Second-screen App Use Still Nascent-but Growing

By Tara Seals January 15, 2014

Despite the hype about consumer use of mobile devices while watching TV, less than half of self-confessed “multitaskers” make use of the synced content experiences offered through purpose-built second-screen TV apps.

While 79 percent of respondents in a survey conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) said that they access a second device while watching TV programming, only 42 percent of second-screen users said they’ve tried synchronizing their content experience to live TV. In fact, synchronized content available for TV programs rarely generates strong positive perceptions – only 13 percent of respondents said it makes their program viewing experience “much more enjoyable.”

Most synced apps use some form of automatic content recognition (ACR) to detect what’s playing on the linear television, then returning relevant ancillary information ranging from information on actors, the plot, the setting and the characters, related games, “t-commerce” opportunities where consumers can buy what a character is wearing or using, polls and voting, and social integration and chat room enablement. To date, synchronized content is most often used for voting during reality shows, and participating in contests to win prizes.

It’s a nascent space, and there are still significant opportunities for programmers. It’s worth noting that the majority of users said synchronized content makes their viewing experience “somewhat more enjoyable”—and more than six in 10 of those who access synchronized content agree it is fun to use. The takeaway here seems to be that most consider such synced content as a “nice to have” for certain types of programs—and the strength of the content will reflect the strength of the engagement.

Interestingly, more than half of those who access synchronous second-screen content do so during commercials, pointing to an obvious advertising opportunity.

“This important research study underscores the exciting opportunities for consumer technology device manufacturers to market connected devices and potentially collaborate with content producers to enhance and improve the second-screen experience,” said CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro. “Our joint study shows that consumers accessing synchronized content generally find it fun to use and more connected to the shows they are watching. At the same time, the study indicates there is an opportunity to expand consumer engagement with the second screen across a broader variety of programming.”

The survey also showed that there was a near-unanimous willingness of survey participants to tap into asynchronous content before or after a show. And this of course offers a strong opportunity for program brands to increase loyalty and keep viewers engaged and watching even when shows are not on the air.

Overall, the study does show that there is definitely interest in second-screen activity on the part of viewers, and it’s a growing phenomenon. "The findings in this study present new information, challenges and significant opportunities for content producers and advertisers,” said NATPE president and CEO Rod Perth. “We know TV viewers are beginning to use the second screen because it has the potential to extend enjoyment of the viewing experience.

The study also includes a few other interesting data points: For those consuming synchronized content, the most commonly used device is the smartphone, driven primarily by Millennials (ages 13 to 34). The device of choice varies by age group, with older consumers (age 55+) being more likely to use a tablet or laptop while viewing.

Also, very few find navigating synchronized content difficult, but those who do cite a number of technical barriers which keep the synchronized experience from being ideal. The most cited issues are related to connectivity, content that is not optimized for the smartphone, screen size and difficulty in locating content online.




Edited by Cassandra Tucker

TechZone360 Contributor

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