Monday, February 27, 2012

Second Screening with the Oscars after the Red Carpet

I had hoped the day after the Oscars, like with the Super Bowl and the Grammys, would be characterized by record breaking statistics.  I even checked the data several times through out the day to see if any data was forthcoming.  It seems neither Trendrr nor BlueFin labs reported anything on big ground breaking stats today.

I thought Lost Remote did a great job summarizing their experience yesterday.  Not surprisingly, mine was very similar.  After finishing my mini-focus group with the neighbors, I headed to a quiet living room where I could test Umami's new features, give Viggle and ConnecTV another go, test the (now) classics of BuddyTV, Yap.TV and TVplus, and see if the much marketed change in IntoNow would stack up.  I have to admit, similar to my red carpet experience and despite the apps continuously crashing, I kept coming back to the official ABC Oscar app because it had unique content (the multiple and selectable camera angles).

First things first, like I said in my previous blog, I liked the concepts in the ABC official Oscars app, I just hated the poor app quality.  I voted 3 different times before the votes actually 'saved' in the app.  It crashed continually.  It had poor Social features.  But the exclusive and selectable camera angles made me keep coming back.

Umami had some interesting new features to crow about.  The trending Twitter indication was interesting (but for consumers, probably less so).  The Freeze Frame app was a cool way to share content (though I suspect as yet unapproved by content creators).  Essentially, you hit a button and the magic server in the cloud snaps a picture (I am assuming this only works for live TV and not even time shifted east coast / west coast TV).  If you could get the photo right, it was pretty cool.

I still love TVplus's implementation of synchronized content events.  They have the right mix of timing and variety.  I just wish they made more effective use of the middle third of the screen (from a UI perspective, not so great).  The sync-ing worked great every time I tried it and I enjoyed seeing what they had to say.

I still don't get Viggle.  I know they are well-funded, but as a consumer, I am still struggling.  The app let you play along with a trivia question every 45 seconds, and you earned points for playing.  Why?  If the advertiser needs to know I am connected, aren't their more passive ways to do that?  Seems like a waste of consumer engagement (not to be taken lightly).  While it was cool seeing what others picked and if I was right or wrong, I still ask, WHY?

ConnecTV?  It did better.  The room was VERY quiet and the audio sync'd successfully 3 of 4 attempts.  It was the first time the "synchronized" content did not appear random (though based on some DVR pauses, I don't think it was synchronized but just tied to the current real-time moment).  I still don't like the advertising engagement (not in synch with the TV) or the use of real state from a UI perspective.

IntoNow surprised me by having a relatively cool feature.  They showed recent photos of the red carpet and the Oscars and asked for a like or no-like, and then shared the rating of other users with you.  Very much the "Social Networking Hot or Not" example from the movie.  I actually think their Twitter feed implementation is better, though still needs curation and time-syncing.  The massive real-estate to display who else is using the app seems odd at best. hasn't changed much.  Very much the social-only app, but I have to say that having the Twitter feed literally fly by is not a great experience.

Miso?  No comment.

My conclusion: 1st party apps (ABC Oscars) are falling prey to the standard development pitfalls.  I think there is a better strategy here for content creators/distributors to give the Stimulating content to a few trusted (and well implemented) consumer apps that can aggregate traffic to support their brand rather than botching up the experience themselves.

I also think the existence of so many attempts is indicative of one more thing: whether mass market yet or not, the networks and advertisers THINK the market is ready for them.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Watching the Red Carpet for the Oscars with Second Screen

When will second screen be mass market?  Bill Baxter tried to answer that at the 2nd Screen Summit last week in his keynote.  This experience might answer it in a more empirical manner.

You wouldn't believe the abuse I have taken over the past few months from some of my unbelieving neighbors who have constantly told me that they want to watch their TV show or movie and not have any of it distracted with a tablet or laptop.

For today's big event, I offered to join the girls briefly while they watched to get some live feedback (of the naysayers), but they rebuffed me with great laughter.  While I was reviewing the apps, I sent a few pics to their iPhones just to show them what they were missing.  I was quickly invited down the street to share the iPad experience with them.

It was actually a great experience to see the naysayers (pictured above) convert so quickly into real enthusiasts.  They were quickly pulling the iPad on to the coffee table so that everyone could see the various camera angles from the ABC Official Oscars app and the arrival photos from the E! Live from the Red Carpet app.

Let's start with the ABC Official Oscars app:

  • I received a ton of comments about the poor nature of the ABC app during the week.  It was crashing for people, not well designed, etc.  I was eager to check it out tonight.
  • The ability to see multiple camera angles during the red carpet the was a very cool feature and my focus group subjects spent most of their on it.
  • The app did crash quite a bit.  Really.
  • I did try the voting feature.  3 times.  It wiped out my entries for 2 of the attempts.
  • The orientation of the app was quite frankly bizarre.  The iPhone version stayed in landscape 90% of the time.  The iPad app stayed in portrait 95% of the time.  Seems very, very backwards.
  • I was not a fan of the Twitter feed implementation.  Too official.

  • They missed the opportunity to have a live, synchronized experience (think TVplus).  My test subjects constantly asked why they couldn't see a link the various actors, know about the dress, the dress maker, etc.
  • Simple-none.  Social-low.  Stimulating-high.  Seamless-none.  Discovery-none.
  • But, in the end, having access to the other camera feeds for the Red Carpet still made the app indispensable.

And the E! Entertainment Live from the Red Carpet app:
  • The 360 Glam Cam was certainly very missed.
  • The arrival photos were great, though the app did crash suddenly quite a bit while trying to flip through them and there was no easy ways to see new ones without exiting that feature and going back into it.
  • There were great news links (near live blog-like posts).
  • There was also a very interesting shopping experience that is likely a hit for those watching this online a few days later.
  • The Twitter experience was ok, but not great.
  • Simple-none.  Social-medium.  Seamless-none.  Stimulating-high.  Discovery-none.

If I had to pick between one app or the other, it would be a hard choice.  Neither of them are great across the classic features we think about when reviewing these apps like Social or Simple (including stability), but both of them have access to Stimulating content that just can't be overcome by other apps' classic quality features.  Live video feeds from multiple angles that are selectable by the viewer and fashion review assets (photos and in theory the glam cam) are what really counted and enabled the test subjects (and myself) to tolerate the other feature weaknesses.

Oh yeah, and are these kinds of experiences mass market yet?  Just ask my neighbors, some of which who don't even have a DVR, what they plan to do for the next Red Carpet event.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Quick Re-Cap of the 2nd Screen Summit

If you didn't get a chance to join us in Santa Monica on Wednesday, you missed a great program of 300+ industry players interacting in panels throughout the day.

The keynote was presented by Bill Baxter, CTO of BuddyTV.  The topic of his presentation was when Second Screen would second screen be a mass market experience.  His conclusion was that is was already; however, during the discussion, he gave some great insight to BuddyTV's experience around social engagement (about 0.5% of users actually comment in the app via chat or Twitter, but 50% of them read the comments and Tweets).  Additionally, he postulated that when consumers used his app to control the 1st device (Simple), they were twice as likely to engage in other parts of the app (Social, Stimulating, etc).

The initial panel consisted of 45 minutes of passionate discussions around what creates an engaging consumer experience with input from BuddyTV, M-GO, Fanhattan, 1K and TVplus (moderated by myself).  There was an excellent debate around the concept of a "killer feature" that would propel second screen forward across the chasm to mass adoption.

It was followed by a 40-minute panel on metadata, with participation from Automated Insights, Digital Smiths, RCDb, Rovi and TVplus (moderated by myself again).  Ajay Shah from TVplus started the conversation off by explaining how his team currently builds their synchronized experiences and the metadata experts discussed the potential evolution of metadata services to support the developing second screen market--including the concept of metadata becoming "sexy".

We had a very interesting "app shoot-out" just before lunch.  The concept was for each app to have 3 minutes to show off their capabilities in Simple, Social, Seamless, Stimulating and Discovery across a Modern Family episode and the recent airing of The Voice.  The audience then voted on Twitter and on write-in ballots for the best app in each category and best overall.  The winners which were presented at the end of the day were awarded as follows: Simple - BuddyTV, Social -, Seamless - Fanhattan, Stimulating - TVplus, Discovery - BuddyTV, and Best Overall to Fanhattan.  Congratulations all.

In the afternoon, we had some great data insight presented by NPD on how the CE device market was shaping up to support second screen, followed by a great panel on the subject with Verizon, LG, Samsung and Testronics (moderated by Tom Engdahl).

That was followed by a great panel discussion from Fox, Disney, Technicolor, Civolution, Blu-Focus and Jargon around collaboration in building great second screen applications, with a very lively debate around the requirement to "templatize" / build a platform vs. the need to support creativity and a great UX.

Renaud Fuchs from Technicolor then delivered a very interesting data set on the second screen app market to date, with views on what market phase we were in (multiplication or consolidation) and presented some compelling data on Get Glue usage.

Finally, the day was capped off with a panel on Monetizing the Second Screen with inputs from Second Screen Networks, GetThis, MediaLink and McCann Worldgroup (moderated by Seth Shapiro).  While not conclusive, there was a good debate that continued from previous panels about commerce and advertising (and loyalty programs) balanced with a great user experience.

A great inaugural event for this fast-paced market segment with the most asked question during the cocktail reception being "When and where should the industry gather next?"

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A recap of the apps for the 2nd Screen Summit app shoot-out

Last week, I gave a high-level overview of how we plan to conduct the app shoot-out tomorrow at the 2nd Screen Summit in Santa Monica.  I thought today we would just re-cap the mentions of the apps in previous blogs, highlighting some of their previous strengths and weaknesses (some of these apps will have released improvements since my last write up).

BuddyTV.  Strong showings in Simple, Seamless and Social.  Medium showing in Stimulating and low in Social.

TVplus.  Strong showing in Stimulating and medium showing in Social.

Fanhattan.  Strong showing in Stimulating and Discovery, medium showing in Social and Seamless.

ConnecTV.  Strong showing in Stimulating, medium showing in Social.

Dijit.  Medium showing in Simple, Social, Stimulating and Discovery.

Viggle.  Medium showing in Social and Stimulating.

Umami.  Medium showing in Social and Stimulating.

Miso.  Medium showing on Social and Discovery in the iPhone version, but a new iPad app is out now.

yap.TV.  Strong showing in Social.

IntoNow.  Medium showing in Social, but has an updated version that has yet to be reviewed with indications of improvements in Social and Stimulating.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Brief Introduction to Second Screen

I've had a number of people ask for a more basic introduction to the concepts of Second Screen and to answer the question of "so what?" with some current statistics.

Let's try this:

- The concept. This picture says it all.   The simple act of watching television (sports, movies, or your favorite TV series) with a smart phone, tablet, or laptop in your hands.

- What to do. The idea is to further engage the consumer in the event or show in front of them with 3 basic use cases (see this infographic):

1. Videophile/sports enthusiast. Additional fan-based content about the show or sporting event. This could be as simple as the details about the careers of the cast or as complex as relevant information about the current scene synchronized to the playback of the show itself.

2. Commerce. Presenting relevant information to the viewer so that they can purchase that hat, that handbag or dress, that jersey, etc.

3. Advertising. Putting relevant and engaging advertisements that the consumer would actually be interested in seeing.

I discuss the apps themselves based on their ability to control the 1st screen (Simple), to connect viewers (Social), to aggregate multiple content sources (Seamless), to engage the consumer (Stimulating), and to allow the consumer to find relevant new content (Discovery). Further explained in this blog.

Perhaps a better explanation is this Disney Tron Legacy video.

So what?  check out some of the stats here:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

How many Second Screen apps are out there?

Earlier today, we talked about the 10 apps we plan to review next week at the 2nd Screen Summit.  But how many apps are actually out there?  I think the way to think about this is consider the business model or objective of the app and then group them based on their backing or investment levels.  For example, there are apps with great funding coming from the network operators (Verizon, DirecTV, etc), but we need to keep in mind the objective of their backers (reduce churn and if possible raise ARPU).  While broadcast networks (ABC, NBC) or network brands (Bravo, Syfy, USA) have a completely different goal in mind (create stickiness for their shows and potentially to sell advertising).  Branded show apps or feature film apps are clearly about building brand stickiness, and all of the third party apps are trying to figure out how to generate revenue (either thru some form of advertising or marketing or commerce).  What does all of this mean for the consumer?  It means you will probably find the best show-based Stimulating content coming from the branded network or show apps, while the best features for Simple will come from the network operators.  It also immediately implies that 3rd party apps are the consumers best shot at driving forward feature development because it is the only way for them to differentiate themselves against the advantage network operators and branded networks/shows have on them to have a shot at convincing the consumer to use their app instead.

So, while not quite the same landscape or ecosystem we reviewed a few weeks ago, on the iPad, it looks something like the images below.  Come next week and discuss with us (

Branded TV Network / Show Apps
Network Operator Apps
Blu-ray Apps

Well-funded 3rd Party Apps We'll Review on Feb 22, 2012
Other Well-funded 3rd Party Apps
3rd Party Apps with Less Funding / Presence
More 3rd Party Apps with Less Funding / Presence

Second Screen App "Shoot-out"

As many of you already know, we are holding a 1-day conference next week at the Loews in Santa Monica (Feb 22) with two parallel tracks: one on Second Screen and one on Social TV.

We are planning to run a 2nd screen app "shoot-out" around lunch time.  Essentially, we are going to take the audience through a three-minute tour of each of 10 Second Screen TV apps where in the 1st minute we walk through a series of use cases for the consumer on a scripted TV show, in the 2nd minute we perform similar tasks on a live / reality TV show, and then give the app developers a chance to show off the features they believe differentiate themselves in the 3rd minute.

Then we'll let the conference audience vote using Twitter hash tags and combine that feedback with the views of a small panel of "expert" judges (50/50).

Finally, we'll award the winners in 6 categories at the end of the conference day (just before cocktails):
  1. Best in Simple (ability to control the first screen)
  2. Best in Social (ability to interact with others via Twitter, Facebook, live chat, etc)
  3. Best in Seamless (ability to provide multiple sources for viewing content)
  4. Best in Stimulating (ability to provide the consumer with interesting and relevant content during their viewing experience)
  5. Best in Discovery (ability to provide the consumer with recommendations on other content he/she may be interested in)
  6. Best Overall 2nd Screen Experience
Here are the list of apps we plan to review next Wednesday:

  1. BuddyTV
  2. TVplus
  3. Fanhattan
  4. ConnecTV
  5. Dijit
  6. Viggle
  7. Umami
  8. Miso
  9. yap.TV
  10. IntoNow

Visit to reserve your place in the conference and get a chance to vote on your favorite apps.  See you on Wednesday in Santa Monica.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Second Screen Experience with Bambi on Blu-ray

Probably the best content driven approach to second screen I have seen yet.  The Stimulating nature of the original drawings, trivia, companion comic strips from the 1920s, picture scrambles, and other items were delivered in a UX that was well thought through.  An event about every 30-45 seconds, no sound, etc. A very passive and yet engaging experience.

Not everything was perfect.  I tried several times to get the audiosync to work to keep the synchronized content experience on track (provided by TVplus), but to no avail (yes, I did try the volume cranked way beyond normal levels to see if it would work).  This is probably why the releases that followed this from Disney (Tron for example) had wi-fi sync in addition to audio sync as an option.

Additionally, Disney did a better job than anyone I have seen in providing a "help" video on-line for their consumers.  It should be replicated by everyone else, including those TV shows and networks with dedicated apps for their brands and even by the 3rd party apps that cover multiple shows, titles, networks, etc.


- Simple.  No control of the 1st screen.  Audio sync also did not work that well.
- Social.  I did not find any way to share on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Seamless.  No integration of other sources of content.
- Stimulating.  HIGH.  Very High.  Great content integration and UX.
- Discovery.  No features to help you find new content.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Watching a DVR'd episode of SVU with Second Screen

Are you as curious as I am about how the Second Screen apps stack up when it's not live?  Do they spoil the ending (Grammy app killed me)?  Do they curate Tweets in time with features?  Do they even work at all?

I started with Umami, mostly because I haven't used the app for awhile and was looking for improvements.  I still like the interface, relatively decent ACR (took 10-15 seconds, struggled at first), and think it has a good balance of both Stimulating and Social features (no Simple, very little Seamless, and no Discovery).  Apart from crashing 3 or 4 times, the app did well on what I was expecting in the Stimulating and Social elements.  One important thing to note:  I am watching a 1-week old show and the ACR works find (except in commercials).  It also delivers the tweets based on the show timecodes--so no spoliers!  Even though I must be a small minority watching the show a week late, there were tweets which I know had been shared a week ago as other apps (as I jumped around) had them their with their real world time code delivery (date and time that is).

I quickly tried IntoNow (since the recent feature improvements are enticing).  I do like their Twitter integration and the ACR worked well, but you can see here that it is real-world timed (meaning spoliers).  I swapped to ACR (you choose the show), but good social implementation--except all real-world timed, so again spoilers.

No images for TVplus (current favorite list).  It did not pick up the ACR and you can't really "tune" the app without it (unfortunately).  But ConnecTV did work.  Recognized the right episode, but starting showing those sort of random facts that appear to be synchronized with the content but aren't.  You noticed this when they start repeating.

Summary:  I think Umami did a good job of managing a DVR'd experience.  If you think there are other apps that perform similarly (recognizing what you are watching and timing the updates of Tweets, relevant content to the current episode you are watching), please let me know.  If you believe the majority of consumers watch time-shifted content, this is a must for them (though clearly the networks want to push all of us to watch live).