TV: Coming to a (second) screen near you

By Peter Ballard @Ballyfool

I only have to look at my 12 year old son watch a live football match on TV to know that dual screen experiences are very much part of the future of broadcast.

I say “watch”, but I really mean “monitor”. He doesn’t have to watch all of the action, confident in the knowledge that anything remotely exciting will be signalled by the rising tone and volume of the commentary, and then repeated endlessly in slow motion.

To kill time during the more mundane passages of play he turns to his second screen, to text or comment on facebook with friends who may also be watching (and sometimes even a third screen, playing the equivalent fixture on Fifa2012 on my iPad which he can usually get on as I’m old and therefore watching the game properly!)

I see the same effect during films and TV shows. Both my children have developed a multi-tasking, multi-device habit to accompany their TV watching (it drives me nuts!) because they know anything important can always be rewound and replayed.

No show will be commissioned without multi-channel potential

And it seems that it’s not just my kids. The socially connected generation are already well established on dual screen viewing (recent stats show 40% of twitter traffic at peak viewing times are about TV shows) and both broadcasters and brands are waking up to the opportunities this behaviour presents.

The head of digital at one of the major broadcast channels recently told me that no programming will be commissioned now unless it has a multi-channel aspect. At the moment this could just mean a complementary website, a social strategy or an extension into VOD (video on demand). But increasingly, broadcasters are looking for ideas to provide simultaneous broadcast experiences to a second screen, to provide integrated social engagement, e-commerce opportunities, or enhanced content.

The second screen makes the interactive opportunities exciting for both broadcasters and advertisers. Viewers of game shows will be able to compete against the TV contestants, retailers will help us shop and “get the look” as featured in our favourite shows, and documentaries and current affairs programming can be extended to the second screen to provide as much detail as we might want.

Understanding changing viewing behaviour key to getting it right

But it’s incumbent on broadcasters and brands to get the interaction right. Viewers will not tolerate a poor experience. The limitation of the original “red button” approach to interactive TV was that it diverted attention away from the main screen and the original content. As a consequence, it didn’t live up to the expectations of advertisers. But with a second screen, often hand held, users can stay interacting with both the main and second screen during the whole experience.

Traditional TV advertising may be in long-term decline, but understanding this changing viewing behaviour, and identifying what consumers want from their use of multiple devices, is crucial to designing future integrated viewing experiences. Providing interactions that are welcomed and valued by viewers as part of their wider entertainment is the marketplace of the future.

Peter Ballard

I co-founded Foolproof with Tom Wood back in 2002. Today I work across a range of clients, particularly in the roles of Experience Planner and Client Partner. In my role as Experience Planner, I ensure that our design teams have access to the right insight to respond appropriately to the business and creative challenges faced by our clients.

View Peter's profile

What do you think?