more direct part of the programming.

  • TV Everywhere:  More and more video is being consumed directly on mobile devices and TV Everywhere (TVE) apps are attracting very large audiences.  Second screen providers may need to reposition themselves relative to the TVE players and this fast-evolving landscape.

Already, some networks are choosing to incorporate the second-screen features into their TVE apps, thereby consolidating mobile audiences and offering greater scale to brand advertisers.

These trends, combined with the ongoing engagement from content producers, agencies and brand advertisers, leave second screen a promising but still uncertain light.


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