Upping the WOW Factor: Enhance Your Video with a Second Screen Application

Blog Post created by jthibeault on Mar 4, 2016

Let’s face it—people aren’t paying attention anymore. Okay, let me qualify that. People aren’t paying attention anymore when they watch television. Sure, there have always been distractions. Between idle chit-chat and the call of game-time munchies, people have always done something else besides giving the television their undivided attention. But lately? It seems we’ve forgotten how to keep focused on anything. Just look at data that Google uncovered in their Multi-Screen World study[1]:




Yes, you are seeing that correctly. 77% of the time that people watch TV, they do so with another device in their hands. Ouch. But before you dismiss this as an anomaly, Google’s study is supported with data gathered by Nielsen as well[2]:




Whether it’s with tablets or smartphones, both genders and different age groups are using another device while watching TV. Sure, both of those studies were conducted in 2012 but don’t imagine that the situation has gotten any better. In fact, it’s actually gotten worse. According to a recent 2015 study by Deloitte, “the vast majority of consumers — 90% of Americans — multitask while watching TV, which includes activities such as browsing the Internet, reading email and text messaging. Both millennials and Generation X (age 32-48) engage in an average of three additional activities while watching television (versus two for Baby Boomers and one for those 68 and older).[3]” The image below is becoming all too commonplace it would seem.





But I’ll bet that it’s not just broadcast television that’s getting the short-end of the stick here. Watching video is watching video. What the data’s really telling us, I’ll argue, is that people are splitting their attention when watching any kind of video on any device. Sports. Soap Operas. Reality TV. On the couch, at work, standing in line. It doesn’t matter. When they’re watching, it’s with another screen in hand (if one is available).


Which makes being a broadcaster, OTT provider, or video publisher problematic. How do you keep their attention focused on your content when their general predilection is towards distraction? The answer is simple:


If you can’t beat them…join them.


Look at that picture again. Rather than seeing distractedness, you need to see opportunity.


It’s a Content Experience, Not Just Content

In order to see opportunity in those second screens, you must first recognize that you aren’t just delivering content. You are delivering a content experience. And to create an experience, you need something more than just content. You need interactivity, engagement, and immersion. And one of the best ways to make that happens is through a second screen application.


But just having a second screen app isn’t enough. Sure, consumers may browse it for a little during the show but there’s nothing to keep them from jumping to Facebook, email, or texting in that case. Your second screen application needs to keep them connected to the content. As a content experience, it needs to keep them engaged. You can do that in three ways:

  • Synchronization
  • Socialization
  • Complementary Content



First and foremost, you need to remember that as soon as the content experience becomes disconnected, it’s dead. Your audience will meander off to do other things on that second screen (tweet, tweet). But if your application is synchronized with the video, then it becomes harder to tear away from the experience. Take the second screen application Syfy Sync (for content on the Syfy channel).




According to the website, “Syfy Sync is an app for your tablet or phone that delivers contextual "extras" that directly relate to what you are watching. It may be a behind-the-scenes video of the scene you just watched, a trivia quiz based on what you've seen, fun facts about the program or never before seen photos. Plus, it connects with your Facebook and Twitter accounts so you can chat about the show all the while.”


In that application, users get a bevy of engagement opportunities but, most importantly, they stay connected. Because if they want to keep in the social conversation, if they want the complimentary content, if they want to answer the trivia question, they need to be watching the show…and using the app at the same time.


So how can you make synchronization happen? You really have two ways:

  • Audio cues—your second screen app can “listen” to the broadcast audio and trigger events based on what’s heard. This is a bit more complicated and really only applies to broadcast content.
  • Time-based—your second screen app can simply trigger events based on time (i.e., the app knows when each broadcast has started and events fire accordingly).


In both cases, the synchronization provides opportunity to generate conversation and community around your content.



We all know that social media is becoming a bigger part of our collective lives. In fact, I read a recent stat that posited there were 2.3bn people using social media today! In fact, according to some consumer research by Limelight Networks, social networking ranks as the number one online activity.


So what does this look like in a second screen application? Let’s take a look at a Fox Sports app.




You can see the social integration right in the side panel allowing users to not only watch the broadcast (on their televisions, for example) and stay up-to-date on key game data but also share thoughts and comments with like-minded fans.


How can you make this happen? Thankfully, the social networks have made it particularly easy to integrate their functionality with your software. Through API libraries you can easily code social features into your content experience.


Complementary Content

When you synchronize your second screen application with a video stream, the first question that should jump to mind is, “what kind of extra content can I display?” Remember that you are building a content experience. You want people to stay engaged not only with the video stream or broadcast but, more importantly, with the content brand. That can happen easily through complimentary content (such as that offered through shows synchronized via Syfy Sync). Just imagine a second screen application for a sporting event that’s showing highlight clips (from past games) from marquee players.


Big Data

At the heart of your second screen application and content experience? Big data. Consider a shot-tracker example like the NBA second screen application.




Big data drives the content experience—the NBA app is dynamically updated in real-time as the game progresses, enabling viewers to dig into player data and other game metrics as they are watching the game. This kind of content experience keeps them engaged even as text messages and Facebook updates beckon to them.



Surprisingly enough, there are even ways to monetize your second screen application. Consider that Fox app again.




What do you notice in the lower-left corner? That’s right, an advertisement. But that’s not the only way that you can monetize your second screen application. You can provide area sponsorships (or the whole app for that matter). You can do interstitial video ads for complimentary content. You can even have native advertising (i.e., a piece of complimentary content developed by a third-party).


Don’t Get Left on the Sidelines!

When you fire up that stream (or on-demand asset even) you aren’t just delivering content. You are creating a content experience that needs to be rich, immersive, and engaging. Without that, you’ll easily lose your viewers to other activities on their second screens. But with an application tied to your streaming content you stand a much better chance of maintaining attention on your brand as well as providing an experience that will keep viewers coming back again and again.

[1] https://storage.googleapis.com/think-v2-emea/docs/old/the-new-multi-screen-world-study_research-studies.pdf

[2] http://www.slideshare.net/fred.zimny/nielsen-crossplatformreportq22012final

[3] http://variety.com/2015/digital/news/streaming-overtakes-live-tv-among-consumer-viewing-preferences-study-1201477318/

[4] http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02904/Family_with_TV_and_2904536b.jpg