In a world where all the statistics on simultaneous tablet/mobile and TV are indicating a massive increase in the behaviour, why are TV broadcasters and 3rd party providers creating 2nd screen services making very poor experiences for audiences? Can content owners and TV broadcasters make the most of this opportunity or have they lost the battle already? Will Twitter, Facebook, GetGlue or other dedicated 3rd party services run the show and begin own the TV communities that spring up at each episode? What are the best approaches to creating 2nd screen but hasn’t all of this been done before? I try to answer a few of these questions and more raised plus highlight some recent and very old interesting examples.
Disclaimer: any views expressed here are mine and do not represent those of any of my employers, past or present
This article is aimed at producers, experience designers, broadcasters and tech companies making or considering jumping into re-emerged interactive TV now known as 2nd screen. It takes the learnings of broader interactive TV from decades old user behaviour in this space combined with the relatively new additional layer of the social alongside TV behaviour. (it also features some late 2010 introduction extracts also from my upcoming social 2nd screen ebook). There is a lot of information below which hopefully some of it made sense even if you are a user only of 2nd screen services, as it does go behind the scenes. 10 key points covering the back-story, how to improve, process and a bit of where next.
95% of viewing is still via broadcast TV (Oztam multiscreen report) – but where is audiences attention?
1. This is not new folks.
iTV, ‘eventized programming’ and 2nd screen are as old as the hills, with a heritage going back over 60 years. In fact the oft mentioned Winky Dink and You from 1953 to 1957 actually had kids using a 2nd screen! A piece of plastic they placed over the TV, to draw on, to interact with various ‘impasses’ the characters threw at the kids. Think of the simple equivalent today -an iPad with a cliff hanger still frame from the animation that required kids to draw a solution – “come on there is only 20 seconds left before the wind comes – we need you to draw the windmill! You will be rewarded!”. Then there is this new social thing. Today we have rock solid social ‘network’ applications where audiences talk, shout, pout and scream about the program as it plays out. It is now a global extension of traditional water cooler ‘behaviour’, not a new phenomenon but now real time and worldwide, shared outside our immediate physical community. For franchised TV this is a blessing and curse – plot spoilers and reveals long before it moves into new territories – but I go off track.
Without doing a full history lesson there are many predecessors to 2nd screen. Good interactive TV has never been about the tech but about the ‘behavioural need’ – bad interactive TV is created by non-creatives and limited by vanilla templates or rely on 3rd party interactions shared across a range of broadcasters. But the audiences desire to interact and play-along with TV – whether it is single screen red button style (15 years old), synchronised laptop against TV (12 years old) or mobile devices against TV (6 years old at least) have many lessons that have already been learned. So it is odd that many of today’s broadcasters and technology companies are nervously dipping their toes into the waters again, using ground zero methodologies, “it requires a new way of thinking and it is ‘delusional’ to think we know what will work and what won’t” attitude. Wikipedia has a simple para inside its Interactive TV article which refers to the US 2nd screen model from the late 90s.
Notable Two-Screen Solutions have been offered for specific popular programs by many US broadcast TV networks. Today, two-screen interactive TV is called either 2-screen (for short) or “Synchronized TV” and is widely deployed around the US by national broadcasters with the help of technology offerings from certain companies.
Companies like TwoWayTV and Goldpocket had been developing editorial propositions as 2nd screen for years. So I use the word re-booting 2nd screen because there is nothing new about ‘TV that is interactive’. But many content owners think that references to older single screen iTV or laptop against TV shows are some irrelevant relic from the past, ‘that was then this is now’ attitude, when in fact those earlier services had (and still have) engaged audiences often a factor of thousands bigger than the current, mobile + TV model. Some stats from BBC single screen RedButton iTV shows for example here show how pervasive it had been and still is in the UK – even now Red button numbers are at 12 million users a week:
So why are traditional TV producers and service providers who have never done interactive TV before making so many mistakes? Why are broadcasters foolishly developing cul de sac, land grab strategies? What is the better route? Is there any difference between social and 2nd screen TV propositions?