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Tuning into the new TV screen – omniscreening and a new wave of media consumption via tablet

The new way to watch TV isn’t on the box, it’s in the palm of your hand. John Reynolds takes a look at the role tablets are playing in a new wave of media consumption, and how advertisers can make sure they aren’t left behind.

The days of the dominance of the traditional TV set are on the wane. The rise of smartphone and tablet devices, quicker broadband speeds, together with streaming and catch-up services mean consumers can watch programmes wherever they want, just as long as they have an internet connection.Moreover, viewers are increasingly turning to tablets in particular to consume or organise their TV viewing, with sales of tablets expected to overtake desktop computers imminently, indicating that tablets are not a fad but here to stay.According to the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), 66 per cent of people use at least one other device while watching TV, a statistic which shows they are second-screening like never before. Broadcasters are now facing a world of 'omniscreening’ and are having to satisfy consumers on multiple formats as they get minute-by-minute feedback on their shows and ads via social media.Shiv Singh, PepsiCo’s global head of digital, commented on the trend at Mobile World Congress :“In the future, no TV advertisement will be just a self-contained narrative. They will be trailers into deeper branded digital experiences.”The new dynamic is offering multiple opportunities for marketers, be it through video, branding or gamification, while broadcasters and tech providers are launching TV-related apps, such as Zeebox, Sky Go or programme specific apps, to cash in the phenomenon. Underpinning all this is the US concept of a new world of ‘TV Everywhere’ – the notion of being able to access broadcast content across all platforms.How apps are maximising the opportunityThe app market has been deluged with gizmos based around synching TV with other connected devices. Some are linked to specific TV shows, like the X Factor app, some are sponsored by publishers, while others have been created by brands themselves.Advocates of these devices, such as Zeebox and Shazam, argue they have become intrinsic to the multi-screen experience – and are providing a feeding ground for advertisers.Stephen Grant, group director of online for Irish TV network TV3, which has developed a second-screen app called ShowPal, launched in October, says: “The second screen phenomenon is becoming more and more common, as demonstrated by the fact that over 40 per cent of tweets during peak TV viewing time are about TV.“This is a great opportunity for advertisers to induce immediate action in viewers in response to seeing an ad or even from editorial within the TV show. For example, you might see cushions you like in Big Brother and be offered a chance to buy themas you watch the show.”One success story is Zeebox, the app which combines social networking, live programming information and real-time viewing figures, which has built its business model on the blurring of lines between TV content and viewer interaction.Founded in the UK, its subsequent launch in the US included a deal with the broadcaster NBC which used the Zeebox app in conjunction with its show The Voice to ask consumer polls, trivia and questions in real-time.Understandably Zeebox founder Anthony Rose sees the relationship between TV show and viewer blurring further still. He says: “In the future, we might be looking at thousands of channels of Big Brother,and we are in some of them.” And for those leading the charge, second screening is proving a key revenue driver. For instance, Sky says that around 35 per cent of its10.3 million subscribers now use Sky Go, the app allowing subscribers to watch programming on all devices.However, one note of caution, critics argue, is the danger that second screen activity can take viewer attention away from the big screen TV commercial and product placements.Bountiful opportunity for marketersFor marketers and brands, this new landscape is presenting bountiful opportunities, providing additional content or relevant information alongside the TV programme. And the advertising opportunities present themselves whether consumers are watching a programme on a tablet or using a tablet or smartphone while watching TV in the traditional way. These opportunities include everything from leveraging the small screen during big live events, incentivising ad engagements, gamifying TV ads, synchronising e-commerce with TV content and spurring social chatter with hashtags. Central to these opportunities is the higher level of targeting tablets offer, as opposed to other platforms. Alex Guest, marketing director of TV streaming service TVCatchup, says: “The ability to target individuals, rather than mass markets, with advertising messages is enhanced on tablets with the improved interactivity that they offer against PCs.” Big brands across all sectors have attempted to maximise these opportunities with various campaigns. These include Unilever’s Dove Men+Care partnership with Viggle, the app that rewards users for watching TV shows. When viewers checked in to broadcasts of a college basketball game, they were directed to the Dove Men+Care landing page, which offered extra Viggle points for watching a Dove video featuring basketball legends. One of the highest profile examples of real-time advertising was the trailer for the Ridley Scott film Prometheus that ran in the Channel 4 ad break in the UK featuring the hashtag #areyouseeingthis. During the next ad break, a 40-second spot showcased some of the tweets the first ad had prompted. Likewise, video is proving a valuable commodity for marketers to tap into, as video is one of the most keenly sought after things on tablets.Impact on broadcasting strategiesAs a result of all this, broadcasters are increasingly interested in owning content which works well on linear TV and has value on top of it. TV3’s Grant says: “A show which is repeatable a number of times, could sell internationally, is sought after in VOD (on Netflix for example), and generates online activity is increasingly more attractive than a topical discussion programme.” What is not in doubt is that this multi-screen world is putting more pressure on broadcasters. “In an ‘omniscreening’ world, broadcasters have to compete for attention and live up to consumer expectations to be entertained on every channel,” says Alex Kozloff, head of mobile at the IAB. “Obviously, this creates an enormous demand for original content – sponsored, or even created with brands that can live on every screen,” she adds.So where do tablets go from here?The perceived wisdom is that tablets will continue to act as a complement or enhancer to the main TV set, with broadcasters creating more and more interactive and immersive multi-screen content. The simple reason tablets will not supplant the TV set is logistical, according to Emma Scott, managing director of satellite TV company Freesat, who says: “People still gravitate to the big screen for event TV,” adding that it is simply not feasible for a family to cram around a tablet to watch a TV programme. However, Zeebox’s Rose is in disagreement, pointing to the success of ‘TV Everywhere’ in the US. Prior to founding Zeebox, Rose was one of the key figures behind the launch of the BBC iPlayer, and he cites research showing that iPlayer on iPhone usage peaked at midnight on weekdays and 10am on Saturday and Sunday, making it clear that people where using their mobiles as mini TVs in bed, in preference to watching their TV sets. The TV landscape is fast-changing and there will be winners and losers. Likewise the rise of the tablet continues apace, and it is forcing broadcasters and advertisers to rethink their strategies of how to maximise the value of this multi-screen world.This feature initially ran in the 5 February issue of The Drum which can be purchased directly from the Drum Store.

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John Reynolds

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