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.