The Second Screen Battle: User Behavior is the Secret Weapon

Written on 14 October 2013
By: Emanuela Zaccone

Second Screen is hot. Twitter’s IPO is all centered around TV. Facebook opened up its data to partners in different countries, making its move towards social TV and trying to put Twitter under siege.

Both companies need to find their way to make their revenues explode: second screen and TV looks like the right path to follow. This is an enormous market, with $200B a year in advertising. The Internet advertising is just 15% of the overall ad market, the rest is mainly TV...

Bluefin Labs and Trendrr’s acquisition by Twitter gave it a direct control on what people tell during programs. In an infographic released by Social Guide last week we can read that 30% of tweets are sent during commercials. But are they related to the program, to the ads or to something completely different?

While indeed it looks like the aim is to make the watching experience a whole, including first and second screen, truth is that attention of users is a meager resource.

Second screen Attention

All of the apps - from TOK Baseball to Juventus Live - are designed to avoid distractions, because we know what it means to miss an home run or a goal because you were texting on social media; we also know how miserable is to scream ‘homerun!’ alone. Above all, we know how difficult is to keep users stick to the show.

There is no partnership that could guarantee a 100% attention on a specific show while using a second screen. Social Media stream represents not just a place to write about a TV show, but a stream of news, photos and statuses.

Is isolating the watching experience from social media an opportunity ? Not necessarily.

The Little Mermaid second screen app and the upcoming Nightmare Before Christmas app are designed to be used in theaters, which means that they completely modify the watching experience you usually have while watching a movie at the cinema (yes, of course they also represent a box office opportunity for Disney’s old successes).


Here comes the point: most of the second screen experience so far aim to modify and control habits, instead of give value to usual behaviors and trying to getting the most out of them.

Twitter’s success in Social TV comes from users’ spontaneous habit to comment about what they are watching: Twitter is quick, brief and easy to use. But it can’t control all the watching experience moments.

Moreover, what about real time search during TV program? More than 41% of viewers search info while watching TV. As Bercovici wrote on Forbes, Google could be the third competitor in second screen market along with Twitter and Facebook. Stop and think: how smart could G+ become? Pay attention...

Second screen seem to have reached its first mature phase: there are accepted – but not continuative – behaviors that favorited the development of platforms, apps and partnerships. Now it’s time to monetize them.

People modify behaviors and discover brand new ways to enjoy what they are watching, more quickly than expected.
The winner in the battle for the second screen will not be the company which will modify users’ habits, but the one who will be able to predict upcoming behavioral trends and combine them with the classic watching experience.

When talking about TV, in the end, you are always talking about comfort: second screen must be the virtual, soft, safe couch of TV viewers. Don’t expect to have them sit on a wooden chair and be comfortable during the whole program. TV is passive by nature. This will not change. The second screen experience must be built around it, making TV better.

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