Streaming Forum Preview: The Second Screen—More Important than the First?

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From drama to news to sports, the idea of a second-screen application has caught the fancy of content owners everywhere. Yet, within our own industry, the usage trends for second screens are both informative and revealing.

Along with Unisphere Media (publisher of Database Trends and Applications), Piksel, and, I’ve had the opportunity to craft and release a survey centered on second-screen applications and usage trends. The survey was available to respondents in March and early April.

Survey responses have been tallied, and soon will be released in report form. This report will form the basis for a session I will present at the 2014 Streaming Forum 2014 at the Park Plaza Victoria London on 24 June 2014.

The session, titled “The Second Screen: More Important than the First?” offers insights into second screen behaviors and trends, as well as content and technologies.

Based on the primary research from survey respondents across North America and Europe, we’ve found several key trends that deserve further exploration.

What are some of the key findings? I will share two that should lead to significant discussion during the question-and-answer style presentation at Streaming Forum.

First, we are a bit at odds with ourselves as an industry. On one hand, the streaming industry is on the forefront of using media technologies to timeshift media consumption; on the other hand, actual usage of second-screen, communications, or social media applications sometimes veers away from the value-added cases we so often pitch to content owners.

This isn’t to say there’s no value in second-screen applications; quite the contrary. Yet it’s also accurate to say that a second-screen application is not a panacea for viewer engagement, as many of the 500 respondents to our 37-question survey pointed out their usage of secondary devices varies based on particular use cases.

Interestingly, a full 25% of the completed surveys were from respondents who identified themselves as working for a company that creates or distributes second-applications. The number of respondents who worked for companies that created second-screen applications was fairly evenly split between respondents from Europe and North America.

A second finding presents somewhat of a cautionary tale for second-screen application developers: While you might be fighting against the typical Big Two—Facebook and Twitter—there’s as much of a competition between the second-screen application and the status quo.

When exploring usage patterns amongst industry veterans and senior executives, a group that made up a majority of responses, a large number of respondents chose “other” from our list of possible options and then noted that face-to-face communications was more appealing than the use of a second-screen application to remotely communicate with other viewers during the middle of a favorite show.

Even in our high-tech industry, it seems that viewers either want to be left alone (“no interaction”) or only engage with viewers in the same room. Yet, for those that do remotely communicate with other viewers, text is still dominant among respondents, with Facebook a close second and Twitter a distant third.

Some higher-profile communications apps, such as Viber and WhatsApp, barely register when it comes to interacting during first-run television shows. We will explore why this appears to be the case during the Streaming Forum session.

Streaming Forum will be held at the Park Plaza Victoria in London on 24-25 June. "The Second Screen: More Important than the First?" will be at at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, 24 June.

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