Television has to embrace our second screen habit

Television has to embrace our second screen habit
Take one screen into the lounge?

Second screening is officially a growing trend, with a number of us choosing to split our focus between our television and another device.

And yet, the television industry remains in flux at how to best use this trend to its advantage. In the UK the BBC is not only prominent on Twitter and Facebook, but also increasingly on upcoming social networks like Snapchat and Instagram, but even this traditional TV trailblazer has the limitations of its remit to consider.

Twitter is actively encouraging television talent and shows to engage the audience in new ways, Shazam has evolved from a way to name and buy that tune to an engagement tool, and ideas in this particular growth area range from the brilliant to the batty.

This week saw the Westminster eForum gather to discuss the rising tide of second or dual-screening and ask whether it is a threat or a boon for the television companies. And broadly speaking, as analyst Simon Terrington said, the answer is obviously 'both'.

"Television is still the screen that we would miss the most, but phones [are] increasingly important and tablets and computers are growing as well," he said.

"There are two views when you think of social media, firstly this is where the industry is going and if we don't embrace it we'll be left behind, lose the young and better off people and be left with older less well-off people.

"The other view social media is a different business - it's just communication and people have always talked about TV it's just happening in a different way."

Tweet all about it

As you would expect, other expert speakers including Dan Biddle, who is head of TV partnerships for Twitter UK, and Shazam's Iain Dendle, are very much on the side of the first view, believing that being part of the conversation with the audience is crucial.

"There's a flicking of the eyes between the first screen and the second this has been called meerkatting. When I was at BBC we worried about splitting people's attention and asked 'are we taking them away from the first screen' - but as we've said that is already happening whether it's the ironing or something else.

"It's not split attention, it's double attention. We have data that shows that people who are tweeting are far more engaged with the messages that come out of that TV show."

Biddle went on to give examples of how social is radically changing some aspects of TV, telling an anecdote of Richard Curtis wandering the streets of Shepherd's Bush peering in windows during one of the first broadcasts of Blackadder to see if his new show would be popular - something that could now be cut out by Twitter conversations.

"The fact that [second screening means] we can see audience and know it is there means you can connect with that audience."

Dendle and Shazam aim to add even more engagement by allowing viewers to use their devices, listen to the audio on a show or even an advert and quickly enter a rich interactive environment.

"An advert for Jaguar we did... brought engagement from one percent of the audience of the program it appeared in", he told the room. That's a phenomenal number of people, although it is difficult to judge how many people went on to buy a car.

What was abundantly clear from the talk was that there is no shortage of ideas as to how TV should tap into our 'meerkatting' but that they must be prepared to embrace a new and complicated market in order to enhance our experience and earn more engagement.

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.