Monday, October 29, 2012

An Updated View of which Second Screen Apps to Watch in 2012

Earlier this summer, I wrote a brief blog on 10 second screen apps to watch discussing which apps I thought had a compelling enough user experience to propel them forward. Since then, we have gotten together as an industry for debate in NYC (twice--once for Advertising Week, once for CEA), in Amsterdam @ IBC, and on the West Coast at the MultiScreen, NextTV and TV|Next summits. In the meantime, NextGuide and zeebox launched their apps in the US--a lot of changes have taken place.

As we are now a few weeks into the Fall TV season, I thought I would update my views on which apps seem to be furthest along the path to develop the features that will drive serious consumer adoption.

I continue to believe there are really 5 major features sets that drive consumers to pick up a device as their second screen in an attempt to add value to their first screen experience: Finding something to watch (Discovery), determining where to watch it (Seamless content sourcing, often combined with Discovery), launching that content to your first screen (Simple), getting more information about the program, whether sport stats, actor bios, games, or commerce opportunities (Stimulating), and then sharing all of that and more with your friends (Social).

Seamless Discovery. Finding something you really want to watch from the plethora of content aggregators.  There are a number of apps trying to become your modern "TV Guide", but few are doing more than displaying the grid on your second screen or a giving you a list of lists (popular now, most watched by your friends, Emmy Winners). Additionally, the real challenge with a good Discovery experience is the integration of some level of personalization, combined with multiple sources of content (Seamless), all delivered through a clean and easy to navigate user interface (UI).

- NextGuide. Having launched only recently, this app continues to provide real Discovery value through its interface and continued roll-out additional Seamlessly integrated content sources (your local channel provider, iTunes, Amazon, Hulu and Netflix). If the content is available on iTunes, Hulu or Netflix, it will launch the content directly to your second screen (making it become the first screen). It does a decent job of tracking what you've watched or "favorite-d" (thru their app or thru Facebook) and then updates your recommendations based on those preference changes. My guess at what's next? Look for them to continue to roll-out more Seamless content sources, to begin integrating your local channel providers for Simple first screen integration, and to continue to refine and develop their metadata and discovery algorithm.

- Matcha. This app continues to be a good Seamless Discovery tool even though your local channel provider (ie live TV) is not included in the experience. It delivers its real value by launching your chosen content to your second screen (making it the first screen) and developing pretty deep integration to Netflix and Hulu (can read your queues, tell you about soon to expire content, etc). My guess at what's next?  Look for them to find a way to integrate live TV and to further refine their metadata and Discovery algorithm.

Simple. Controlling your first screen world.  

- BuddyTV. There continues one app that sets itself apart from the pack of second screen apps that allow you to control your first screen device world--BuddyTV. The app (for the iOS, Android and GoogleTV) allows you to get personalized recommendations (Discovery) for content across a number of content sources (Seamless) and then allows you to launch that content to your first screen if you have AT&T, Dish, DirecTV, a Tivo DVR or a Google TV device. For Hulu, Netflix, iTunes and Amazon, it launches that content when possible to your 2nd screen. My guess at what's next? Watch for them to continue to integrate more MVPDs (Comcast Xfinity, Verizon are obvious misses), to further develop their recommendation algorithms, and launch a new UI (current iOS app is focused on the iPhone).

Keep an eye on: Comcast Xfinity, DirecTV, and AT&T. All three major channel providers (MVPDs) continue to develop and improve their ability to add value via the second screen with better integration of control functionality, but they are will continued to be limited as a Discovery tool set since by their nature they are limited to providing content only from their own service.

Stimulating. Delivering interesting and relevant information about the content on your first screen in everything from sports stats and actors biographies to games about the content and commerce opportunities.

- zeebox. While having only recently launched in the U.S., this app has quickly gained the support of Viacom and NBCUniversal in the broadcast world and has already gained a strong consumer following with its quasi-Discovery function (what's hot right now) and zeetag feature allowing you to quickly and easily check out information on major keywords being derived during the viewing experience. My guess at what's next?  Look for them to integrate Simple control features for your first screen with major CE manufacturers (Samsung is integrated in the UK) and channel providers (Comcast Xfinity was already announced as a future feature) as well as to continue to develop their Discovery feature in terms of the UI and algorithm.

- ConnecTV. One of the few consumer apps that continues to deliver on a Stimulating content experience across a range of channels and programs, ConnecTV's algorithm seems to be able to pull together content about the program (similar to zeetags) that are pre-populated based on the content metadata and then deliver them (and a curated Twitter feed, etc) in a simple and clean UI for the second screen experience. They also continue to deliver one of the better sport experiences in the generalist second screen app market. My guess at what's next?  Look for them to continue to build out their Stimulating experience with better and more detailed metadata and begin to head down the Discovery path.

- Fanhattan. This app continues to be one of the best Stimulating experiences for TV and movies, delivering a wide array of additional content to the consumer from simple actor bios to the songs (with iTunes link) and related TV apps. While the app also carries a very robust Seamless search function across multiple content sources, their UI limits the tool's capability in Discovery (more of the list approach for lean-back and very powerful but lean-forward in a search mode). My guess at what's next?  Look for them to continue to develop their Discovery capabilities and potentially to head down the path of Simple integration with local channel providers.

- Viggle. The gamification king, Viggle continues to astound the market place with its registered user growth, powered by its reward system, though its current attempts at Discovery are more geared towards its advertising community (switch to this TV show and earn points).

Social. Helping you connect with your friends and colleagues to express your views about what you are watching.  Ironically, while this is perhaps the most written about feature in the second screen world (with SocialTV as a category devoted to its function), it seems to be the least invested feature in the second screen app development world. While nearly every app now allows you to chat or Tweet directly, the general view seems to be that development much beyond that is not a priority. Interestingly enough, while less than 1% of viewers comment in these tools, nearly 50% of consumers enjoy reading the comments (a world of voyeurism).

- An app dedicated to the social world, focused on telling you what content is socially popular, and then allowing you to check-in, comment, Tweet, and create and take polls based on the show you are watching.

Well-funded horses. While currently not in the out in front because of a shortfall when compared to the compelling experiences above, don't count these apps out just yet:

- Yahoo's IntoNow. Still primarily a check-in app, but expect Marissa Meyer and team to push this TV experience towards Discovery and Stimulating, driving advertising models from that approach.

- GetGlue. Currently the check-in king in the second screen app world and recently touting that its chat traffic as higher than twitter on key TV episodes.  My guess at what's next? Expect GetGlue to work to deliver on their promise of creating a new content Discovery paradigm.

- Shazam. Working hard to develop their well-known brand and high install base of audio ACR into an app that drives value for consumers and broadcasters.  My guess at what's next? Watch for them to continue to develop their Stimulating feature set in the near term.

- Amazon's IMDB. A go-to web site that millions of consumers use to find out more about a show or movie.  My guess at what's next? Expect them to further develop their "X-ray" vision feature that is currently active on the Kindle Fire (hover over an actor and get the Stimulating info pop-up window) to work on other third party platforms as a plug-in while viewing Amazon Prime content.

- M-GO. The DreamWorks and Technicolor backed venture is rumored to be launching before Christmas with integration into several major TV sets with features focused on Discovery and Stimulating.

Others missing from our June review:
- TVplus.  Their consumer app is great (one of the best) when there is curated content for it, but as their B2B business grows, there seem to be fewer shows in their consumer app repertoire.

- TVDinner.  Less market momentum makes success vs. Viggle and others more difficult.


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