Attack of the screens: TVNZ's Tom Cotter on the role of social platforms in TV

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  • May 14, 2013
  • Tom Cotter
Attack of the screens: TVNZ's Tom Cotter on the role of social platforms in TV

Whether you call it second, dual, multi, companion or [insert name here] screening, there is a genuine early dotcom feel about the second-screen space. And you can tell because the industry hasn’t even named it yet. This dotcomfoolery was validated when Markets and Markets predicted that social/second screening will be worth $256 billion by 2017. Whoa! That’s twice New Zealand’s GDP. So it might be time to find her a name tag. 

Hype like this means there are new ideas coming thick and fast because, even if that prediction is only 20 percent accurate, there are some decent rewards coming to those who get it right.

For the uninitiated, second-screening falls into two main categories: 1) sequential, where a viewer uses a tablet or smartphone to select content for viewing then flicks it to another preferred screen. And 2) simultaneous, where the viewer engages in related or unrelated content while watching a show.

At TVNZ we have been offering second-screen options for some time and have experimented with both specific show apps as well as larger social networks. And we are guiding our efforts by the following customer needs:

Connection: Does it give viewers a voice around the show? #OMG!

Discovery: Does it help users find new shows? #NZGT

Feed the monster: How can we give viewers more information about the show? #stalker

Influence: Does it give viewers a say on the outcome of the show? #AucklandDaze

And these efforts have resulted in the following:

TVNZ show sites: We have about one million unique browsers going to our TV show sites every month, because we feed our monsters.

Social: We have about 700,000 likers or followers socially, and the world’s first Facebook TV integration with ULive, so we're giving viewers a voice.

APPs: Our apps for My Kitchen Rules, Shortland Street and New Zealand’s Got Talent were downloaded collectively about 75,000 times.

Train Crashes: We had a few shockers along the way also but they have been swept under a carpet, along with some designs for a Blackberry app. Shhhh.

The role of social platforms in TV has only entered the first act. Open to everyone, Twitter and Facebook are doing a fantastic job of delivering synchronized second-screen experiences. It isn’t their primary purpose, but they offer critical mass and give us the forum to scream “WTF” at the telly at the speed of light. In my opinion they are still the best second-screen experiences, as evidenced by the fact that most broadcasters are reducing their ambitions to own a community on their own website, and instead are committing to social platforms as the home of community. As my Dad would say: “Fish where the fish are.”

Further evidence is that 40 percent of peak Twitter traffic is TV-related. Whether there’s a storyline peaking, a contestant being dumped or a news event unfolding, there’s a high likelihood that someone is tweeting about it. And the most interesting thing I’ve seen is that it’s given rise to hashbombing, where high-profile hashtags are used out of context to grab attention. For example, @Homeland was tweeting using #XFactorUK causing many Twitter followers to change the channel from X Factor to Homeland in the UK.

For advertisers there’s an opportunity to create what Audience Labs at Murdoch University calls the cognitive bridge. This is where brands are seen on both screens at the same time. Audience Lab’s research indicated the impact on brand recall was significant and at a recent conference went so far as to call it a miracle. 

The impact of multi-screening was further highlighted by Google and ViVaki’s recent research of 1,000 New Zealanders, which showed that 85 percent of respondents multi-screen at least once a week. One in five of those went online to research products and services directly as a result of what they saw on TV and 50 percent of those searches resulted in a purchase.

While second-screening has an increasing influence on consumer choices, it’s still very early days. So early that I was hesitant to write this because by the time it goes to press it will have evolved and I’ll sound like a dork. Oh God! It happened didn’t it? Damn you Google-Brain-Wave-Total-Recall-Machine thing!

Anyway, in the years ahead we can expect to refine the experiences, uncover some heroes and kiss a few frogs.

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