I think it’s safe to say the profile of the second screen is steadily rising, noticeably from the beginning of the year, to the point that it’s now a significant subject in the broadcast industry. Admittedly there seems to be more questions than answers at the moment, but it’s a hot topic no less.
So what makes a second screen? The first screen is the television, which by now is digital and HD. The second screen can be a smart phone or laptop but is more commonly a tablet like the iPad. It’s a device that complements the programme that you’re watching on the big screen TV.
I remember the first time I used a second screen, watching a film. It was used to settle a discussion on what films the actor had been in, I opened up the laptop, loaded the webpage IMDb (the Internet Movie Data base) and found the answer all while the film was being broadcast. It’s moved on slightly since then; now it would be an iPad on the sofa, which even has an IMDb application on it!
From a programming point of view it’s progressed substantially. Take a classic TV show from the BBC, ‘Have I Got News For You.’ It’s been on our screens for over 20 years but now, highly represented in the social media. Its Facebook page has 32,141 likes, its Twitter account has 53,775 followers – the ultimate is it has its own Twitter hashtag! #HIGNFY. This is regularly shown at the start of the show and if you search for the hashtag while the show’s on there’s a flurry of equally entertaining banter which brings a whole new perspective to the programme. The HIGNFY teams even run the ‘Missing Words Challenge’ on a Friday via Twitter and Facebook. It’s a shame Ian Hislop isn’t on Twitter!
With the increased use of the second screen, developers have picked up on the broadcasters’ need to integrate existing software with the ability to get content to the second screen quickly and effectively. You can now see in some software the options to tweet directly from the application – this is a very powerful tool for live programmes. Imagine a live football game where, within seconds of a goal, the news is posted officially on Twitter and Facebook. That would channel a huge amount of traffic though a broadcaster’s or sponsor’s branded webpage. Furthermore, it reduces the risk of unauthorised uploading of content beyond the owner’s control. Both can only be good for business.
The second screen is also the prime location of VOD (Video On Demand) content. All the broadcasters now have a dedicated app that allows viewers to watch their content at a convenient time.
Another weighty topic in the broadcast industry is how to get this content into the VOD systems in the shortest time. It’s not so bad for recorded content; this can be transcoded in advance into the many different required formats of the platforms for website, tablet and set-top-box viewing. Additionally content needs encrypting and metadata added before final delivery to the platform. Currently this is a lengthy process. Often it takes a number of hours to achieve and, if viewers have missed a live broadcast and want to watch it, there’s nothing more frustrating than everyone talking about it via social media.
I can only think the second screen is here to stay. Production companies have started to interact via dedicated apps during the programmes with ITV’s ‘X Factor’ providing a good example. The ‘Tap to Clap’ app was available for users to clap and boo along during the programme and also pushes news, videos, photos and adverts.
Are people tired of regular TV programmes?