It’s 2012, and a significant and growing portion of the population is using more than one screen when consuming media. According to several current polls, 88 percent of TV viewers use a “second screen” — a smartphone, tablet or laptop — while watching. Many are reading e-mails, chatting and just plain surfing the Web. This is the new reality in which broadcasters have to fight for attention, even when the television is tuned to their channel.
However, there is also a bright side. Of those polled, 38 percent of viewers say that browsing the Web enhances their TV viewing experience. They use the second screen to get the background of a show, research an actor and even purchase items used by cast members. They are using Twitter and other chat tools to share the viewing experience.
The stakes of the second screen/social TV revolution are high, and the potential impact is clear: Unmanaged, the second screen will draw viewers away from broadcast television. But, if used correctly, it can build viewer engagement and numbers. To this end, many broadcasters are looking to leverage new technologies to provide a more engaging, social, interactive and inclusive TV experience that, in turn, will help increase ratings and open new revenue streams.
The second screen
The second screen has many definitions. Let’s start with the device itself. For the purpose of this article, it is any connected visual media device that can be used alongside the traditional broadcast television, or first screen. In addition to smartphones, tablets and laptops, smart TVs and set-top boxes can also be second-screen, even though they share the first screen.
Second-screen activities are divided into those related and unrelated to the first screen. The unrelated activities such as e-mail, chatting, texting and surfing are obviously bad from the broadcaster’s perspective. Each broadcaster wants the viewer to prefer activities related to its programming. Show-related activities can be activity on social sites such as chat rooms, posts on Facebook pages and tweets via Twitter hashtags. Informational websites and companion apps are popular, especially for sporting events and dramas with complex plot lines. Interactive polling campaigns also are a great way of getting viewers involved in a show.
One surprising footnote to the second-screen/social TV revolution is the return to live viewing. Media consumers cannot join in the “social conversation” surrounding a popular show or sporting event if they DVR it. And, they cannot risk encountering a spoiler. This return to appointment television is good news for the broadcaster.