Commentary

Second Screening

Go to any media conference these days (including this week’s NATPE event in Miami) and talk of “the Second Screen” space will feature prominently on some part of the agenda.  People talk excitedly in corridors and meeting rooms about how the second screen will bring home the promise of interactive TV, create more viewer engagement for programs and even drive new revenues.

Two things are certain in what has become an increasingly energized space over the last few years:

  • First, there is definitely a “there” there. The data points to the proclivity of the use of tablets and smartphones in the presence of TVs -- though less clearly to the use of related content across the platforms.  USA TouchPoints data indicates 55% of adults watch TV while using a second screen device at least once a week. Around 20% do so at least once a day. Device penetration continues to rapidly increase and the user experience continues to be enhanced by device upgrades and new services.

  • Secondly, there will be road-kill as well as mergers and acquisitions of necessity along the way.  Any space with this much activity is sure to throw up some victims of over-exuberant business planning, technology wars, land-grabs and plain old bad management and marketing.  Not every social TV application is going to resonate with an audience.  Some will drown in a sea of antipathy.

It’s almost inevitable though, that we shall see some players pulling ahead of the pack to build strong and sustainable positions, based on propositions that deliver to audiences, media partners and investors alike.

There are a handful of things that are likely to drive success for Second Screen endeavors with opportunities for viewer involvement, additional program information, advertising revenues and commerce being most prominent. Every one will depend on a great user experience.

Personally I’m skeptical about the long-term mass viability of check-in style propositions, and I’m doubly skeptical of the notion that viewers will pay for badges as suggested recently by Get Glue, though I’d be happy to be proven wrong.  That same company’s plans to monetize data it collects seem much more realistic.

On the commerce front, the Second Screen may actually finally realize the long-held and oft-repeated promise of Jennifer Aniston’s sweater (buy one like it from the screen).  Now, instead of using the remote, the opportunity exists for such transactions to be explored and concluded using a tablet or smartphone.

Another “Get” brand in this space is Get This, which is an emerging commerce play that enables viewers to select to buy or Like and Share items featured in programs viewed and -- though the items are purchased directly through the ecommerce operations of brands themselves -- check out using one basket for all items.

One other very smart thing Get This has done is begun to secure relationships with networks and channels that are based on a revenue share of sales made. With virtually no effort required on the part of the network and the promise of new revenues, Get This may have gone some way to cracking the code on how to get close to the media owners and the brands, not just the viewers.

As ever, it remains to be seen how big the second screen user base will become in terms of specific TV-related behaviors -- or for specific players in the space – but if nothing else, perhaps we are finally approaching the day when people at conferences will stop talking about how one day we’ll all be able to buy Jennifer Aniston’s sweater.

After all, things just don’t get talked about as much when they are a reality.

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