Second Screen Must Find Its Own Voice To Redefine TV

Ralph Rivera

For all the talk about TV’s “second screen” device experiences, so far they are mostly being used for social interaction around shows. But some people say a lot more is possible than just tweeting about telly.

“How’s that different from when people were talking on the telephone whilst watching TV?,” BBC future media director Ralph Rivera asked at the FT Digital Media Conference in London on Wednesday.

“The (real) opportunity is when TV creators, producers and shows understand and see, as an extension of the plot or narrative, the fact they have a connected and enabled user, and it makes its way in to the format of the show.

“We’re still at the point where the internet is a distribution medium for content that was conceived for TV or radio. We’re getting to the golden age or the apex of that.

“Now we need to get to the point where we need to create these interactive extensions, these connected experiences – still where the linear programme is core, but something else matters… like a learning experience for a kid while they’re watching a TV programme.”

What Rivera was speaking to was the possibility of an emerging new media aesthetic that breaks free from being defined by an ancestor medium and which defines future consumption, across multiple devices, for itself.

Right now, the proliferation of devices, and the competing services which run on them, make it difficult to know what a second screen concept should look like and where broadcasters should place their bets, not least cost-effectively. As Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff told the FT Digital Media conference: “We’re not in the internet era anymore, we’re in the ‘Splinternet’ era.”

One way it may happen is through social EPG app Zeebox’s OpenBox Showtime – an initiative in which show producers and broadcasters can embed custom HTML widgets, like voting or who-knows-what, in to Zeebox’s in-app pages for their shows. Although it’s early days, Zeebox is doing as good a job as any at aggregating TV viewers on the Splinternet.

Elsewhere, some of the online production houses which have served broadcasters and TV producers with web work for years are now getting excited about building these true screen-spanning experiences. It’s going to be exciting to see what they make.

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