TV: In pursuit of effortless multi-screen viewing

by Foolproof

The increase in multi-screen television viewing poses a challenge for content providers designing future viewing experiences.

Consumers now face multiple viewing options for TV and are searching for a device agnostic experience that is delivered anytime, anywhere. There are two factors that content providers must consider if they are to create truly engaging experiences:

  1. Control
  2. Choice

Control is central to the pursuit of effortless multi-screen viewing. Our research shows users want to control a viewing experience that is device independent and moves with them across platforms.
Consumers want their television experience seamlessly streamed regardless of time intervals and switches in device. As mobile technology evolves towards offering 4G capabilities, truly mobile viewing experiences (as opposed to in-home mobile experiences) will become more of a reality for consumers.

Control has implications for not just content and the format it is delivered in, but also in respect to the user’s social sphere and the integrated role this plays in their TV consumption habits. Viewers are now harnessing social and augmented TV platforms to broadcast programme and brand related conversations. The user seeks full control of this social and TV intertwined experience.

Driving participation through simultaneous experiences

Broadcasters and content providers recognise that, by delivering simultaneous experiences through second or multi-screen interactions, they can drive brand engagement.

The most successful examples of these to date use game play techniques such as reward, competition, and immersion, and offer users the opportunity to broadcast opinion, scores, votes and brand affinity into the social sphere. Channel 4’s Million £ Drop and Heineken’s Star Player App are well referenced two-screen experiences, however as we move in 2012 the focus for multi-channel broadcasters will be to replicate the success of these within different programme genres.

Our research in this area indicates that certain genres of programming may require a different tact to game play interactions. Genres that lend themselves to a lean back TV viewing experience (such as drama for example) may generate better engagement through using multiple screens to build knowledge around the programme, actors and storylines. This is with the intension of encouraging viewers to participate and deepen their affinity with the brand.

Future experiences need to empower users with choice

Influence is a key facet for consumers in their quest for control. When influence is considered in light of multi-screen viewing, we can see a future where users can not only affect the content that sits around the show, but can influence the live broadcast itself and the viewing behaviour of social peers.

Device proliferation also opens the door to this type of complementary experience where, essentially, users are able to control the content on one platform via another (i.e. mobile device interactions may influence the live show broadcast). This is where choice starts to become an essential design principle too. Complementary viewing paves the way for aspects of non-live programming to be chosen by the user (for example different endings), and suggests that future formats could become non-linear or expose users to completely different paths in storytelling.

Choice also underpins the success of video on demand content discovery. Schedule free TV and aggregated content mean that programme selection is more complex. While TV experiences are being designed to surface recommendations, our research indicates that serendipity is an essential factor for fulfilling consumer expectations. Users still like stumbling across programmes through channel flicking. Therefore, new digital experiences need to be designed with certain legacy behaviours in mind.

In summary, some emerging viewing experiences are allowing users to take partial ownership of control and choice. However, as TV consumption becomes more and more about devices and platform connectivity the viewer needs an experience crafted to continually endorse both control and choice as principals of design. As we look forward to arrival of 4G, mobile experiences (particularly the out-of-home mobile experience) will evolve further and the anytime, anywhere multi-screen proposition will start to become a reality.

Author: Lucy Willett.

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