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For Brands, Now Is The Time To Make A 2nd Screen Play

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I want to focus on an insight that came out of the 2nd Screen Society‘s CES 2nd Screen Summit, where I was a moderator on one of their panels last week. Over 400 professionals from the tech, brand, agency and content provider industries were in attendance, providing a variety of opinions on a number of topics.

One of the more intriguing issues I was focused on was: Who will win the 2nd Screen app battle? In 2013 I expect that 2nd Screen engagement will start to become a money-maker (for some) as sponsorship opportunities, e-commerce and other channels start to gain traction. As a result, the fight to own the 2nd screen platform will heat up and right now there is no clear answer as to whom will make the apps that people will download.  Several of the people I spoke with believe that consumers will be downloading literally dozen of apps for the different content they watch. I struggle to see that possibility coming to fruition outside of a small niche of bleeding edge adopters. Having to download, organize and use an app for every show I watch would lead to the creation of a huge amount of little used apps as well as consumer confusion.

But who will develop and publish the apps we’ll use is hard to figure as well. Here’s just a sampling of the types of companies that could lay claim:

Show specific apps: The CSI franchise, Mad MenGame of ThronesAmerican Idol… the list is virtually endless. Because fans can be intensely loyal to their favorite shows, you could certainly see this making sense. But again, do I want a different app for every show I watch?

Network specific apps: ESPN, NBC, HBO, Fx, USA, MSNBC… again, plenty of players at this level. The benefit here for the network is obvious: if you love just one of their shows, you’ll get the app and they can run promos for their other shows, driving greater tune-in.

MVPD specific apps: Comcast, Verizon, AT&T Uverse, DirecTV… these are the people bringing you all the content you consume on your primary (and increasingly secondary) sceen. With their app, you’d probably get PPV and VOD promotions as well as other incentives not to switch to another provider.

Alan Wolk, Global Lead Analyst at KIT Digital felt the MVPDs had the edge here. They know the most about you, your household and they have in many cases additional data about you (via Internet and phone usage).

But what about some other players? Could the GetGluesShazams and IntoNowsdevelop a deep enough and broad enough suite of utilities and content integration? I suppose so, but again, once the monetization of 2nd screen gets cracked, I don’t know if the shows, networks or providers are going to let that happen.

Could tech players like Microsoft, Google, Apple or Amazon make a play here? I think they could. Each has some inherent advantages and certainly have their consumer adherents.

Finally, what about brands with great consumer affinity? Could brand-driven lifestyle apps be the gateway to 2nd screen experiences? Brands have the know-how, the fans and are often the ones most willing to take creative risks. They’re also increasingly getting into the content game themselves.

Here’s my best guess: Yes, an elite group of stand-alone show apps will survive. Big shows like The Voice – as well as sports and awards shows – and those with intense, niche audiences (Sons or Anarchy) will lead the way. But the vast majority of shows aren’t “app worthy.”  The concept of “broadcast networks” probably doesn’t even make sense to people under the age of 15, so I don’t see that working. I could see the MVPDs winning here, by the sheer force of their dominant posistion – they’ll just make the apps and put the cost on your monthly bill.

But the problem with all these is that shows come and go. Or our allegiance to them wanes. Or they switch networks. And people certainly don’t have deep feelings for most networks; and if they feel anything about Comcast or Verizon or Dish Network, it’s probably antipathy. Likewise, nobody talks about their undying devotion to Viggle or the other third party 2nd screen apps.

But if you’re a sports fan, a Gatorade app that you open with every sporting event you watch could be very compelling. A Pepperidge Farm or Dannon app you open with every reality show you watch makes a lot of sense. You can imagine other brands and content types that might work well together.

Brands continue to more closely resemble media companies, they have huge, loyal fan bases of people who identify the brand with their chosen lifestyle. 2nd Screen apps allow brands the opportunity to engage fans in a compelling and measurable way. If have questions about 2nd Screen apps, please send me a note and we can set up a time to discuss your goals and how this sort of activation can work for you.

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