Commentary

Fox's Big Screen Support For Second Screen Siblings

I was interested to note the recent news that Fox is beginning to “heavily promote” it’s second screen app Fox Now, using the might of both on-air and in-show support.

In addition to a lower screen promotion encouraging app downloads, an animated logo on TV will call on those with the app to “sync now” in order to access all sorts of program-related goodies – mostly additional content of one sort or another.

Aggressive on-screen promotion is logical enough, but there has been relatively little to date on an ongoing basis.  Beyond encouraging people to tweet using show hashtags or “Like us on Facebook," second screen behavior — and apps in particular — have been ignored by network promotion.

To a large extent, this is understandable. Precious air-time or screen real estate can arguably be better spent promoting upcoming programming rather than trying to engender behaviors that are still emerging and applicable to only a fraction of the population.

However, what Fox has announced is likely to yield returns as far as downloads and use of the app is concerned.  The extent to which that behavior becomes habitual will depend on the richness of the user experience, but initial results are reasons for optimism.

Some years ago, I remember making a presentation to The Collaborative Alliance on data from the UK about how different types of onscreen calls to action prompted interaction with ads. (We addressed interaction on the TV, as there was no second screen at the time.)

The data had been aggregated across a range of different ad categories and many campaigns from various broadcasters. As a result, we had good indicators of the relative success of calls to action that were static vs. animated vs.; animated and voice-over vs. static; and voice-over — all by category.

No surprise: The results showed that animated and with voice-over were generally most effective, but they also provided norms for the time that set expectations for what kind of response could be achieved by category.

The question isn’t whether Fox will see an uptick in downloads of the app, or whether they will be able to report a similar increase in use. The bigger business question facing all TV companies relates to the future impact of an app in terms of its contribution to maintaining or improving viewing figures, word of mouth, engagement with the show and ultimately, revenue.

Can users of the app be monetized indirectly by contributing to the growth and maintenance of the viewing base? Or directly through the app itself at a scale that is deemed sufficiently significant?

Supporting the second screen by leveraging the big screen is a good move. The question is whether the tangible benefit of doing so will be deemed in the long run to justify the cost, or better still, be seen as a must-have rather than a nice-to-have.

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