Walk into any living room in the U.S. today, and it’s nearly impossible to see someone just focusing on a TV show. We’ve grown accustomed to multitasking — texting while watching, playing on an app or commenting in real-time on what we’re watching on Twitter and Facebook — half-engaged with the content on the main screen. For entertainment marketers, this poses a challenge. How to engage viewers when their focus is only partially on the content the networks are producing?
Instead of fighting the second screen, marketers can effectively embrace it to grow viewership. Mobile apps are not only great vehicles for capturing new customers, they have become a necessity for engaging and retaining existing viewers. Independent companion apps such as Tvtag and Zeebox are are on the rise and there is hardly a network out there that doesn't have its own app — from ABC Family to HBO.
With everyone jostling for space on the smartphone and tablet screen, it’s important for entertainment networks to promote their mobile app to the existing customer base before a competitor takes the initiative. Entertainment marketers should focus on meeting the viewer where they are already, instead of drawing them to an entirely new space, for example advertise for the mobile app within television shows the viewer is already watching and on the network's website.
Social media is also an important component of the user acquisition mix. Social sites offer you the opportunity to get a great deal of visibility for your app without the high cost of advertising. In addition, the networking nature of social sites can be very compelling due to the high levels of trust and intimacy inherent in social networks.
When developing a mobile app for entertainment, the app itself should deliver a seamless experience that enhances the content on the original TV screen, but also adds a new value to the user. Take Shazam’s TV component, for example. If you are watching any show from the World Series to “Modern Family,” Shazam uses its audio recognition feature to automatically populate the mobile screen with data from the show you are viewing. This includes an auto-recognition of the music featured in the show as well as tweets about the show. This seamless integration offers viewers new information about the show, while working with the way they are already experiencing content.
Once you have gotten a viewer to your mobile app, app features should go one step beyond the traditional television experience, to give users a reason to keep coming back. Like Shazam, both HBO and ABC have done a great job with their mobile apps, offering viewers an experience that can only be found through the app. On ABC’s app, viewers can watch exclusive clips of deleted scenes and behind the scenes of their favorite shows, extending the viewer’s TV experience. It is important to take into account who your viewer base is as well. Those viewing ABC Family shows through your app might want app content that relates to parenting tips and tricks, while those viewing the news might want a Twitter-like news feed within the app to alert them of breaking news. Modern marketing optimization technologies can help mobile app marketers engage more deeply with their user base.
For entertainment marketers, similar rules and reminders apply to anyone else working in the mobile space: understand your user base, deliver a seamless experience and offer something within your app that keeps users returning. In entertainment, it’s not about fighting for attention between the mobile screen and the television, it’s about creating an experience on mobile that enhances the traditional television show.