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A Second Opinion on Second Screen

30 May, 2013 By: Thomas K. Arnold

That’s an interesting new report from research firm Edelman Berland, the one that found 96% of people have simultaneously used a second device — generally a smartphone, tablet or laptop — while watching something on TV.

Granted, that doesn’t mean virtually everyone is always texting, playing games or watching something else while plunked down on the sofa in the family room, watching a movie on Blu-ray Disc or DVD.

But even those of us who, when we watch a movie, want to devote our full attention to it, have from time to time checked our email or sent a text in the middle of a show — although in my case, I always make sure to at least hit the “pause” button beforehand.

Proponents of “second screen,” I’m sure, see this as a validation of what they are doing — allowing consumers to interact with content they’re watching on the big screen through interactive companion content on the little screen.

And the folks at Edelman, in turn, validate that perception, through talking points such as “the need for shared entertainment experiences is truly global.”

But quite honestly, I’m still not convinced “second screen” is all it’s cracked up to be.

Yes, it’s a generational thing — when people of my age watch a movie, we want to watch a movie, with no distractions.

For younger people, like my two teenage and one preteen boys, it’s a whole other situation. Yes, we gather around the TV at night to watch movies or TV series — on disc, of course (as the publisher of this magazine, I wouldn’t have it any other way).

But invariably we are joined by iPhones and iPads, and there’s a lot of finger-tapping action going on throughout whatever it is we’re watching.
But the boys aren’t using their second screen for companion content. The oldest boy is texting his girlfriend, the middle one’s clicking through YouTube videos and the little one is playing Clash of Clans or some other iPad game.

Not a single one of them has ever — I repeat, ever — viewed so-called “companion content.” And their concept of “shared entertainment experiences” is limited to playing games together online with friends or swapping links to oddball YouTube videos.

Maybe they’re just behind the curve. After all, my youngest only recently discovered the joys of UltraViolet and the ability to watch the movie I just brought home on Blu-ray Disc on his iPad.

But maybe, just maybe, the whole “second screen” concept is following in the footsteps of BD-Live and then 3D for the home.

In the words of Gertrude Stein (and, more recently, President Obama), maybe there’s no “there,” there.

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