'Second Screens' Are Sill Second-Rate In The TV Business

Second screen? Sounds like getting a silver medal: You almost won. Good, but not great.

A lot has been made of the so-called second screen. But I've never heard a modern media consumer say, "Hmm, I wonder what's playing on my second screen this evening?"

That's the wrong approach. Consumers always watch their "first" screen, their "primary" screen. At airports, they can whip out their tablet for a quick half-hour episode of something. Is that the preferable screen? At the moment, yes.

Multitasking, you say? If your daughter looks at her smartphone for messages during a traditional TV commercial break -- or just during a dull bit of TV, or while you are fast-forwarding through a commercial – Twitter, Facebook or whatever is her primary screen.

The new digital world isn't really about the number of screens. It's about the time spent with each of them -- be it 44 minutes (a typical hour TV program without commercials) or one minute of screen time with Facebook.

Competition is still everywhere -- and that is affecting duration of video use. Joan Gillman, executive VP of Time Warner Cable, says 400 channels every night are looking for "20 minutes, 10 minutes, 12 minutes of a consumer's time." That doesn't sound like a fair fight -- or a fair business model.

Now throw in a bunch of wannabe premium video apps --  Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, or others from ABC, NBC, CBS or Fox for those longer video duration views. Even there, consumers aren't thinking about "second screen" viewing. This is especially true for younger consumers watching CW, MTV or video networks.

TV business executives might be the only ones to correctly characterize these screens. If a second screen brings in less advertising or other revenue, it's "second-rate" to them.

We will know second screens are doing well when we stop calling them that or any other lesser-valued name.

Tags: tv
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4 comments about "'Second Screens' Are Sill Second-Rate In The TV Business".
  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston , January 14, 2013 at 1:44 p.m.
    Revolutions sometimes take a few years, so let's not be sanguine about the future of the first screen. I can recall this blog saying that DVRs were no big deal a few years ago, which was true, but now they are a big deal, given time to grow. Can we have a moratorium on your declaring revolutions dead simply because they don't unfold within 18 months?
  2. Michael Natale from MCM Media Sales , January 14, 2013 at 4:41 p.m.
    I use my iPad many nights to watch Netflix and bypass my television altogether, for me the "second screen" is the first screen much of the time and I have many friends and colleagues who do the same. My daughter watchs Vampire Diaries on her Mac via Netflix as well and she is 13. The traditional tv landscape is forever changed....buh bye traditional commercial viewing.
  3. Edmund Singleton from Winstion Communications , January 15, 2013 at 5:04 a.m.
    I never watch television without my Tablet in the room...
  4. Raquel Hirsch from Hirsch Strategies Inc. , January 15, 2013 at 6:34 p.m.
    This otherwise good article, I am afraid, completely misses the point where it states: "TV business executives might be the only ones to correctly characterize these screens. If a second screen brings in less advertising or other revenue, it's "second-rate" to them. We will know second screens are doing well when we stop calling them that or any other lesser-valued name." It is not about what media executives want to seel but what consumers want to do.