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Expert: Second Screen Could Mean Lost Eyeballs for Programs

24 Nov, 2014 By: Chris Tribbey

If you want to see the second screen done right, look no further than AMC and its Story Sync app.

That’s according to Chuck Hudson, director of apps and mobile technologies for home automation company Control4 and co-author of the “HTML5 Developer's Cookbook,” who spoke on what works — and what doesn’t — for the second screen at the annual Streaming Media West conference Nov. 19 in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Over the course of last season’s run of “The Walking Dead,” more than a million people used AMC’s Story Sync app, an interactive experience that pairs with an episode during broadcast, offering polls, trivia questions, video clips, rankings and more. Also made available during the late seasons of “Breaking Bad,” AMC’s app is what content companies should be looking at when they think of the second screen, Hudson said.

“They’ve taken it to the [best] limit,” he said. “It allows the person to be involved more, and with a device they’re already using. The key is the viewer actually becomes an active participant.”

And that is key: according to data from Nielsen, a full 84% of Americans reported using a second screen while watching TV last year, and that percentage is only expected to rise by the time 2014 closes. But the problem, Hudson said, is that often viewers are doing something on their second screen unrelated to the show on the TV, resulting in lost eyeballs on programming (and more importantly, advertising).

“Optimally, we want [viewers] in the programming space,” Hudson said. “If they’re not looking at programming all the time … we have a problem there. We want to drive them toward the ads.”

That’s why interactive apps like AMC’s may be the best way to keep viewers on task: the apps require engagement with what’s on the main screen, and also serve as another platform to push advertising, Hudson noted. And ideally, second screen apps should cover all the bases: interaction, information, social media and e-commerce, he said.

Instead of just checking Facebook or tweeting while a show is airing, viewers should be able to do that via companion apps. Instead of having to track down what a character wears in an episode, the app should tell them. “And there’s a window of time where that’s applicable,” Hudson said. “[Apps] have to be able to change on the fly, know what we’re getting.”


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