Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bringing the Industry Together at a 2nd Screen Summit

On February 22nd, 2012, roughly 300 people gathered to discuss where the second screen phenomena might be taking the various industry segments.  The content creation companies, represented classically by the LA-based studio and network executives, were of course concerned about the impact on their content, their brands and the consumer experience with their content.  Various service industry representatives joined the conference to try to understand how to best serve the needs of their customers from application development, to metadata enhancement, to testing and quality assurance.  Third party application companies joined to discuss their early successes and challenges in the space in attracting and exciting consumers around improved content user experiences.  Practically every industry segment in the graphic below was represented and had a chance to interact with the panels and the attendees in a full-day session that covered both Social TV and Second Screen.

Note: This article was first published on and was also summarized at the Online Reporter.  This blog is the source, but with additional images and the full text.

The keynote was presented by Bill Baxter, CTO of BuddyTV.  The topic of his presentation was when Second Screen would second screen be a mass market experience.  Bill gave a very interesting review of where BuddyTV had started in 2007, and where their second screen journey had taken his company.  During the discussion, he gave some great insight to BuddyTV's experience around social engagement.  For example, about 0.5% of users actually comment in the BuddyTV app via live chat or Twitter, but approximately 50% of them read the comments and Tweets.  Additionally, he postulated that when consumers used his app to control the 1st device (described as a Simple feature set in my blog), they were twice as likely to engage in other parts of the app (Social, Stimulating, etc).  His comment was that by getting users to use the BuddyTV app as a replacement for their remote, they were in fact creating an environment where the consumer was much more willing to engage in other second screen activities, which is required to monetize the experience whether through advertising or commerce.  He concluded his keynote by stating that he felt like this was a mass market medium already, and that the market data supports his conclusion.  Not only have the recent super live events proven this out with record setting social engagements (the Super Bowl, the Grammys, the Oscars), but the advertisers, major brands, and tv networks have all raced to develop opportunities to take advantage of the rapidly exploding phenomena (evidenced most recently with a plethora of bespoke applications to support the Oscars from ABC, E! Entertainment, and many 3rd party applications).  The empirical data below is tough to refute.

The initial panel developed into 45 minutes of passionate discussion around what creates an engaging consumer experience with input from BuddyTV, M-GO, Fanhattan, 1K and TVplus (moderated by myself).  If you don’t know these 3rd party apps, you should make yourself familiar with them.  BuddyTV has been setting the gold standard for Simple second screen features (the ability to control your first screen) in the market place for years while Seamlessly allowing you to source that content from multiple options like your cable or telco provider or Netflix or Amazon, promising to get you to your show in 20 seconds vs. the average of 8-10 minutes for the class remote and grid guide.  Fanhattan has set the standard for rich data surrounding movies and TV shows, providing for both an incredibly Simulating second screen experience for consumers and a platform for the Discovery of new, interesting and relevant content based off the integration of social network and critic ratings of content while additionally providing those consumers with a Seamless experience to locate multiple sources of their favorite content.  TVplus has so far set the standard in synchronized content experiences, providing the consumer with a Stimulating experience by promoting a relevant content event opportunity every 30-45 seconds while the consumer watches their TV show or movie, allowing for a passive yet stimulated experience.  M-GO launched at CES this January and is promising to bring all Simple, Seamless, Stimulating and Discovery together with a content delivery ecosystem for all of those device worlds that don’t support iTunes (they announced deals with Samsung, Intel and Vizio). So the debate that ensued about whether or not there was an existing “killer feature” for second screen or there would soon be one (and what it might be) was not only lively and passionate, but carried by representatives of the 3rd party apps that are positioned to most likely deliver it to consumers.
The consumer experience panel was followed by a 40-minute panel on metadata, with participation from Automated Insights, Digital Smiths, RCDb, Rovi and TVplus (moderated by myself again).  Ajay Shah from TVplus started the conversation off by explaining how his team currently builds their synchronized experiences (mostly by hand in real-time with content management tools) and the metadata experts discussed the potential evolution of metadata services to support the developing second screen market--including the concept of metadata becoming "sexy".  There is no doubt in my mind that for the industry to deliver Stimulating and Seamless content experiences and to provide the consumers an ability to Discover new content, metadata that is rich, deep and relatively inexpensive is required to power those experiences, while they may be supplemented by the more expensive and highly customized handcrafted approaches.  Watch this space closely.

We had a very interesting "app shoot-out" just before lunch.  The concept was for each app to have 3 minutes to show off their capabilities in Simple, Social, Seamless, Stimulating and Discovery across the most recent  Modern Family episode and the most recent airing of The Voice.  The audience then voted on Twitter and on write-in ballots for the best app in each category and the best overall.  Not surprisingly, the app demos went as smoothly as some of the experiences I have had over the past few months reviewing these app experiences.  Some of the audio sync technology struggled to identify the show, we had bandwidth and speed issues, some apps crashed, and we had a few gems of GREAT feature experiences.  The winners which were presented at the end of the day were awarded as follows:

  • Simple (controlling your first screen).  BuddyTV was awarded because of its quick and very relevant ability to help the consumer find content from their second screen and make it effortlessly appear on their TV.
  • Social (supporting social interaction through Facebook, Twitter, and live chat).  Yap.TV won the audience over with its clean and simple interface for monitoring and contributing Tweets, live chat, and polls.  TVplus was one of the few apps that had both a curated Twitter feed (so the entries on large events don’t just FLY by) which was also tied to the timeline of the program (no spoilers)—a must for any recorded viewing or for those not in the primary timezone when a live, time-shifted show airs (think East Coast vs. West Coast in the US).
  • Seamless (providing consumers with multiple sources of their content options).   Fanhattan provided the cleanest and most consistent interface for this feature, providing it in several different views while the consumer searched for content and updating the information across TV seasons (since business rules typically treat the content differently).  BuddyTV was close second in this process, having fewer sources of content, but integrating the results with the Simple ability to deliver the content directly to your TV screen instantly.
  • Stimulating (providing interesting and relevant related content or services).  TVplus set the standard for a synchronized content viewing at the event, firing a content event about every 30-45 seconds, and timing those events to the feature whether live or recorded.  Fanhattan was a very close second, with incredibly deep and relevant content and services provided for the test shows (the ability to purchase music, an app, or even items from Amazon for example).
  • Discovery (providing new and interesting content recommendations).  BuddyTV won the category, closely followed by Fanhattan.  Both integrate your social network, scouring Facebook for your friends’ content Likes and integrate them into your own preference process in different UI’s, but allowing the consumer new, interesting, and relevant content suggestions.
  • Best Overall (as judged by experts and voted on by the audience).  Fanhattan took the honors, with its clean and simple interface being the most consistent reason for the selection in the voting.  BuddyTV was a close second with its strong showing in several of the categories above.

In the afternoon, we had some great data insight presented by NPD on how the CE device market was shaping up to support second screen.  NPD predicts that by 2016, the average broadband household in the U.S. will have 10 wireless connected devices, further supporting that 83% of tablet usage currently occurs in the home.   This was a great lead-in to the panel on consumer electronics and network operators  with Verizon, LG, Samsung and Testronics (moderated by Tom Engdahl).   Not surprisingly, both the network operators and CE device manufacturers see this as a large opportunity to get their consumers to invest in new devices and advanced service features.  They see the consumer becoming ever more engaged in entertainment experiences across a device ecosystem, and both are trying to insert themselves into a prominent position to help mold that experience and to defend themselves against the ever present Apple/iTunes ecosystem.

The CE and Operator panel was followed by a great panel discussion from Fox, Disney, Technicolor, Civolution, Blu-Focus and Jargon around collaboration in building great second screen applications, with a very lively debate around the requirement to "templatize" / build a platform vs. the need to support creativity and a great UX.  The content creators want to support their title and franchise brands with great, engaging experiences, but currently have little evidence to support that it will drive additional sales and have yet to press seriously into commerce or advertising in their apps.  Not surprisingly, they are asking for the service providers in the ecosystem to help them build cost effective (ie cheaper) apps which re-usable components, but do not want to head down the “one-size” fits all mentality as it will strip the consumers of their engagement in the experience as unique to that title, franchise, or TV series.  They carried on some discussions from the previous metadata panel on the concept of “syndicating the metadata” around their titles, franchises, and TV series as a potential way to arm a few well-constructed third party applications to help them create engaging experiences and aggregate audiences around their branded content.

We then shifted into the final segment topic of the day: How can we all work to monetize this new phenomena?  Renaud Fuchs from Technicolor delivered a very interesting data set on the second screen app market to date, starting with a review of what functions that apps tend to serve in the marketplace for consumers (social, recommendation, related content and commerce, first screen services, TV Guide, and multi-function).  Then he delved into the second screen app market ecosystem and its brief but every interesting history that has resulted in over 100 apps in the market place built to date (with a few app developers already succumbing to bankruptcy).  In his estimation, the market is starting to shift from multiplication (the creation of many, similar apps in the marketplace) to consolidation (the need for app creating companies to join forces to aggregate users and revenue) as evidenced by the recent acquisition of Loyalize by Viggle (Function (x)).  Perhaps most empirically interesting was his review of publicly available data on GetGlue, demonstrating that this segment is definitely ready for mass market adoption with 2m registered users broadcasting their cumulative 100m check-ins to an observing network of over 130 million people on a regular basis (via Facebook and Twitter).

Finally, the day was capped off with a panel on Monetizing the Second Screen with inputs from Second Screen Networks, GetThis, MediaLink and McCann Worldgroup (moderated by Seth Shapiro).  While not conclusive, there was a good debate that continued from previous panels about commerce and advertising (and loyalty programs) balanced with a great user experience.  With a $200B global TV advertising market as a potential prize and the opportunity of truly immersed shopping experiences at stake, all of the panel participants agreed that everyone needs to push forward on a great consumer experience to give them the opportunity to monetize the time spent with the applications.
In less than 10 hours, the industry brought 300 highly-impactful representatives of the Second Screen ecosystem together to engage on where this exciting industry segment was headed.  Many great conversations were had and views exchanged.  The real question posed now is “When can we get together again?”  Can’t wait for the next session?  You can keep up with my blog linked directly from the homepage.

Chuck Parker

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