This is going to be a big week for what I have been calling (and no one has stopped me so far) "second screening" with the iPad. That is, we are getting to test two TV network apps for the Apple tablet that work in synch with live TV programming. The higher profile MyGeneration app from ABC and Nielsen will use audio cues from the program itself to activate interactive elements on the iPad. But we won't get to try that out until later this week when the program premieres. A second screen app that enjoyed less coverage but may be more useful to more people is the CBS Sports Pro Football App for iPad.
The smartest thing that mobile media programmers can do is to streamline things that cell phone users already struggle to do over the data channel. For years you can see how many people peer into their cell phones during sporting events as they look up current scores at other games. This behavior predates cell phones, of course. I distinctly recall being at baseball and football games as a kid and seeing people with earphones coming from their transistor radios listening to games elsewhere and even reciting the play by plays to interested (or annoyed) people in the stands.
And so I imagine that the core functionality of CBS Sport's app for most people will be its global view of all the action occurring in every other game in the league, albeit in an abstract fashion. I guess that the dream scenario is for CBS to stream the feeds from the other games into the app, but who knows what regional licensing nightmare that unlocks.
But the app neatly organizes all of the current scores to the games in a top rail of updated info. You can pop into any of the games and seethe latest drive illustrated on the playing field, with lists of current box scores and stats. There is some streaming video but mainly it is pre-game clips designed for low-res mobile screens. In fact much of this live data is also available for cell phones on CBS Sports' mobile Web site and apps.
I won't pretend that I understand fantasy football, let alone the mania surrounding it, but the app clearly is designed for the fantasy fan. There are endless real-time stats and leaderboards and the ability to import your existing teams.
This I the sort of no-brainer application of a second screen to sports that make you wonder how it could be made dazzling. Remember all of those cool interactive tools everyone always imagined for ITV systems (multiple viewing angles, pop-up contextual data)? All of that sort of thing could be offloaded to a second screen like a tablet. Or imagine a nightly newscast where the real-time synched accompaniment ran related articles as the stories ran on-air. Or what if John King's super-sized magic board on CNN were synched with your home tablet. He could push items to you for further reference?
This is only the beginning of a beautiful dual-screen romance.