Second-screen apps struggle with brand relevance as binge-watching grows
By Chantal Tode
April 16, 2014
Zeebox has rebranded as Beamly
Second-screen mobile applications such as Shazam, Viggle, Zeebox and others are under growing pressure to find additional use cases as binge watching impacts how consumers engage with programs.
While there is no doubt that growing numbers of consumers are spending time on their mobile devices while watching TV, marketers are still trying to figure out the best ways to engage with these viewers. Second-screen apps held out significant initial promise, but with social platforms controlling much of the engagement, the industry has seen Zeebox rebrand itself and pivot more towards social, Shazam boost its music and social positioning and Viggle bring in remote control capabilities.
“Channel surfing has just about jumped the shark,” said Jeff Malmad, managing director of mobile at Mindshare, New York. “People now binge-watch television on demand and engage with social apps on mobile while they’re doing it.
“They are catching up on their friends’ updates, cultural and breaking news, and joining the conversation on a scale level,” he said. “With that, brands are focusing on scale plays and looking to extend their messages with creative and a call-to-action as opposed to incentivized program check-ins.
“This change of strategy signifies a new approach to a model that looks to be struggling.”
While brand marketers are enthusiastic about trying to engage second-screen viewers, much of their focus right now is on Facebook and Twitter rather than standalone second-screen apps.
As a result, these apps are looking to reposition themselves to attract more use and brands.
This week, social TV app Zeebox rebranded itself as Beamly, simultaneously relaunching its Web site and apps with new features that encourage users to follow specific shows, celebrities and other users.
The idea is to provide users with an experience that they can engage with throughout the day related to their favorite TV shows, whether they want to catch up on the latest gossip about a show, chat about the latest episode or engage with the app while watching a show.
The Shazam app
Zeebox is just the latest example of how second-screen apps are repositioning themselves.
In January, Viggle acquired Dijit Media, which enables consumers to set reminders for their favorite TV shows, view a personalized programming guide and use their phone as a remote control.
As a result, users will be able to earn Viggle Points for more activities that are redeemable for rewards.
Additionally, Shazam recently revamped its apps with improve social sharing, a more prominent lyrics experience, videos for songs and in-depth artist biographies.
GetGlue was relaunched earlier this year at tvtag after being acquired by i.TV. The new app takes a curated approach, segmenting content into moments that users can communicate around.
“Brands are still looking for the winning second-screen app,” said Joline McGoldrick, research director at Millward Brown Digital, New York.
“From Millward Brown’s 2014 AdReaction report, we see that, on average, multiscreen users in the US ages 16 to 45 spend 68 minutes using a smartphone while watching TV, and 24 minutes using a tablet while watching TV,” she said. “These numbers suggest the ability of a novel app, with a good user experience, to command a lot of time and attention from multiscreen audiences.
“Furthermore, the interactivity that could be offered by second screen apps is also something that resonates with audiences. The key is that second screen apps have to make the second screen experience easy and related and plug in to the content on the first screen rather than just the advertising.”
The tvtag app.
Overall, second screen experiences appear to be moving away from check-ins in a reflection of how viewers are increasingly watching multiple episodes of a show in one sitting.
In fact, the least favorite activities for second-screen viewers are using an app to identify music on a TV show being watched (15 percent) and checking in to a TV program via an app (12 percent).
In comparison, 32 percent browse the Web for information about what they are watching on TV, 25 percent research products seen on TV, 21 percent chat with friends about a show, 20 percent post status updates, 18 percent visit a show's Web site.
For the moment, Facebook and Twitter are brands’ preferred method for engaging with TV viewers via second screen experience as both social platforms continue to build out marketing opportunities with this in mind.
However, as the second-screen space continues to evolve, there is still an opportunity for a pure play second-screen app to bring some meaningful innovation to the space and gain the kind of scale that will attract marketers.
“There is still interest and excitement, however, the ecosystem leans towards scale opportunities,” Mindshare’s Mr. Malmad said. “Second-screen apps are overshadowed with the likes of Twitter and Facebook making their presence felt in these areas promoting conversation rather than gift cards/rewards, an inherently more engaging second-screen experience for viewers.
“Additionally, the individual networks are trying to drive innovation with their own apps,” he said. “As a result, pure play second-screen apps do not get the consumer attention and currently, the uptick is not there.
“But, there is a future there. For example, we don’t just look at Shazam as a pure play TV second-screen app, but an all-around audio utility to the world around you.”
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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