Commentary

How The Second Screen Will Finally Come Of Age

By now, most of us have heard at least something about the various electronic wallets that are intended to change the ways we transact and – more recently – about Apple’s iBeacon, the indoor positioning and messaging system.
 
To date, almost all of the discussion around the application of these technologies has focused on retail environments of one sort or another, but it seems to me they also have massive implications for the world of TV — both programming and advertising.
 
Breaking it down into its simplest form, iBeacon is basically a tiny radio transmitter that leverages Bluetooth Low Energy to identify where you are and your proximity to the iBeacon itself. This technology is compatible with every iOS device since the iPhone4S and every Android phone that supports Bluetooth 4.0 or later and Android 4.3 or later.  In other words, a very large number of phones.
 
The case that it typically given as an example is when the consumer is in or approaching a store. The retailers iBeacon will automatically send a promotional message. (“This hour only – 25% off your next coffee” etc.)
 
The really interesting wrinkle is that Apple has already developed the technology. In line with how the iPad is becoming a feature of more retail environments from restaurants to Apple stores, every Apple device sold since the iPhone 4S is capable of effectively becoming an iBeacon itself.  We’ll come back to this point.
 
The iWallet is effectively the flip side of the equation. With iTunes, Apple has amassed transactional data on well over half a billion customers. Since the rollout of iCloud Keychain last year and with more loyalty cards and similar information being stored within Passbook, Apple has basically been downloading the content of our wallets onto our devices.
 
With the launch of the iPhone 5S, we were introduced to touchID, the fingerprinting security technology. As it becomes more widespread, it will result in your iWallet being infinitely more secure that your physical wallet.
 
Combined, the iBeacon, the iWallet and the touchID system mean that Apple effectively competes directly with everything but cash. Even that last point is debatable, as your phone potentially becomes capable of of receiving money, too.
 
What’s all this got to do with TV and advertising? Let’s go back to that point about all those iOS devices being able to broadcast iBeacon information — the promotional and marketing messages.
 
Now walk away from retail and think about the home. What kind of capability do you think we’re going to see built into AppleTVs in the future?  iBeacon is already compatible with any other iOS device, so the idea of AppleTVs being excluded from the family is almost nonsensical. After all, it will be what identifies the programming and advertising the viewer is exposed to.
 
As for the other essential component, it’s already in place – as we know from the reams of articles and research about second-screen media usage via tablets or smartphones.
 
TV and brand marketers still need to drive downloads of their apps — or maybe its about being integrated into the apps of other relevant parties (think sponsorship). But as iBeacon can talk to apps at any time, the potential is there for media owners to promote shows and drive tune in, provide additional back-story info and incentives to interact with shows online etc., promote related show merchandise and so on.
 
For advertisers and their agencies, the opportunity could be directly linked to the nature of the advertising proposition — money off, test drives, chance to win, brand positioning experiences, etc. The creative opportunities to those behind the ads are as broad and varied as the advertisers themselves.
 
None of this will happen overnight or — in any significant way — for the next couple of years. But it will happen. TV is becoming more interactive and more transactional; it isn’t necessarily the legacy players that will lead that charge — though the broadcasters and content owners will undoubtedly benefit from it.
 
But while this might sound like some version of heaven for TV marketers and advertisers, if not approached properly and with care, it could easily become a version of TV hell for viewers. Too much messaging, repetitive messaging or inappropriate and irrelevant messaging will undermine the potential that exists.
 
Our cell phones are our most personal media, and we love our tablets, too.  Perhaps most importantly, the passion with which we follow our favorite shows is such that an overly intrusive or clumsy intrusion into the world of “my programs” will be met with a harsh reaction.
 
While the upside of the iBeacon, iWallet, AppleTV trifecta is potentially huge, the downside could be disastrous for brands and programmers alike.  It will be in the interest of all concerned to tread lightly.
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5 comments about "How The Second Screen Will Finally Come Of Age".
  1. Sam S from Consult , March 21, 2014 at 4:03 a.m.
    Wonder why, there wasn't any built in communication channel between two apples, like bluetooth. Apple did not wanted two device to communicate like other does in a bluetooth pairing. And why would they, as they only want all of them to communicate with iBeacon only. Seems like they already had this future requirement making & product strategy in place years back for iBeacon. Hats Off !! to Apple.
  2. Chris Nowakiwsky from NCM , March 21, 2014 at 10:21 a.m.
    The article points out that "every Apple device sold since the iPhone 4S is capable of effectively becoming an iBeacon itself," but never came back to that point. Is this something that businesses can tap into? If so, what kind of consumer side effects/fallout could there be?
  3. Mike Bloxham from Frank N. Magid Associates , March 21, 2014 at 10:36 a.m.
    Hi Chris - The basic point of the phones and other devices already being iBeacon-compatible is that it provides a seamless and ready installed consumer-side user base. While iBeacon is mostly oriented toward retail experiences right now (something like 250 stores have been equipped as a kind of proof of concept), when AppleTV features the iBeacon functionality we'll see advertisers and broadcasters able to message consumers via downloaded apps in the same way retailers are starting to do now. All this is a way off and will require a sufficiently large installed user base, but that's not beyond imagining. We may also see the capability in non-Apple devices as iBeacon is already compatible with Android. As for the negative side effects, think about how unlimited and heavy-handed use of this technology would irritate you if all you were trying to do was relax and watch TV and you felt bombarded by unwanted and irrelevant sales messages. It will be contingent upon media owners to safeguard the viewer experience - and therefore their audience base - and for marketers to enhance customer experience and goodwill rather than erode it.
  4. Chris Nowakiwsky from NCM , March 21, 2014 at 10:58 a.m.
    Thanks Mike, all interesting points. I completely agree with you that media owners will need to tow a delicate line to avoid bombarding consumers and creating a bad experience. Do you know if all the communication and push messaging is dependent on the BLE beacons or can phones talk to other phones to push the messages?
  5. Mike Bloxham from Frank N. Magid Associates , March 21, 2014 at 11:12 a.m.
    Chris - I don't believe we'll see phones talking to phone in the normal course of events, but the technology is device-neutral (at least within the Apple universe). I believe Apple is already using iPads in-store in this way, but haven't experienced it myself. Of course, while this article is about TV, we shouldn't overlook the fact there is likely to be real opportunity at scale before TV in the place-based arena.