A Second-Screen Wish List For 2013

Social TV, also known as the second screen, has long  interested app developers and network ad sales and marketing teams.  Now in 2013 we see increased agency and brand attention. But the reality of second screen is still one of spotty, volatile engagement, limited innovation, and frequently uninteresting, duplicative experiences. 

So here is what I’d like to see for second-screen progress in 2013 — broken down into a wishlist for producers, advertisers, and app developers.


I.Creative Development

One critical group that has largely been missing is the creative drivers of TV content: producers and writers from the production side, and development executives from the network side.  Unfortunately these two parties generally have limited involvement in the creative output on the second screen.  With few exceptions, this leaves the experience development sitting primarily with network sales and marketing teams and media partners.  No disrespect intended, but the second screen-experience for TV fans will be weak until networks stop thinking of it as a sales and marketing tool and engage producers and writers.

II. Storyline

We’ve seen webisodes, and we’ve seen digital experiences connected to the story arc of certain shows.  But I’m particularly interested in storytelling via social — interaction with and between characters as they live their offscreen lives.  I’d like to see producers devote some time to building stories that happen on social channels, in real time (I’ve written before about my faith in appointment viewing, including digital).  This is a rich and new way to build characters and stories that will consistently, and deeply, engage fans in the lives of their favorite characters.  It’s also a way to continue fan relationships during series' dark or down time — whether that’s in between episodes or seasons.


Engagement and Customization

Steve Martin used to say, “Let’s get small.” I agree: It’s time for brands to get niche, narrow, and custom on the second screen.  Many of the ad experiences we see today in second screen apps are “added value” or bolted on via larger media buys.  Which is fine -- but there is extremely little scale here. Brands need to ask themselves: what’s the purpose?  It’s not ROI – there shouldn’t be much I, and the scale has no R

The real opportunity lies in fan interest and brand learning, because while scale is not achievable here, engagement is.  Brands should make the effort to develop clever connections to the original content, to wink and nod to this rabid fan base, and demonstrate a deep understanding of the undercurrents that connect fans to content in cultish ways. It can even be done at low cost because the creative executions that hit home for addicted viewers can be as simple as clever tweets and posts.  Putting unrelated banners in second screen is a complete miss.

App Developers


While there are a few second-screen apps that I like, the fact is that we need new experiences in aided storytelling, and we’re not getting them.  Most of the second-screen apps are all minor variations on generic Web content scraping, badges or rewards, and check-ins.  Those with audio recognition or other synchronous capabilities can be more interesting, but generally they’re not.  App developers, please consider this a challenge: Find your favorite TV content and figure out how technology can add value to the narrative.

Ultimately there’s one common theme across all of these topics: unleashing the creative side of the second-screen experience, not just more functionality.  And that’s my big wish for 2013.

3 comments about "A Second-Screen Wish List For 2013".
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  1. Jared Mazzaschi from Future Pilgrim, January 30, 2013 at 1:13 p.m.

    Thoughtful and insightful article. Thank you. Agree with most of your points, particularly the need for creatives to get involved in the story-telling aspect of the 2nd screen. Integration of synchronization capability outside of apps dedicated to that purpose is another hurdle. If we could introduce that kind of awareness to our apps easily/cost effectively it would be a real breakthrough.

  2. Chuck Parker from 2nd Screen Society, February 1, 2013 at 9:27 a.m.

    Eric, we have a panel planned on production at our NAB event (2nd Screen Sunmit) and would love to get you on it to discuss this.


  3. Paul Mcgrath from CBC, February 1, 2013 at 10:51 a.m.

    Can't agree more with this: "unleashing the creative side of the second-screen experience" is crucial now.

    It seems to me that the tech side of the house now is ready have a conversation with the storytellers. On the second screen front the functionality is there, it's ready, it needs input from the writers and producers to make it appealing and fit into the core premise of the show.

    I helped put together a mini TV summit last week to start bridging the gap on that. You can see some of speakers and presentations here (note it was not solely focused on second screen, but that came up):

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