Don’t Second-Guess the Second Screen

Shirlene Chandrapal, VP of connected TV at smartclip, discusses the use of a companion app by Britain's Got Talent.

Ashleigh and Pudsey won this year's BGT

The Britain’s Got Talent in-app voting tool launched to much fanfare last week, only to collapse just a few days later, forcing ITV to unceremoniously pull it offline. The popularity of the app, which has already been downloaded by over 500,000 users, highlights the huge potential for companion apps while its failure is a lesson for all players in the second screen ecosystem not to run before you can walk. If next-generation technologies are faulty when first rolled out to consumers, they run the risk of alienating viewers instead of engaging them when the much touted new technology fails to deliver.

We are living in a digital multi-screen world, and sooner or later all of our TV screens will become interactive as well. The advent of Connected TV and the continued popularity of on-demand and second screen services are rapidly changing the broadcast space and advertisers must adapt quickly if they are to thrive in this evolving media landscape. At the same time, broadcasters have to work harder and constantly innovate to pull in an audience for a live programming slot. As the TV guide becomes redundant, companion apps and the interaction they provide are a forward thinking way of bringing back the feeling of a nationwide audience watching events unfold together.

If you compare TV programmes today with those shown 10 years ago, you’ll notice the huge shift towards real-time content to provide an incentive to watch live programmes. For example, when the final of a live TV talent show such as Britain’s Got Talent is over, there is no reason to watch the show afterwards, when friends have announced the winner on Facebook and the media have reported the outcome. These patterns in viewer behaviour demonstrate how the on-demand trend has been the driver for broadcasters seeking creative renewal and innovative ways to encourage viewers to interact with live TV.

The great thing about the interactive content provided by companion apps is that you can rest assured that people aren’t just turning the TV on and then leaving the room while the programme is running on the screen unwatched. You can be confident that the audience is engaged and actively consuming content- a key driver in generating more brand awareness and involvement compared with the traditional TV format.

In that sense, we can say that we are experiencing a living room revolution, taking into account that the strongest growth areas for Connected TV will lie outside traditional TV broadcasting. The additional content delivered by Connected TV – not just video on demand, but also examples such as gaming, social applications and supplementary information about live events – will increase competition for the viewers attention. A helpful comparison to look at is the evolution of the smartphone phenomenon. Five years ago app stores didn’t even exist, but now there are over 500.000 apps available for iOs alone. At one point people couldn’t envisage a mobile phone doing anything other than making phone calls. This is the stage we are at with TV-people are only just beginning to see themselves doing anything else with their TV set other than watching scheduled programmes.

Changes are taking place extremely rapidly but this is just the start. As the development of the second-screen phenomenon gains pace, the potential of companion apps remains mostly untapped; soon we could have the chance to go head to head with a celebrity on Mastermind, outwit the experts on Antiques Roadshow and perhaps in-app voting could one day even be applied to the British political system around general elections. Ultimately, companion apps offer viewers an immersive, community experience while broadcasters and advertisers gain increased engagement with the show. Savvy advertisers and broadcasters are now harnessing the new technology at their disposal and using companion apps to drive digital engagement and, ultimately, win the ratings war.

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