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Summary:

Don’t expect to see any more second screen apps for episodic content from ABC: The network found that these apps are more distracting than useful.

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Second-screen apps used to be all the rage with TV executives just a few years ago, but Disney’s Digital EVP Albert Cheng’s network is moving away from the idea to complement shows with second screen experiences. “It’s not a game that we want to be in,” said Cheng at the Next TV Summit in San Francisco Wednesday.

ABC did a number of tests with second-screen applications that pushed out contextual information for shows like Grey’s Anatomy, and Cheng said that one of the lessons learned during those tests was that it just doesn’t matter enough to viewers. “It was interesting to viewers, but not essential,” he said. What’s more, when engagement did happen, it ended up taking people’s attention away from the show’s story. “Second screen becomes a distraction,” Cheng said.

He acknowledged that second-screen apps can work for some kinds of content, including sports, news, reality programming and awards shows. However, ABC’s main moneymaker is serialized content, so it just didn’t seem like a winning proposition, and monetization through ads seemed difficult. At some point ABC had to decide how to make money with the second screen, recalled Cheng, adding: “The answer is, you don’t.”

Asked about his take on third-party companion apps, Cheng didn’t beat around the bush either. He said that there will be further consolidation, and that it is going to become harder for second screen app makers to raise additional funds. “The ones that are surviving are the ones that still have cash,” he said.

  1. He won’t need to worry about it then when the public migrates to tablets to watch web streamed content.

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  2. Alexandra Murashova Thursday, September 12, 2013

    Many people want mobile apps but think it is too hard to create them. Fortunately now there are quite a lot of useful online services which allow building apps without programming skills and in hours. I am using SnAPPii at the moment and really glad I can feel like a mobile app developer and make apps on my own.

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  3. Maybe they should also stop telling viewers to visit their websites. They’ve been driving TV viewers to no-income advertising for the web for 15 years

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  4. Trevor Doerksen Tuesday, September 17, 2013

    Is this like saying, “The network found that these ADS are more distracting than useful”?

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  5. Not surprising that this exec is working for the fourth place network, behind CBS, NBC and FOX. His lack of foresight is right in line with ABC’s lack of recent intelligent or inspiring programming (notice that the article references Grey’s Anatomy, a show that came out in 2005). This guy probably didn’t think the internet would catch on either. As an avid second screen user–I have been actually surprised how many new shows I have been “sucked into” by having to log in and watch the first 10 minutes to get the bonus points offered by the second screen app that I use. Notice I haven’t mentioned them by name because I don’t want to be a shill for them either. Anyway, this exec should just go back to programming great shows like Lucky Seven and Man Up.

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