Second screen is not a bolt-on


Second screen is big news at the moment. It’s been listed as a trend to look out for in 2013, and a number of big brands are launching into the fray. We asked our head of strategic projects Georgia Rakusen to talk about the problems and potential of second screen…

The second screen is a new market opportunity for the businesses interested in how audiences watch television – the broadcasters, programme makers, and advertisers.

Users are using the second screen, that’s undisputed. They are emailing, Facebooking, Tweeting, making purchases, consuming media, and creating content. Television and TV adverts no longer have a person’s undivided attention. The race is on to control what the user does on that ‘second screen’.

Screach head of strategic projects Georgia Rakusen

Screach head of strategic projects Georgia Rakusen

Right now, second screen apps can be grouped into types:

* Social media aggregators / TV guides

* Sync apps, where the app picks up a signal and shows relevant content

* Programme-specific apps, providing gaming, entertainment or live interaction.

Of course, all of these have their problems. TV guides are low-cost and anyone can make one, which means that there is no clear market leader. Broadcasters have no control of the conversations that take place, and can’t create their own curated and high-quality content for it.

Sync apps require you to have your phone on and active at the right time to receive advertisements. Logistically, users don’t behave like this. And people probably already feel like they watch enough adverts.

Programme-specific apps are high-cost, and as a user you’d probably end up with a lot of them on your device.

We are using the second screen to perform habitual, personal actions when we have time to spare. Opening Twitter and viewing recent tweets, for the user, can be an experience which lasts as short or as long as they like, and can be returned to at any time to always view fresh content.

The truth is that user numbers for second screen engagement are LOW.

During the 2012, Super Bowl, some great case studies were presented about user behaviour on the second screen, but this isolated high-profile testbed hasn’t been replicated elsewhere. Users don’t care about the terms ‘second screen’ and ‘social TV’. They are just behaving in the way that they want to, and until broadcasters and technology companies start asking users what they want, second screen apps will never get traction.

So what do we think the future of second screen is?

Since the invention of commercial television, dramas, sitcoms, documentaries, news and game shows have been made in a certain way – because that’s what audiences like to watch, and what advertisers can sell products in the breaks for.

All second screen products so far have tried to sit on top of existing programming content.

The future of second screen comes from thinking of the second screen in the execution of a piece of programming, NOT as a bolt on. Imagine if your game show WAS a second screen experience. Imagine if your news showed live audience polls on their video walls. Imagine if kids educational TV allowed kids to test their knowledge, attention, cognitive abilities – live. Imagine if your series allowed the audience to choose what happens next.

THAT is going to change viewer behaviour.


  1. Pingback: Second screen is not a bolt-on « Screach | Automatic Content recognition |

  2. Dean Fox   •  

    Thank you, Georgia. After several years of pitching second screen solutions to TV networks, it became clear that programmers are primarily concerned with the potential of a show on the ‘first screen’. Any second screen component is at best, a ‘nice to have’, not a ‘must have’. Until some programmer is brave enough to produce a show in which the second screen aspect is so compelling that viewers prefer watching the show with the second screen content, and advertisers awaken to the personalization and promotion potential of the second screen, I believe it will continue to be seen as a bolt-on component.

    • Georgia Rakusen   •  

      Hi Dean, thanks for your comment, interesting to hear your findings tally with ours. It seems that second screen as a bolt on is the inevitable immediate future, until broadcasters come at the mobile opportunity from a different perpective. Take a look at Claire McHugh’s (@@clairemchugh) presenter deck on Social TV and The Second Screen, where she discusses some similar ideas around the trials and tribulations of the format.

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