Thursday, March 7, 2013

Special Purpose vs. Multi-screen: the second screen debate continues

We've spent time in blogs (including this one) and on conference panels debating the subject: as the industry evolves, will there be one app "to rule them all" or will the market evolve into a collection of specialty apps for major events or niche interests?

Super Bowl 47 was the first big opportunity to explore this debate in 2013, but the results were somewhat undecided.

The Grammys and the Oscars were the next major events presenting opportunities to debate the direction of the market (and the value of the consumer experience).

  • However, beyond the red carpet experience from E!, there wasn't really a bespoke experience for the Grammy's and the multi-purpose apps (zeebox) or specific function apps (Viggle) seemed to have won the day (see the write-up here).  
  • But the Oscars was a different story, with multiple camera angles during the red carpet experience and during the awards ceremony and a voting capability that while not perfect, was not to be found in other non-Oscar specific apps (see the write-up here).
I took a side road journey a few weeks ago during the President's address to the nation.  Here is an "event" that garnered significant television views, but certainly no one took the time to build an app for the event.  The only choice consumers had was 3rd party multi-purpose apps, and zeebox with its zeetag feature certainly delivered a great experience.

But recently, the market has evolved in an interesting manner, with Fox syndicating its scene-level metadata to multiple 3rd party apps (powered by Watchwith, delivering to Shazam, ConnecTV, NextGuide and Viggle).  Now Fox can in theory help to improve the experiences for consumers across multiple apps, allowing the consumer to choose their favorite second screen experience and for Fox to continue to aggregate eyeballs on the first screen (their objective, after all).

In the coming weeks we will have a few more great opportunities to test this development for ourselves:
  • March Madness runs March 19th thru April 8th.  Last year, they put out a premium app experience that was way ahead of its time and still ranks as one of the better apps in the stimulating feature set to enhance your viewing experience.  I can't wait to see this year's improvements.
  • The Masters Golf Tournament runs April 11-14th.  Similar, last year's app experience with multiple camera angles and the ability to truly follow your favorite player was also leading the way in how to develop a special purpose experience.  Golf lover or not, you should check out the experience this year.

Regardless of your passionate position on this issue, it is clear the market is continuing to develop.  3rd party multi-purpose apps are continuing to improve their consumer experiences with new features, better device control (eg DIAL) and better content (metadata or otherwise), while special purpose apps continue to develop premium experiences tailored to specific audiences, events, or content niches.

I would encourage you to join the debate with us in person over the coming weeks.

If you are interested in more details about the app segmentation above, please check out our research at 


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