I think all of us in attendance last week in NYC at the 2nd Screen Summit were partly excited and partly surprised at how much progress this nascent industry has continued to make. For example, in February there was some high level discussion about what it would take for the game console market to develop 2nd screen apps and most of the cocktail-hour pundits predicted the gaming segment would move as slow as they produce next generation consoles--at a snail's pace. Only a few weeks ago, the entire media industry lamented on why Steve Ballmer would launch yet again another tablet--but all of us were very wrong. Microsoft's Xbox team has been quietly but quickly developing concepts for 2nd screen user experiences (aka "SmartGlass") for the range of consumers who love everything about their gaming consoles.And while everything demonstrated was admittedly demo-code, Ron Pressner did an excellent job delivering an eye-opening view of the potential of the platform that they are building for developers. Imagine being immersed in a complex role-playing game (RPG) and using your smart phone or tablet to look at the map or get more details on the kinds of characters and adversaries you face. Imagine singing karaoke and being able to search for songs and queue them up while someone else is singing (seems so obvious that you wonder we ever lived without it). How about a homerun game where the pitcher traces the path of the pitch on their smartphone that then becomes the pitch for the player on the Kinnect-driven console or watching your favorite movie and having a constantly updating set of actors bios on your smart phone or tablet--or better yet, a fly over map that updates based on where the scene for the Game of Thrones currently is, with all the lore and mystique of the location tied in for you in real time. More exciting for the industry--Microsoft is building a platform with an SDK to facilitate 3rd party development.
And that was the opening session!
Peter Scott form Turner Sports and Damon Phillips from ESPN did a great job outlining how the 2nd screen complements live sports viewing and further engages the consumer. The day only accelerated with great discussion among first and third party app developers and the related service providers on what it takes to build great, engaging consumer applications that complement their companion programs rather than distract from them. Jason Forbes from zeebox went on to describe his company's view of the 5 pillars of a great consumer 2nd screen experience while Jacob Shwirtz of Viacom and Babba Uppal of Endemol described the importance of interactivity, addressibility and analytics from the content creator's point of view. Jeremy Toeman of Dijit reminded all of us just how raw and basic (and dangerous) Twitter can be for the masses and how important simplicity in the user experience is.
Discussions carried on into the evening through dinner with passionate debates about where this industry is headed and what is required to accelerate it to a revenue generating platform for everyone in the chain. And Thursday morning, 15 sleepy-eyed stalwarts discussed what concrete steps we can take together to take more measured steps forward.
There is a real sense of excitement because of one basic unifying change--consumers are utilizing a second screen in the living room at an astonishing rate. While they might be currently checking their email or texting a friend, the data is absolutely compelling if you can find a way to engage them in a deeper relationship with the entertainment on the primary screen--even though no one quite has the business model figured out yet.
Enjoy the BBQs this week.