This year I was invited to speak on the topic of second screen at the International Broadcaster Conference in Amsterdam. Since it’s an interesting topic, I thought I’d share the summary points I prepared for that session.
The term “second screen” implies different things to different people. At one extreme it represents the wholesale replacement of the TV screen with a personal, portable, connected device. At the other it is the use of a computing device as a glorified TV guide. In between is a full spectrum of richness and interaction that tantalises with new creative possibilities and new business models.
I like to classify that spectrum in three ways: the means by which consumers will enjoy second screen experiences; their motivations in doing so; and finally the ways in which those experiences can be monetised.
Of these three, the means are easiest to talk about authoritatively. Although the category is only three years young, 12% of UK households already have access to a tablet computer. Over 15% will have one by the end of the year. Older as a category but increasingly difficult to distinguish from their larger brethren, smartphones are even better penetrated into European markets. Smartphone penetration is 40% in the UK, 27% in France and 26% in Germany.
So at least a quarter of the audience in Western Europe have the means to indulge in second screen behaviours. But what are their motivations?
The most common motivation is to discuss what they’re watching with a wider audience. Roughly half of under-34s regularly use the Internet to communicate with others about the programme they’re currently watching.
What they’re not so interested in is interacting with the programmes directly. 70% of the audience Deloitte surveyed for the IBC said that they couldn’t be bothered to do so. Second screening is more about talking about the content than interacting with programmes.
But that still leaves 30% of the audience who say that they are willing to interact. Which is actually quite a good result – after all the technology for doing that interaction is immature and often a little unreliable.
The key to monetisation is therefore to identify who those interacters are and the type of content that they watch. Design the second screen in a targeted way, not a mass market carpet bombing campaign. Take the example of Hugh’s Fish Fight or Million Pound Drop rather than Zeebox. Also – in my opinion – forget the idea of the second screen replacing simple mass market devices like the remote control or the second small TV set for the time being.
One thing the desperately needs to get right beyond segmentation and targeting is the rights structure that surrounds second screen content. At the moment the majority of second screen applications, interactive or not, are designed by a separate agency to the producer of the programme. So when it comes to syndication and export it is very hard to create a package of main screen content and interactive supporting act. Often the latter gets remade for every market, reducing returns and preventing value creating syndication deals for the creator of the digital content. The longer those creators live hand-to-mouth, the longer we will have to wait for the brilliant – and monetisable – digital concepts that will drive adoption.
Because although the motivation and the monetisation are still works in progress, the means just keep on coming. This year we’ve seen the (re)emergence of several second screen categories. Google’s Glass continues to gain momentum ahead of a scheduled 2014 launch. Nintendo’s new console has a second screen inside it’s controller. Even virtual reality (remember that) is undergoing a resurgence through kickstarter funded startup Oculus Rift.
The possibilities are endless. As an industry, we need to find the monetisation and provide the motivation.