2nd Screen Summit: Second-Screen Experiences Are More Reality Than Hype

Despite having access to more than 500 channels, the average viewer watches only a small fraction of them — and continues to scroll through channel guides to find them. Meanwhile, our smartphones already know what we want to watch and are chock-full of personalized content.

Not surprisingly, the recent 2nd Screen Summit panel focusing on the “Hype vs. Reality” of second screens trended heavily towards the “reality” side, with plenty of “possibility” talk thrown in. After all, the panelists agreed, the second screen is here to stay. It’s what we do with the platform that remains to be seen.

From left: Mass Relevance’s Jesse Redniss, Ixonos’s Andrew Knight, and Fanatix’s Will Muirhead

From left: Mass Relevance’s Jesse Redniss, Ixonos’s Andrew Knight, and Fanatix’s Will Muirhead

“Here we are with second-screen devices, tablets, mobile devices that can literally personalize what type of content you’re interested in — based on your psychographic makeup, demographic makeup, friend influence, all these different things — [and] visually provide it to you in a very beautiful, touchable format,” said Jesse Redniss, chief strategy officer, Mass Relevance. “And I think it’s only a matter of time before Chromecast, Apple TV, Samsung Connected TVs, Roku, and casting go hand in hand and [use] that touchable device, literally, to throw exactly what you want on-screen and find and discover new things in new and different ways.”

Redniss touched on one of the many current realities of the second screen: enabling users to discover content they might not have found solely through linear channels. Christy King, representing Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), echoed the importance of fan discovery in promoting the league around the world.

“We have a really big fan base, but they’re spread all over the world. And I feel like, because it’s a relatively new sport — it’s a little over 10 years old now — we have had the opportunity to expose our sport to people in a different way than other sports have done in the past,” said King, who serves as VP, digital, technology R&D. “We do tend to do a lot more in the digital space than we do in traditional television.

“The concept of discovery is really important,” she continued, “because you can’t sit down with a remote and watch the Internet. That’s not how this whole discovery social space works. You have to figure out ways to kind of drive people down a path in the social space to get them to discover your content or the part that you actually want people to pay for. We spend a lot of time looking at that development.”

NewTek’s Philip Nelson and UFC’s Christy King

NewTek’s Philip Nelson and UFC’s Christy King

A theme throughout the day was the distinction between second screen as a primary screen and as a synchronous screen meant to enhance the first-screen experience. NewTek, manufacturer of the TriCaster, helps broadcasters pursue the former: getting linear content on mobile platforms.

“It’s definitely a reality, and we’re making a lot of money creating the technology to do that,” said Philip Nelson, chief relationship officer, NewTek. Citing his company’s work with the NBA Development League, he said, “That’s exactly what they’ve done. They didn’t have the budget to bring in the big trucks. It’s minor-league basketball, and, with our technology, they were not only able to Webcast their games, but now they’re going to linear television with those same games.”

Fanatix, a real-time sports-messaging app, has found great success in the latter distinction: creating a synchronous experience that enhances and does not distract from the first-screen experience.

“I think the usage of 400,000 people a day, [which] translates into about 7 million or 8 million monthly active users, speaks for itself,” said Fanatix Founder Will Muirhead. “People are actively engaged on their second-screen devices during live sports events, so I don’t think there’s any real hype around that at all.”

Interestingly, one of the drawbacks of today’s second-screen experiences, according to Andrew Knight, global director for business development, Ixonos, is the tendency to stick to linear television’s channel-centric models when building applications. But that doesn’t mean that second-screen experiences are more hype than reality, just that there’s more work to be done.

“I think absolutely there’s a lot of engagement at the moment. I don’t think there’s a great deal of hype in terms of where this is going, but I do think there’s an element of hype in terms of thinking that this is what the future is all about,” he said. “I just don’t think we’re there yet, by any means. I think we’re scratching the surface.”