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Streaming Forum: When Second Screen Becomes Second Nature
Wowza's Chris Knowlton discusses how content producers can cultivate second-screen activity without distracting from the first-screen experience

Second screening is comparable to eating dinner in front of the TV. For many it's an everyday occurance, while for others its unthinkable. But whether you like it or not second-screening—now an adjective—is going to be around for a while so you'd better try it out.

That was the message from Wowza Media Systems VP of product management Chris Knowlton at Streaming Forum in Wednesday's session "Enhancing the Second Screen Experience with Multiscreen Streaming." He had a few pointers than could help media owners out.

Recent studies from Nielsen reveal that 85% of TV viewers are also second-screening at least once a month, with 40% of them doing so daily. Comparable figures from Thinkbox in the UK illustrate that 86% of people who have both TV and internet have multi-screened and 34% claim to do so on a regular basis.

“It's clear that second screening is growing and that strong second-screen engagement appears to increase viewers and their retention to content and to ads,” said Knowlton, referencing a Thinkbox study which had revealed this counter-intuitive behavior.

“You can create a virtuous cycle, in which the more you get people to talk about the content, the more people will watch it and the more you can charge for the advertising around it,” he stated.

He outlined five key things that a consumer needs in their second screen app. “Discovery can help them find content, but you need to help it to them easily perhaps by setting up the app to be a remote control,” he said. “Information supplementary to the primary content, such as IMDB data which can enchance the context of the main content. Participation means letting viewers vote or in some way interact directly with what's happening on the air. Enable some form of e-shopping related to what users see on TV. And social, a particularly key element, which means ensuring viewers can connect and share with friends during and about TV shows.”

Second screening is not necessarily a new distraction. People have always done the crossword, read a newspaper or talked with others while the TV is on. But new technologies present the first opportunity to link content on the primary screen with supplementary engagement on another device.

“For TV executives second screening is both scary and exciting,” he said. “Scary, because second device distractions run the risk viewers not becoming loyal fans, but exciting because if used properly, a second-screen app can pull them deeper into your content.”

Knowlton said the main distractors from primary screen content are email, unrelated web surfing, and shopping on unrelated sites.

Attractors, on the flip side, include remote control apps (Dijit Universal Remote for iPhones; Xbox SmartScreen or Nintendo Tvii); social networks; companion content; and third-party devised second-screen apps.

Knowlton's presentation focused on the latter two categories as an answer to how we can devise apps or experiences that attract viewers to engage in richer ways with the primary content.

“A companion app is where you have content specifically created to augment the primary content on the main screen and may include curated social feeds, synchronization techniques, gamification or stats,” he said.

“There might also be photos and video related to content and cast, schedules of when viewers are able to watch it and the ability to set reminders plus polls about show developments to encourage interaction.”

Some examples are SyFy for iPad, USA Anywhere, Showtime Sync, CBS Connect, MTV WatchWith, and Backstage Live (for Emmy awards).

The characteristics of third-party created apps is mainly that they work across different channels and properties, examples being IntoNow, Tvplus, Viggle, GetGlue, Fan and Shazam.

“As a viewer, with these applications, you can filter the content guide to what appeals to you. If you have 100 channels in the guide you can search across all of them and no matter the network it will retreive it for you very easily. It can also recommend different content.”

An example of a narrow third party second screen app is Beyond the Box: This app takes tweets from 2000 athletes and 1000 media commentators in the fields of hockey, baseball and American Football and curates them specific to teams or particular games.

A broader one is Zeebox, Knowlton outlined, “which aspires to be the app that broadcasters go to when they want a companion app but don't want to build it themselves.

“For example, it has an updated feature showing the most popular content based on Tweets or live viewing to draw you in. So you may discover new content that you may not have been looking for just based on the community around that content.”

“There are partners who can help build a social TV or second screen eco-systems for you,” he emphasised. “Second screen activity is going to go on regardless, so it is up to content producers to cultivate that activity, harness it, and to guide viewers to a deeper experience with content. You'll find that many of them want to do this anyway, they just need a little help.”

Watch the full presentation below:

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