Mobile Devices Will Become TV Media's New Point-Of-Sale

Flashamtic-Woman-TVWe may have to drop our use of the term “second screen” altogether. The construction is starting to lead to silly equations and linguistic skirmishes over which screen really is “first” in consumer’s hearts, minds and use cases. In a multi-screen world where displays are present throughout the consumer’s waking day -- literally -- prioritization is more a game for media executives, not the user. As behaviors for media consumption shift with these new opportunities, the target is moving almost too fluidly to identify any first-screen experience as fully discrete from the others.

But these terms and “first”- or “second”-screen thinking will continue to have implications for media marketing because the evolving nature of video discovery will determine how and where media marketers target their efforts.   

At this week’s Abu Dhabi Media Summit, YouTube’s Global Head of Content Robert Kyncl made clear that the mobile-to-TV connection is where the Google video powerhouse is aiming much of its effort. Quoted in Gulf News, Kyncl said: “The big change that will come in the media scene is that when consumers can seamlessly make selections on their mobile phone and send it to their TV. That’s coming very soon and for us we’re concentrating on this [mobile] as a first screen and television as a second screen.”

I hear a little ditty coming. Which came first, the smartphone or the set? The set or the smartphone, or the smartphone and the set?

Kyncl admits this seamlessness is five years out, although for many of us it is occurring now. I imagine Kyncl has a grand connection between Android phones and a Google TV interface in mind as a high concept here, but the seamlessness between mobile and TV is in practical terms already showing itself on the level of the app. My Xfinity apps across devices are far superior TV navigational tools than the on-TV grid. Apps like Fanhattan and the new TV Guide apps, Dijit’s Next Guide, GetGlue and others are far better at discovering TV content than is the TV itself now. In fact, we will have a panel discussion on the new arts of video discovery at the Oct. 23 OMMA Video on Devices event in Los Angeles. TVGuide.com, Dijit and Fanhattan all will be sharing their learning.

But what I have already learned is that Kyncl’s point is well taken in terms of mobile becoming the first screen chronologically in the TV experience. I can already program my DVR remotely. And my Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon video queues are in the cloud anyway. I regularly use my smartphone to triage my watchlists during the day for lean-back viewing on the big screen at night. My YouTube account is so pervasive now across every manner of connected device on my TV, I can just plop into my personal folders a cool or cute video I want to share with my family later.

By the way, another cool aspect of mobile device controlling TV content is that it diffuses the former authority of the remote control. In my home, my daughter, wife and I all have Xfinity apps on our devices keyed to the cable box. Yup, clicker warfare is now possible.   

One of the biggest parts of the media economy that this transformation in TV discovery will affect is entertainment marketing itself. Typically, TV networks hold a quarter or more of their on-air inventory for house ads, because nothing drives TV viewing more than TV itself. TV is good at drinking its own Kool-Aid. As mobile devices become TV’s super-remote, how could media companies not move significant amounts of their marketing attention here? Devices ultimately become the media point-of-sale -- the last point at which the consumer is making that vital choice among channels.

Consider also the enormous wealth of data this mobile-to-TV connection also casts off. Whoever controls the mobile remote experience is getting to see consumers’ watchlists, patterns of choice, media purchase paths, and affinities at a level that rivals and exceeds the MSOs themselves.

In terms of changing user behaviors, the introduction of the mobile device connected to the TV is at least as important a development as the introduction of the remote control. As a new platform for data gathering and targeting of audiences when arguably they are in their most receptive mode for receiving marketer and media messages, we likely have never seen anything like this in the living room since the TV became the centerpiece of late twentieth-century life in America. “First screen” and “second screen” may be beside the point. It is the dynamic across the screens ultimately that will matter.     

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