Second Screen Apps: Has TV Become the Second Screen?

Television networks are creating companion apps for their successful shows, social TV startups are developing chats and check-ins for second screen experiences, and others are pushing for new ideas to redesign today’s programming guide. But the second screen trend has thus far been based on the premise that the TV screen in the living room is the center of most consumers’ entertainment. Some are suggesting that this viewpoint is no longer accurate and, in fact, may not have been true in the past.

“The typical American watches anywhere between 2.8 and 4.8 hours of TV a day,” reports GigaOM. “But a lot of that TV viewing has long been low-attention background consumption, and programmers know this very well. The morning show, music television and the continuously looping headline news are all made for running in the background while people eat their breakfast, clean the house or do any of the other things you can do while the TV is on.”

Today’s consumer is also busy checking email, texts, social media and more while the TV is on in the background. “The TV has become the second screen, meant to provide some additional entertainment while important interactions are happening on our mobile devices,” suggests the article.

According to a new report from BI Intelligence: “Usage is growing rapidly: 85 percent of smartphone users reported second screen-linked behavior at least once a month, over 60 percent reported doing it on a weekly basis, and 39 percent did so daily. Over 80 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds told Pew they used their phone while watching TV, and 60 percent of Americans with annual incomes above $50,000 use their phones while watching TV.”

While the occasional must-see TV does exist for some viewers (favorite shows, family movie night, live sporting events), the argument can be made that most consumers are becoming increasingly adept at multitasking with their devices and feel more compelled by social interaction than television.

“So what does that mean for the producers of all of these second-screen apps?” asks GigaOM. “First of all, lose the buzzword, because it prevents you from understanding how people really interact with TV. You’re not building apps for the second screen, but for a multiscreen world.”

Secondly, it is recommended that apps embrace all screens in order to provide necessary options.

“But finally, and that may be the most important point: Get out of the way. It doesn’t make sense to reinvent Twitter and Facebook for the second screen, or any screen for that matter, because people are just fine using Twitter and Facebook, and only more so while watching TV. The best new apps will be the ones that provide additional utility without trying to monopolize a screen that TV viewers already use for something else.”

Related Stories:
Why the Second Screen Industry is Ready to Takeoff, Business Insider, 7/21/13
Microsoft Internet Explorer Pushes Beyond Second Screen to Companion Web, Forbes, 7/21/13
Quietly, Opera is Working on Becoming a Smart TV Powerhouse, GigaOM, 3/27/13
Can the Xbox One Take Over the Living Room?, ExtremeTech, 5/23/13
Microsoft Hints at Windows 8-Xbox One Cross Platform Apps, Neowin, 6/28/13