Jul 8, 2013

The 4S's of Second Screen

While much of the talk around second screen focuses on the content that users will create, that’s just the tip of the iceberg: most users don’t want to create content of any sort and are more than happy to let someone else do that for them. Someone else, in this instance being the people who create the actual shows, and/or the networks and the advertisers who pay to be on those networks.

In talking to all of the aforementioned stakeholders, we’ve come to the conclusion that second screen content can be broken out into four main buckets. Their weight in the second screen experience will vary from show to show, depending on factors like audience makeup and content type. The mix may even vary depending on when the viewer experiences it: before, during or after the program.

These four content buckets, which we’ve been calling the “4 S’s” are Social, Stories, Stats and Shopping.

Social is social media, which will play an increasingly shrinking role in the equation. While Twitter currently has a large install base compared to any dedicated second screen experience, it is nowhere near as ubiquitous as many advocates would have us believe: the majority of Americans are not on Twitter and are unlikely to ever join. Even among Twitter users, influence varies wildly depending on content: for every Oscar ceremony, there are 10 documentaries on History Channel no one is tweeting about. The waning popularity of live television makes any “of the moment” form of social media less relevant. Which is perhaps why a recent study showed that “only 1.5% of respondents report being drawn to TV viewing occasions because of social media.” Social will continue to be important for sports and other event programming that people like to watch live, but we see it’s current prominence rapidly diminishing.

Stories will become the most prominent second screen content for scripted programming. Stories, which will be created by the same people who create the show itself (with occasional help from avid fans) can be anything from “scenes from next week” to behind the scenes footage to interviews with the stars or producers to additional background on the characters. This content will generally be intended to be viewed either before or after the show-- not during it. It’s ideal for hardcore fans and for viewers who are bingeing on a show and want to catch up on the entire experience. The advantage for networks and advertisers is that this is the sort of content fans will return to long after the program airs live, thus prolonging exposure to the series itself and providing additional opportunities for both advertising and promotion of other network shows.

Stats are statistics, polls, voting and all other things number based. These will be particularly important for sports and reality game shows where viewer interaction is already part of the experience. Being able to touch the screen to manipulate stats and poll results and the like should prove to be a very engaging experience and this is one area where users will be able to take full advantage of their devices. As a result, stats should prove more popular during programming that is watched live than during scripted programming.

Shopping is T-commerce, which will generally happen after the viewer is done watching the show. Certain types of how-to shows (cooking and home improvement) may prove to be the exceptions, but given that many of those shows are, for all intents and purposes, 30 minute infomercials as it is, providing a vehicle for in-show t-commerce makes perfect sense. For scripted programming, however, it’s something that is likely to occur once the program is over and the viewer has time to focus on shopping, rather than cramming it in during a quick commercial break. If done correctly (watch our explanation of the “Ad Locker” concept) this will be part of a very lucrative second screen ad ecosystem.

Show runners will need to figure out what combination of the “4S’s” best suits the needs of their audience, and then tweak that content-- on a daily basis, if necessary. The goal of the content will be to drive tune-in, increase loyalty among hard core fans, promote future episodes and to serve as a platform for advertising and for the promotion of new network programming. (As live TV viewing decreases, networks will need to seek out alternate ways to promote their new shows. Second screen experiences for their existing shows should prove to be an effective medium.)

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