ABC executive: second screen apps can be a distraction

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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.

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