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Mathivanan Rajendran

The Storytelling Shinobi

A Screen in Hand is worth, two in the Bush

Man is a Social Animal remarked Aristotle; of course, this was well before the invention of the Household Television. John Logie Baird’s invention has been the fancy of many a dystopian pundit with visions of millions of people tuned to their ‘idiot boxes’ with little care for people around them. Ladies and Gentleman Aristotle has been redeemed, this time through what the tech world now calls the ‘Second Screen’.

The need for social interaction while being tuned to the ‘idiot box’ is gathering steam. A recent research found that 88% US of households own at least one device that can be used as a second screen, while 87% of US entertainment consumers used at least one second-screen device to supplement TV Viewing. Consumers are now supplementing their celluloid fixes with their personal computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and more.

Of course, the critics may disregard this as a ‘phase’, after all what can a few tweets from a few frenzied fans mount to, right? WRONG.

Facebooking and Tweeting during events may seem trivial at first, but one needs to don the hat of a marketer to realize its potential. As Zoe Fox from Mashable recently discovered, The Finale of Season 2 of Pretty Little Liars' "Unmasked" generated a record setting 645,000 tweets, hitting the 32,000 tweets per minute. The tally finally ended with 1.6 million tweets sent by 667,000 users. Now, that’s more than the population of Baltimore.

At HFI we did some research a few years ago around video devices and the need for social interaction during Television viewing was more than evident. There were inklings of an idea we now describe as Social TV. The amalgamation of television with Computer Technology is paving the way for innovative experiences in ‘group viewing’.

Social TV is broadly defined as “the technologies surrounding television that promote communication and social interaction related to program content”. However, Social TV is merely a subset of the ‘Second Screen’ which generally refers to an application that complements your TV viewing. This doesn’t have to necessarily be social though. It encompasses the creation of richer and deeper experiences around the content on Television. These range from medal tallies for the Olympics to journeying into the back stories of your favorite sitcom stars to accessing records of your favorite IPL stars. Social TV has brought back the magic of LIVE programming for events like the Super Bowl, the Oscars and Grammys.

Here are a few apps that are shaping the Second screen revolution:

Shazam: The creators of the fun app which ‘discovers’ random music is now “media discovery company”

Miso TV, Viggle: The Foursquare of the TV world, yes ‘check-ins’ for TV shows is here.

Getglue, IntoNow and Zeebox: Social Networking, Mobile Commerce and not to mention a Remote Control for your TV!

“Watch With eBay”: Select zip code. Select cable provider. Enter the channel number in order to see live auctions linked to what’s on-screen.

The near-real time syncing of the two screens has thrown open a gamut of opportunities. Kris Alexander, chief strategist of connected devices and gaming at Akamai Technologies remarks “By the time somebody looks down from the primary screen it seems like the second screen is in real time.”“It’s a lot easier to make content available that’s not disruptive to the main screen,” he says.

Akamai Technologies is creating a Hyperconnected Living Room concept which gives users movies on demand, streaming content and related information customized and delivered based on your requirements. Users are required to sync their phones to the Television and a QR code facilitates the delivery of information on the mobile device.

Russ Crupnick of NAD research says “Converting viewers into impulse shoppers has big potential impact for advertisers, who can leverage second screens to further connect with consumers watching TV”

This basically means that, besides harmless IMDB and sports stats, you might just find yourself persuaded to buy Bat Man merchandise the next time you watch the Dark Knight. This also means if you are a marketing professional you should be listening!
“In the future, no television advertisements will be just self-contained narratives. They will be trailers into deeper branded digital experiences.” says Shiv Singh, global head of digital, PepsiCo

Funny that Pepsi-Co should make that observation when their rivals, Coca-Cola recently created one of the most compelling campaigns using Second Screen technologies. Coca-Cola created an app in Hong Kong which got users to sync their phones to an ad through the music played in the commercial. Users were then prompted to ‘chok’ or shake their phones to collect virtual bottle caps, which could in turn be exchanged for prizes. The app rightfully called ‘Chok’ is one of the most successful free apps from Hong Kong, becoming the most downloaded free app in 15 hours of release.

Persuasive Transmedia experiences are being made possible through the secnd screen, the relevance of which was discussed in my previous post.

The second screen has also created a new stream of research and technology opportunities in the area of Television Sociability, something every ethnographer and researcher should keep their eyes peeled open to.

To me this is of particular significance because there was this idea of Tablets rendering our TV sets redundant but like most things in the world, collaboration has out beaten competition. A deeper philosophy of technology is at play; here collaboration of two competing technologies has given rise to a richer experience for the end-user.

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