Two different views of the future of second screening were on display at the TVXperience Conference in New York. The first saw an early pioneer in second screen TV sync apps take a step back from the approach, the second has a pay-TV operator stepping forward into the technology.
Jason Forbes, CEO of Beamly, talked about the shift in strategy the company has gone through based on careful analysis of the habits of the user-base. Beamly started life as Zeebox in the UK 3 years ago and, with the financial support of Comcast and NBCU, migrated to the US a year later. The Zeebox platform sort to tap in to emerging behaviors engendered by the proliferation of connected devices. Studies showed that many people were using smartphones and tablets to engage in social media conversations while they watched TV and to look up more information about the shows they were watching.
This approach helped propel Zeebox to a million downloads in the first three months of US availability. However, Mr. Forbes revealed today that much of the activity the company was seeing through the app occurred before and after the show. He mentioned Game of Thrones specifically as a program type viewers wanted to focus on completely while they were watching, but talk about through social media before it started and after it was done.
With the name change to Beamly, came a new focus on the community aspects of television, particularly the conversations before and after a viewer watches a program. As Mr. Forbes put it, Beamly is about the “fusion of the content with community.”
A very different view of second screening was presented by Phillippe Steinmetz, Director Home and Content Group Marketing at Orange-France Telecom, just a few minutes after the Beamly presentation. Mr. Steinmetz demonstrated the company’s second screen app which it created for HBO’s Game of Thrones season 4. The app spans PC, tablet and smartphone and was built specifically to bring an enhanced, synchronous experience to viewers watching the show live or on-demand. Using it viewers can answer quizzes, participate in polls and get bonus content related to what is currently happening on screen.
The juxtaposition of the Beamly supposition, that consumers don’t want to interact while they’re watching shows like Game of Thrones, against a brand new app designed specifically to do just that was jarring. So, is Orange wasting its time with the app, or is Beamly wrong to move away from the approach?
In this case, there may be merit to both approaches. A recent study by Strategy Analytics found that just 18% of people follow a show through social media. This led the company to conclude social strategies were a waste of time for content providers. However, the multiplicative nature of social media means that a small number of vocal viewers can have a big impact in promoting a show. Certainly my experience of synced experiences seemed to play directly to the most rabid and vocal of show fans. And wanting to discuss a show a view has just watched is simply human nature.
So, perhaps there is room for both approaches in the second screen TV world.
Why it matters
Beamly is moving away from synced experiences as the company says its users prefer to interact about many shows before and after they watch it, but not during.
Orange showed a new app for Game of Thrones specifically to provide synced content while a viewer is watching a show.
It’s likely both approaches will resonate with different groups of viewers, and bring different value to content providers.