Who’s Missing a Big Opportunity on the Second Screen?

Will 2013 be the year of social TV, when this growing sector hits the mainstream? Was 2012? There has certainly be a lot of industry activity from consolidations, acquisitions and new product launches.

Even over just the last months, GetGlue’s been acquired by Viggle, Zeebox reached US shores and already’s seeing significant number of downloads, networks like CBS have rolled out new companion experiences, Dish launched its app and there are lots of others seeking to become the breakthrough app and ‘go to’ destination.

missed targetThere’s clearly a lot of dollars chasing the growing second screen audience.  Numerous studies have shown that TV viewers are engaged on their devices, be they laptops, tablets or smartphones.  Which of all the apps now in the marketplace will become the social TV ‘killer app’ is still to be determined – and in fact that app (or likely apps) may not even exist yet.

Today, big audiences are online and watching TV simultaneously; there’s a tremendous opportunity for brands to reach those viewers in this emerging cross-platform environment.  Whoever captures them stands to win big.

However, in many ways, the second screen audience seems to be quite dispersed across all of the varied companion experiences, and hence difficult to reach.  But one opportunity that does not seem to be pursued aggressively is that of the large audiences on ‘mainstream’ online media sites already.  Many of the highly trafficked sites on the web have this co-viewing audience now, perhaps without even realizing it.

What they’re not doing however is providing a rich, engaging companion experience for these viewers.  While not necessarily applicable to all shows and all sites, it’s not difficult to imagine how a lot of these high volume sites could easily keep their users more engaged and on their site longer by offering them content related to the show they’re likely already watching.

Sports sites hosting live content related to Monday Night Football, teen-oriented sites delivering live chats around Glee, entertainment sites discussing American Idol or The Voice during the show are all ripe but for the most part missed opportunities.  Most of these destinations have huge online audiences that are multi-tasking between TV and their site.  Why not provide companion content to focus these viewers and engage them – on their own site – with what’s happening right in front of them in their living room.  As viewers seek more social TV type experiences, these destinations can keep these viewers or lose them to others.

Willie Sutton mug shotThere are numerous platforms and ‘white label’ providers that the ‘big’ sites’ could use to embed such TV companion content into their own properties.  They say Willie Sutton robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.”  The online giants should look to their own sites because that’s where the co-viewing audience – and the social TV money – is.


Why is Social TV So Sporty?

As lots of baseball fans across the country get ready for hopefully an exciting World Series (well, except those members of Red Sox Nation like me, pretending the last six months never happened and looking towards 2013 Spring Training), more and more are doing so with their portable devices – while simultaneously watching on TV. While some are simply multi-tasking with GMail, Angry Birds or NSFW (or home) internet surfing, a growing number are trying out the increasing number of sports-based TV companion apps and websites.

In fact, sports seems to be one of the TV genres generating the most activity from entrepreneurs to large companies. Scores of companies are launching second screen experiences to complement the TV viewing experience.  The tremendous growth in smartphones and tablets have made such digital companions more comfortable and conducive to use.

The sports leagues themselves and their partner networks were some of the earliest in the space.  MLB Advanced Media has continually led the field with its GameDay app, which works well as a stand-alone app for those out-of-market for example, and as a companion app for those who can’t get enough stats.  The NBA, NFL, NHL and Nascar also all have online and mobile experiences to add to the viewing experience.

Where there’s been a lot of startup activity (and associated venture $) has been in mobile and tablet apps to complement sports viewing.  The apps are all taking different approaches: sharing, stats, conversation, gamification, chat – and all permutations thereof!  Some of the more interesting ones include PrePlay Sports, Tok Baseball, RumbleTV, SportsYapper, SportsCaster, LiveFanChat, and SportsStream.


But why does sports seem to be leading the charge onto the second screen and the emerging world of social TV?  Sports viewing by its nature is social.  Watching a game with friends is typically so much more enjoyable than watching by yourself.  Trash talking the opponents – or your friend’s team – is simply what we like to do these days.  And sports performance is so stats-oriented that TV productions simply can’t provide the level of detail that everyone would like.  Fantasy sports adds a whole other layer.  And competing with friends, whether remotely or next to you adds to the competition on the field.

Sports-based second screen apps facilitate all that.  They make it easy to stay connected with your friends across town or cross-country.  You want more stats?  Many apps supply more stats than a sabermetrician would know what to do with.  And all those water cooler conversations about ‘the game last night’ at the office the next day?  Well, they’re all still happening – but around the virtual water cooler.  Chatting with friends and other fans and even reporters and other experts (any @MatthewBerryTMR followers?) now happens live as the action unfolds.  Tomorrow?  Too late; Twitter and other online forums are driving the conversation in real-time.

With the proliferation of devices in the home (iPad Mini anyone?) and the never-ending thirst to eat, drink and sleep sports, this will only continue.  There will be increasing usage of companion apps for most genres of TV, especially reality, comedy, big events and other highly social programming.  But it’s highly likely that for the foreseeable future, sports will be scoring the most points in the social TV arena.

Social TV’s Water Cooler Moment

Remember way back, say around Super Bowl XLII (for those non-Romans, that was a few years back when the Patriots last faced the Giants).  Social TV and mobile-based tablets apps were just a figment of someone’s (Steve Jobs’?) imagination.  Sure, there have been forums, bulletin boards and chat rooms but nothing like the preponderance of second screen apps and websites we have today.  If you wanted to talk about the show you were watching or the game that was on, you either picked up your telephone or most likely, discussed it at work the next day.  ‘Real life’ (remember that) water cooler conversations typically happened somewhere near the proverbial refreshment stand.

Live TV also looked like a thing of the past.  What’s the difference when you watched something if you weren’t going to delve into it til the next day, or after the weekend.  Timeshifting was going to rule, DVRs would be everywhere and commercials, well, they were going to become a quaint idea.

Today, with the explosion of Twitter usage, social TV app launches and seemingly a tablet in every lap / smartphone in every hand, the water cooler has moved online.  For any big TV event and an increasing number of shows, you run a huge risk of not participating in the online conversation.  Waiting until tomorrow to discuss is to late, and not watching live likely puts you in an online spoiler minefield.  Tread at your own peril.

With a number of major TV events coming up over the first part of this year, like the Super Bowl, Grammy’s, Oscars, Final Four, and later TV finales like American Idol and this summer’s Olympics, it’s time for social TV to shine.  There’s been a lot of development over the last year from both independent firms and networks/cable channels building out their TV companion experiences – along with a lot of venture $$$ – that should be in a position to capture the increasing demand from viewers for an instant, online conversation locale.  These big events are extraordinarily well suited for all these social TV apps.  Most apps should be able to take advantage of their most important missing ingredient: volume.  People are talking online and with all the chatter that these events will drive, those apps that have positioned themselves and built engaging experiences should begin to stand out from the pack.

An important result from the preponderance of apps and their growing audience is the increased interest from national brands doing TV advertising.  More brands are looking to engage with these audiences and test out the best way to reach them.  In fact, analysts from Forrester recently reported specifically on the importance of the second screen and recommended testing interactive marketing opportunities there to make the most of TV buys.

Some brands are doing just that.  A number of innovative Super Bowl advertisers are complementing their multimillion dollar buys during the game by running our Sync Ads across a number of mobile and web companion experiences.  More details on this initiative may be found on our company blog.

No matter who you’re rooting for this Sunday, we’ll see you, and likely a lot of your friends, online!

NBC Must be Seeing the Second Screen

As DVR usage increasingly moves “must see TV” to “must see but perhaps later, or when it’s more convenient for me TV,” the emergence of new second screen companion apps could be a way to bring ‘live’ back to the viewing experience.

NBC’s recently launched NBC Live app is one approach to bringing the water cooler to the digital age. According to NBC:

Don’t just watch TV, interact with TV! Welcome to NBC Live, the most fun you can have while watching your favorite NBC shows. Talk with fellow fans, enjoy trivia and polls, and even interact with NBC stars on your iPad while watching on your TV set.

Unlike some of the cable-based apps that have recently run into contractual problems with their live streaming, NBC’s taking the approach of building community and focusing on engagement.  What’s particularly intriguing is the emphasis on content-programming synchronization, providing content tied to what viewers are watching at the time.  With more people having and using second screen devices (smartphones, tablets and laptops) while they’re watching the tube, NBC’s smart to latch on to this behavior.

It will be interesting to see whether the networks prove successful with these network-based companion apps, or whether show-specific ones gain steam.  Possibly, third party developed apps that focus in the sector could become popular, though such independent projects also risk running afoul of infringement issues.

Regardless, the view is that viewer focus is divided between screens so content producers might as well work to win both screens.  Whether they look to monetize these growing audiences and how is still to be seen.

Like Yapping about TV?

Surveys show that people are definitely using a ‘second screen’ while watching TV. However, simply posting to Facebook or Twitter isn’t necessarily the engaging experience that the ‘second screen’ has the potential to be.

A number of companies are working on building out better second screen experiences. One is Yap.TV and its updated app for the iPhone/iPad. Yap.TV provides a true second screen experience and is likely the first of many such apps.  It’s specifically designed not only as a guide but as a complement to your TV viewing.

There’s a detailed reviewed here (TUAW.com) but highlights include the ability to interact with your friends and others watching, create and take polls, create private chats and rich real-time functionality.

This app looks like a great first step of how to enrich the TV viewing experience with mobile/tablet technology.

Checking in to your favorite show

Here’s a brief video VBlogger Daisy Whitney (New Media Minute), highlighting the fourquare-ization of TV viewing.

If you’re new to the space, she highlights some of the leading players.

Linear TV: “So not dead!”

Well, that’s what came from a Twitter rep at a recently packed SXSW panel on “It’s Not TV, It’s Social TV.” And that makes sense. With the preponderance of devices, multitasking and behavioral changes, more folks are watching TV – and socializing about it concurrently. Waiting til work the next day to discuss what you watched is becoming ‘old school.’ The conversations are happening in real-time.

How is this happening today? Clearly, Twitter is a major facilitator but this platform may not be the best communication vehicle. Sure, you can tweet your comments about a show and see what others are thinking (in short snippets) but it’s not quite a conversation.

Viewers want more than simply throwing comments out into the Twittersphere. New applications that promote engagement and true immersion into the TV viewing experience are coming and will certainly drive this increasing ‘second screen’ experience. Whether on your laptop, smartphone, tablet, the demand for more interactivity and participation is there. We’re anxious to see how the industry will meet it.

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