More Screens, More Challenges (And Opportunities); 2nd Screen Summit Delves Into Monetization
By Terence Keegan
There still are a host of issues to resolve in the burgeoning market for âsecond screenâ entertainment âÂ not the least of which is how the various stakeholders in the media and entertainment business are going to make money off this new platform.
So notes Chuck Parker, a former executive for media services company Technicolor, who now chairs the 2nd Screen Society. At the organizationâs event in New York on Tuesday â where more than 250 content producers, developers, and distributors traded perspectives on monetization and other issues â it was clear that while there may be no single formula to producing a successful (i.e. revenue-generating) second screen experience, best practices are emerging among television networks, movie studios, and other content companies seeking to capitalize on the trend.
Whatâs On âSecondâ?
Before any company monetizes a second screen app, it is critical to determine what exactly they view as the âsecond screen.â
Many in the television business have presumed consumersâ living room sets to be the âmain screenâ to which a tablet, smartphone, and/or computer serve as mere companions. But that hierarchy does not necessarily hold for everyone: any device could dominate, suggests Mark Ghuneim of âsocial TVâ data tracking firm Trendrr. In fact, says Pete Deutschman of digital agency The Buddy Group, a consumerâs smartphone could very well serve as the âfirst screenâ for a given app or program.
Content producers speaking at the 2nd Screen Summit demonstrated this diversity of approaches and implementations. Microsoftâs Ron Pessner demonstrated a would-be second screen app for Paramount PicturesâÂ âSchool of RockâÂ movie, utilizing Microsoftâs new SmartGlass technology: while the movie runs on a TV connected to an Xbox 360 console, viewers can use a âslateâ tablet to get biographical information on actors who appear on screen, in real time. HBOâs Alison Moore demonstrated another SmartGlass app for the pay TV networkâsÂ âGame of Thrones,âÂ in which viewers could use their tablet to follow plot developments on an interactive map of the medieval seriesâ fictional world.
Such âcompanionâ apps may be direct descendants of DVD bonus materials. But with tablet screens representing another potential audience âtouchpoint,â Moore says, apps are a means of deepening the audienceâs engagement with a show. The greater the audienceâs connection, Moore says, the greater their willingness to pay for HBOâs premium service every month.
Live sports producers also focus on audience connection and engagement, but their âsecond screenâ apps can represent a stand-alone experience. Some sports lend themselves to companion-style activity on a tablet â such as checking the recent stats of a baseball player, as MLB Advanced Mediaâs Joe Inzerillo points out. However, ESPNâs Damon Phillips observes, ânot everyone wants to âgo deeperâ into watchingâ a particular program. In other words, fans may wish to watch a different game entirely on their tablet than the game â or whatever other program â that is on their TV.
What Is The Monetization Model?
âAdvertisers drive us to make a commitment to the second screen,â says Peter Scott of Turner Sports New Media. While many executives agreed with Scottâs position, others, like John Douglas of digital advertising delivery company DG, noted that the results of an advertiserâs second screen campaign are still difficult to compare against campaigns on other media.
At present, says Jason Forbes of social TV app Zeebox, advertisers support second screen apps on a sponsorship model. Accordingly, campaign objectives and results can vary widely.
Underlying the advertiser issue is the question of how one quantifies success â e.g., is an audience âengagementâ metric more important than the sheer number of impressions?
Paid content providers also face the question of how to define success when deciding how much budget and resources to devote to second screen app development. Jeremy Toeman, founder of app developer Dijit, related the story of a major network spending eight months to build a certain app. Upon release, the app garnered 10,000 downloads and installs, Toeman said; âthe question was, did [they] do well?â
While the number may appear objectively small, Toeman observed that the app marked the first time the network had mounted such a campaign to reach consumers.Â [UPDATE: Dijit had nothing to do with the development of the app from Toeman's story.]
For any company planning a second screen app, success by any measure would seem to flow by keeping in mind the habits and preferences of the end user. In some respects, the second screen trend is an effort to harness consumer behavior, akin to entertainment companiesâ social media marketing efforts. But as Jacob Shwirtz of Viacom Media Networks reminded theÂ 2nd Screen Summit audience, âSocial media wasnât invented to be a marketing tool for television.â
The early lesson for companies courting deeper connections with consumers â and ultimately, new revenue streams â on the second screen? Understand the nature of the relationship between content providers and consumers. âI donât think we look at it as owningâ the second screen experience, advises Tammy Franklin of Scripps Networks Interactive. âBut I do look at it as facilitating it.â