Will your Second Screen soon be your First Screen?

For those unfamiliar with this term, a Second Screen is a computer, smartphone or tablet (a companion device) used while watching TV. The TV is the first screen.

Tablets are proving to be popular second screens, with 33% of American adults using them for this purpose. This makes sense since 70% of tablet owners already use them to multi-task while watching TV.

Advertisers and content providers have been trying to capitalize on this trend using a variety of tactics to engage viewers on their second screen.

The Evolution of the Second Screen

The Past

Second screens are not new. People have been using their computers, tablets and smart phones while watching TV for quite a while now. They have been texting, surfing the internet, working or using social media services.

Before the advent of Video on Demand and DVR’s everybody watched TV on a rigid schedule. Discussions about favourite TV programs happened the next day in places like the coffee room at work.

The Present

Today people are discussing shows in real time over Facebook or Twitter. They are using apps and software that twin their mobile device with their TV. The television viewing experience has become more interactive and more social.

Apps and software:

  • synch your mobile devices with your TV
  • act as digital TV guides to remind you when your shows are on
  •  recommend shows to you based on what your friends are watching
  •  provide an easy way for you to interact with your friends and discuss shows over Twitter or Facebook
  • provide enhanced content
  • offer votes and polls you can participate in
  • allow you to buy items featured on the show such as music or clothes
  • let you earn points that can be redeemed for gift cards or merchandise.

But synching mobile devices with TV’s presents challenges. Apps require viewers to tell them what they are watching so they can sych to the right show and episode. This requires sophisticated backend systems that rely on huge databases containing information about shows. If a viewer is watching an old TV series there may not be any record in the database about that show.

People are also bypassing the TV altogether and watching shows on their mobile devices. This has resulted in the demand for cable and satellite providers to offer “TV Anywhere” services. These services allow viewers to watch live TV, Video on Demand and DVR content on their mobile devices. Add to this, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime and it becomes apparent that a seismic shift is taking place.

The Future

The second screen is poised to usurp the first screen and become the screen of choice for watching video content. As Tablets become more powerful and more affordable they are growing in popularity. For example, quad core tablets like the Nexus 7 are now quite affordable. But the real game changer will be when the quad core tablet becomes available for $99 which is likely to happen in 2014. At this price, the majority of people will have one.

Some second screen apps already cater to the mobile and PC market by offering streaming content. But as the second screen replaces the first screen we can expect that changes will occur in the type and variety of content and the sophistication of apps used to deliver it.

We can expect that the appetite for content will grow as people are able to consume it wherever and whenever they want. They will turn to less traditional sources of content as has been evidenced by the number of people who have unplugged their cable TV in preference for on-line alternatives.

But some of the same challenges will remain. One of the biggest is finding good content or having it recommended to you. And once that is overcome, there is the problem of finding enough content.

My current project, MondoPlayer (now available in beta for Windows 7 and 8 and soon Android) is an example of the next generation of software that addresses these challenges. It offers continuous play video for news, music and sports highlights from thousands of web sources. It automatically delivers the latest video to your player as it becomes available.

One thing is clear – as mobile devices become our viewing method of choice we can expect big changes.

What predictions do you have?

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