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Second-Screen Study: More Applications Needed

Arlington, Va. — The National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) released the findings from Part Two of their first joint research study on second-screen use.

Part Two of the study digs deeper into the qualitative research collected through in-depth interviews with some of the industry’s top show runners about the future of second screen and how they factor it into the creative process.

Part One, which was released earlier this month, focused on consumers and found nearly all (91 percent) of second-screen viewers access asynchronous program content, while only 42 percent have tried synchronizing their content experience to live TV.

The report, released Monday during a panel session at NATPE Miami, indicates that nearly all participants view the second screen as an inevitable part of the future, and see tremendous potential in content designed for synchronous viewing, the simultaneous usage of both a primary screen and second device, as well as asynchronous viewing, the joint associations said.

Findings show that while some believe there are strong opportunities for synchronous viewing going forward, producers are still searching for the best solutions to optimize technology to create a seamless experience for the viewer.

Second-screen content designed for synchronous viewing does not currently have unanimous support among show runners beyond sports, reality shows and news.

The findings align with those from Part One of the study, which found the majority (72 percent) of consumers who access synchronized second-screen content said it is appropriate only for certain kinds of shows.

Nineteen producers representing a cross section of the industry — including drama, comedy and reality programming — participated in 30-minute interviews with E-Poll Market Research to discuss their thoughts and approach to second screen.

The group included Vince Gilligan (“Breaking Bad,” “The X-Files”); Bruce David Klein (“Hotel Impossible,” “Frenemies”); Damon Lindelof (“Lost”); Caryn Mandabach (“Nurse Jackie,” “That ‘70s Show”); Mark Scarpa (“The X Factor Digital Experience,” “Grammy Live”); Kara Vallow (“Family Guy,” “American Dad,” “The Cleveland Show”); and Anthony Zuiker (“CSI,” “CSI: NY,” “CSI: Miami”).

The majority of the producers said there are some current examples of truly effective and immersive second-screen executions for television shows, such as “The Walking Dead,” “The Office” and “Scandal.”

Most study participants said they are excited about the opportunities second-screen content will provide creators, from building and sustaining a brand to providing a more meaningful connection between viewers and content.

They view the second screen largely as a tool to drive viewers back to first-screen content; this parallels with Part One results, which found 63 percent of consumers accessing synchronized content on the second screen feel “more connected to the shows they are watching.”

Producers gave Twitter and IMDB high marks for being the most effective live, second-screen viewing experience for all genres, allowing viewers to replicate the experience of watching a program with a large audience or even the show’s actors.

“The results of this research, along with the findings on the consumer technology side that were presented at CES, offer a truly groundbreaking look at the opportunities and challenges we face with the second-screen phenomenon,” said NATPE president and CEO Rod Perth. “This research offers great insight into the value of program brands and how to sustain them before, during and after they air, which ultimately benefits both advertisers and consumers.”

“Phase One of our joint research project helped identify key areas of consumer interest in engaging in the second-screen experience,” said CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro. “Part Two provides critical insights on second screen from the television production community. A deeper exploration of the intersection of these two studies will help device manufacturers and content producers identify a winning, strategic approach to develop this promising market by providing tangible benefits to viewers.”

There is consensus among the producers and creators interviewed that content not meant for live viewing presents an additional second-screen opportunity to maximize and extend their brand.

While opinions about second screen are mixed, nearly all agree that, if done properly, second screen offers a significant opportunity to grow and sustain audiences around appointment viewing television, and to increase viewer loyalty, the study found. 

Additionally, the producers and creators surveyed found that the second screen enhances the viewing experience in a number of ways: building social currency among viewers; making viewers feel special; bringing about a deeper experience with the primary content; creating a shared viewing experience and sense of community among fans; and maintaining a show’s relevance by offering viewers a platform to continue to interact and talk about the program, even when it’s not on air.

Along with the issue of second screen comes the demand for resources to create meaningful, high-quality content. Most respondents said there is not enough time, talent or funding at this point to give the second screen the attention it and the audience deserve, and they struggle with using technology to create an immersive experience. Also, show runners have concerns that real-time viewing on both screens will pull attention from the primary content, leaving viewers with a disjointed experience, which could hurt the brand. They don’t want to neglect first-screen material to create second-screen content if it’s not going to be truly complementary — and not just promotional — particularly as they seek ways to monetize the second-screen experience.

Despite the obstacles, the show creators and producers see opportunities for the second screen to:

• create an extension of the program brand and serve as an incubator for new ideas;

• better involve advertisers, enabling the funding of truly immersive engaging content;

• transform viewers into brand ambassadors for programs through deeper engagement;

• change the way younger generations consume entertainment, and usher in more advanced second-screen experiences, with the proper technology to support it; and

• draw viewers into real-time participation, better allowing producers to make stories both with and for the audience, creating a sense of audience ownership.

The executive summary of the survey results is available for media upon request, and the complete report will be available for free to NATPE members who email [email protected] with subject line “2nd Screen TV Viewing Research Request” (make sure to include your full name and company), and to CEA member companies at Non-members can purchase the study for $1,000 at