The "second screen": finally ready for prime-time

Thu Jan 10, 2013 2:27pm EST
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By Poornima Gupta

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Television makers, networks and movie studios are embracing the tablet and developing original content and software to drive audience interaction and new advertising revenue after initially dismissing mobile devices as a distraction.

At the heart of this volte-face is a growing recognition of how TV viewing, which has stayed much the same over the past decade, is evolving amid the growth of hand-held devices like the tablet. More and more, viewers are fiddling with tablets or smartphones while watching television or tuning out during commercials.

The trend is prompting developers, manufacturers and broadcasters to create tablet applications to hold viewers' attention, network executives and developers say.

"When the iPad came out, we decided to give it a shot," said Lisa Hsia, executive vice president of the Bravo Digital Network, one of the first networks to devise a second-screen app it called Bravo Now. "For almost a year, no one came out with an app. Now, it's a cost of entry for any TV network.

"It's not only the fans who crave it, it's also another potential form of revenue as interactivity brings in a whole new engagement and revenue."

About 40 percent of Americans use tablets or smartphones while watching TV at least once a day. Twice as many do so at least once a month, according to a Nielsen report.

Pew Research showed that 11 percent of viewers who followed the first live telecast debate between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama simultaneously followed coverage of the event on computers or mobile devices.

Enter so-called "second screen" apps, software applications on tablets or phones that synchronize onscreen action with supplementary information such as behind-the-scenes footage, costume design information, location details and games.   Continued...