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Discovery exec: Second-screen experience makes TV viewers more loyal

NEW YORK ? A Discovery Communications executive at ad:tech New York 2013 said that the second screen adds to the television experience with further engagement and ultimately makes viewers more loyal to a program.

During the ?Big problem with second screen apps? session executives from Ensequence, Discovery Communications, GroupM and Viacom Media Networks discussed the status of second screen and how it is changing the world of television. The session was moderated by Ashley Swartz, founder of Furious Minds, New York.

?We do see a correlation between Twitter activity and ratings,? said Suzzane McDonnell, senior vice president of digital ad sales, strategy and client solutions at Discovery Communications, Silver Spring, MD.

?We found for multiscreen actives, 77 percent of them, the second-screen experience made them more engaged with the TV program and more loyal to the TV program, so we actually do see it as TV additive,? she said.

?Discovering how we think of second screen is an opportunity to extend our storytelling across multiple platforms. The space is new, but more and more we aren?t trying to think what is the second screen but how do we take all of the devices and tell a story 360 degrees across those.?

Embracing second screen
When viewers watch TV with their smartphone in their lap, they are likely to engage in second-screen activities such as social media or gaming while watching a show. Programmers and advertisers are currently trying to figure out this new reality in order to take advantage of second-screen opportunities.

Discovery is working on providing additional experiences on digital and mobile to enhance the primary screen viewing.

For example, when Nik Wallenda walked across the Grand Canyon, Discovery filmed it live, and two million people watched it online. The online site offered extra features to enhance the experience.

Viewers could choose different camera angles such as Nik?s point of view or a bird?s eye view. They could also access different features during commercials.

For mobile-specific experiences, Discovery tends to keep all of its content within the centralized Discovery Channel app so that consumers do not have to download multiple apps.

Viacom has also been experimenting in second screen. It recently launched an app for MTV that includes real-time information such as what is currently on the channel as well as social integration.

Larry Samuels, senior partner and director of advanced television at GroupM, St. Louis, MO, thinks that the industry is still in the early stages of second screen and that there is a lot of experimentation and analytics that needs to be done before GroupM completely jumps into second screen initiatives.

?Right now people are on the first screen,? Mr. Samuels said. ?However when you look at the smart television environment, everyone?s talking about it as the Holy Grail because you can do everything on the same device.

?The problem we?re having with the second screen right now is there isn?t necessarily a compelling reason to switch over and to start to look at those things,? he said. ?As scale grows in the environment, what I think you?re going to see is programmers are going to come up with really interesting and compelling ways to bring the interactivity into the program.

?And as that happens, people are going to go explore and discover all these different things. The whole world is going to start to flip upside down. I actually think we?re 18-24 months away from that happening. When I look at the second screen device, I feel like this is a bridge that gets us from point a to point c. this is the layer in the middle.?

TV additive
As programmers invest more in second screen efforts, it is important to remember that at the end of the day, the second screen is just that: Secondary. It serves the primary screen, whether that be a standard TV, a smart TV or even an iPad.

Programmers leverage second screen opportunities in order to drive consumers back to the primary product, the television show.

?We are big believers in the second screen, we love the primary,? said Peter Low, president/CEO of Ensequence, Portland, OR. ?Primary screen is foremost central to us and that?s because were in the business of providing advertisers and programmers big scale. And if you want big scale today the only place you can get scale is by being on the television set where the overwhelming majority of viewership happens.?

That means that if a television show creates an app that lets consumers play a game while watching the show, the game is connected to the primary screen. The call-to-action to download the game comes from the primary screen and the hope is to enhance the overall experience of the primary screen.

Ensequence worked with Viacom on an app that does just that. The companies created a game for Spongebob that viewers could access via a set top box when watching the show.

According to Mr. Low, the app was launched in front of 1.4 million homes 24 million times. That scale and reach was only possible because it tied into the primary screen.

?The idea is someone has come to our app in order to either consume content or enhance the experience,? said Joseph Molko, senior vice president of content distribution and marketing at Viacom Media Networks, New York. ?That?s different and that?s the idea of trying to drive them back to live linear.

?If you?re watching live linear, I?m agnostic to where you are, so really we?ve already solved the problem from a program perspective,? he said. ?And yes I?d like to have more engagement but I?ve already got the viewers.?

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York