TV Making Second Screens Work For it

The real-time nature of today’s consumers has lent itself to programmatic ad technologies. But that same nature has threatened traditional TV advertising, which is still the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

And while TV may not be in “adapt or die” mode, some companies are looking to make multitasking consumers more suitable for the big screen.

IPowow, a Santa Monica-based interactive media company, is focused on what it calls “Participation TV.” This is also referred to as creating “second-screen experiences” -- something on your phone or tablet that relates to what’s on TV.

The lure of participation is meant to counterbalance the lure of Netflix, Hulu, or DVRs. I’ve heard some describe Twitter as a “sports bar in which you can choose whose opinions you want to hear.”

IPowow doesn’t think the ability to chat with others about the TV show is enough, however. They want to let viewers actually change what they are watching.

In fact, they’ve already begun doing this, in partnership with Red Bull Media House. The companies started with a soccer match (FC Bayern Munchen vs. FC Red Bull Salzburg) in January, letting views vote on topics related to the game, such as specific plays or the performance of certain players. The results of the voting would show up in real-time on the broadcast.

This month, iPowow began testing with ice hockey and the German hockey league (DEL). They are going a little bigger, however, and allowing fans to choose which game should be broadcast the following week.

“Fans at home can literally decide in real-time the next match that gets played,” a company representative said, claiming, “it’s an absolute first.”

Well, maybe for real sports. Last summer NASCAR and Sprint partnered with never.no to carry out a “real-time Twitter race” during a 60-second sponsored segment of the Coke Zero 400. Fans tweeted their favorite driver’s car number, which powered a virtual race that was shown on live TV.

The rep acknowledged that audiences have had the power to vote and change the course of future broadcasts before --  American Idol is how many years old now? -- but reckoned users have never had the power to “affect the scope of literally the entire content that is aired.”

In the end, “it’s a matter of eliminating attention fragmentation to programming and ad spots,” the rep said.

In other words, it’s an attempt to set the record straight as to which screen should be called the “first” and which the “second.”

"Watching TV" image from Shutterstock.

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