Viewers are Ready. Let’s Make the “Second Screen” Great.
August 09, 2012
The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project released a report called "The Rise of the 'Connected Viewer." The key takeaway they chose to highlight was that "...52% of adult cell owners use their phones while engaging with televised content..."
Further proof that "second screen" behavior has gone mainstream and deserves the attention of marketers. And keep in mind, this study does not dive into tablet or laptop usage while watching television. If those devices were included you would see dramatically higher numbers. The Pew study chose to focus on the mobile phone. Both smartphone and feature phone (not a smartphone).
But if we look beyond the statistical headline there are some interesting details about specific user behavior worth noting.
- 38% of cell owners used their phone to keep themselves occupied during commercials or breaks in something they were watching
- 23% used their phone to exchange text messages with someone else who was watching the same program in a different location
- 22% used their phone to check whether something they heard on television was true
- 20% used their phone to visit a website that was mentioned on television
- 11% used their phone to see what other people were saying online about a program they were watching, and 11% posted their own comments online about a program they were watching using their mobile phone
- 6% used their phone to vote for a reality show contestant
First, we need to address the group at the top of the list. 38% is a big number. Viewers are in control and over a third of them are choosing to look elsewhere when your expensive television ad is running. This should not be a surprise to anyone. The only real change here is that instead of leaving the room or changing the channel, this group looks down at their lap, at a second connected device.
But if we put that group aside, there are promising signs for marketers and the entertainment industry. The rest of those stats all point to an audience that is engaged with television content and thirsty for more.
To me, that’s the real story here. This is an established behavior and we should be running towards it. Viewers want to be talking with other viewers, friends or otherwise, about the latest plot twist. They want to fact check pieces of the show and dig in deeper on characters. And they want to visit relevant links that will help them explore further into content.
The entertainment industry understands this to a certain extent. Think DVD extras, director’s cuts, “Pop-up Video” style nuggets on screen. The desire for this exclusive content is certainly met with those types of efforts.
But now there is a blank canvas in viewers’ laps that can be used. My 50-inch LED doesn’t need to partition real estate for these “extras.” I can have a rich, interactive experience by utilizing the device in my hand. This is the future of television and movies.
Imagine watching a show with a synced timeline on your device that gives an actor bio when he walks on screen. Or divulges that the helicopter shot you are viewing took ten days and $500,000 to shoot. Or allows you to see behind-the-scenes video of the 3d animation techniques utilized for a scene. Or lets you “get the look” by offering links to the tech products and fashion we see our idols use and wear each week. All without disturbing the content on the big screen.
As the Pew report indicates, viewers are doing all of this. It’s just through a clunky and disjointed series of steps. Let’s create the infrastructure to make this an enjoyable, seamless experience and begin building the future of in-home entertainment.