The next big thing
'.$comments.' '.$comment_label.'

Why the future lies in “second screen” technology

At my company, CoRise, we meet with a lot of companies to discuss the convergence of various industries, media forms, technologies and markets. One obvious area of confluence is in digital media, where there are four large spheres of utility: social, information, entertainment and commerce. These spheres have traditionally been very distinct, and it was easy to place a company within one of these spheres. However, the landscape is changing rapidly and these spheres are no longer distinct, but morphing into each other (we have an interesting report on this topic on our website).

An area where we think one can certainly see confluence is in home entertainment, between the TV and tablet/smartphone markets, often referred to as “second screen technology”.  We are seeing a major shift in adoption of tablets, laptops and smartphones being used alongside the TV. Astoundingly, the tablet market has only just been born, but there is tremendous growth. According to Mary Meeker at Kleiner Perkins, almost 30% of US adults use a tablet, up from only 2% three years ago. Another astounding fact is that according to Nielsen, 45% of tablet and smartphones owners in the US use their device while watching TV daily!

While much of this usage is associated with checking email or communicating with friends on social networks about topics unrelated to the TV content, according to Nielsen, consumers are starting to interact with content on the TV, whether it be to view more about an ad (20%), to learn more about the program (30%) or to just discuss the show with friends. 

This new trend has not gone unnoticed by the content, distribution and marketing industries. Apps like Yahoo’s IntoNow or Shazam allow consumers’ iPads to “hear” what is on the TV, and then synch the application to it. Consumers can then view more information in real time on additional information about the TV show or discuss the show with their friends – it’s the new way to have a TV party around popular programming.  Further, it’s not constrained by geography and it’s free.

Marketers are also able to take advantage of this new trend, offering more product information for their advertising clients. Consumers can see an ad for a car on the TV, and then play with the ad on their iPad, manipulating a 3-D view of a car with their finger tips and viewing pertinent information. This is called “engagement” by the advertising community, and it’s their holy grail.

This is already happening, but where do we go from here?  We think voice interaction (e.g., Apple’s Siri) will become more ubiquitous as a form of navigation and personalization. Gesturing will also become more common (e.g., Microsoft’s Kinect). But these trends will not replace the second screen; they will merely enhance the experience. Lastly, data sharing between devices will unlock even more functionality and a better experience for the consumer.  Customized ads based on sex, location, preferences and past interactions will not only create a better experience for the consumer, but also a better ROI for the advertiser.

We are firm believers that this is the future, the only question is how fast we will get there. However, with the explosion of tablet and smartphone growth, it isn’t that far away. The confluence will create opportunity for some companies and risks for others, but the one winner either way will be the consumer.