Skip to main content

Second-Screen GreenRemains Scarce

As programmers and advertisers move through this year’s upfronts, discussions on how to fit second-screen or social TV apps into larger TV and digital ad buys are likely to play a larger role than ever before.

“It is still kind of a nascent area, but a huge ecosystem is developing. And as we get into the upfronts, there will be some very interesting discussions,” says Brian Stoller, leader of digital strategy for North America at Mindshare. Stoller is particularly interested in the idea of brands working with the networks on products “to build content for the second screen that complements regular TV programming.”

Much of this is predicated on the notion that secondscreen apps can significantly increase the value of regular TV spots by delivering additional ads to an app on a mobile device. “The ad that is running on-air to create awareness of a brand [can now be tied] to a second screen that in effect makes the TV ad clickable,” says Deborah Brett, VP of mobile sales at Viacom Media Networks. “It provides an immediate path to engagement and action.”

Some of this is already working and is quite lucrative. Shazam, which has about 90 million U.S. users, has done more than 200 second-screen ad campaigns with more than 140 companies, notes David Jones, Shazam executive VP of marketing.

“We have done multiple campaigns with all six of the top agencies and are doing six- and seven-figure campaigns with major brands,” Jones says. “The renewals are accelerating and the deal sizes are growing. If it wasn’t working, they wouldn’t be renewing these deals.”

But advertising agency executives and programmers caution that many of these efforts remain in their infancy and that a number of problems need to be overcome before second-screen apps become a major component of TV ad sales or annual upfront negotiations. These problems include relatively small usage; the lack of a unified measurement between TV and mobile; the cost of developing apps for many different operating platforms; and the relatively experimental nature of these buys.

Second-screen efforts also tend to involve the creation of custom content, a potentially costly and timeconsuming process that can involve many different people— show producer, network, ad agencies and the advertisers.

“There is no agreed-upon system to buy against it, and is currently more driven by brands that want to experiment rather than having a set budget,” says Jason George, CEO of Telescope, which works with a number of shows including American Idol to improve audience engagement.

Measurement and the ability to monetize content on various platforms is another key issue. Marc Debevoise, executive VP of entertainment, news and sports at CBS Interactive, considers it much more lucrative to monetize full episodes online than it is on mobile. As a result, CBS makes full episodes of its primetime shows available the next day online, but users of its new CBS App do not get access until after the C7 ratings window closes, eight days after the show aired on TV.

“If there was one measurement system and we could monetize all of these platforms, then there would be no reason for complex windows,” says Debevoise.

Still, some progress is being made. While unified ratings for TV, online and mobile are a year or more away, improved social media metrics are providing a way of selling the engagement these apps create. “Social media doesn’t replace ratings, but it brings a different dimension” that can boost the value of a spot, says Ben Carlson, president and co-creator at Fizziology, which analyses social media activity for advertisers. “A lot of smart agency people realize that not all ratings points are created equal.”

Some broadcasters and cable channels are consolidating their apps, which should help boost usage. CBS is planning to incorporate the features of its secondscreen CBS Connect app into its recently launched CBS App that offers streaming of full episodes, according to Debevoise.

Likewise Viacom is starting to unify its apps around channel brands, says Brett. Although a number of show-specific apps will continue, “the goal is for fans to have a single destination for everything,” she says.

Groups of programmers are also coming together to back second-screen apps covering hundreds of channels. News Corp., NBCUniversal and Viacom, along with Zeebox and many broadcast groups, are working with ConnecTV to develop second-screen applications for local news and programming.

Consumer electronics companies like LG are also working to simplify the technology to tie the TV with mobile devices and other screens so that it is easier to develop apps and sync up content between devices, notes Tim Alessi, director of new product development for LG USA . “We are working on putting a platform in place to support innovation,” Alessi says, pointing to LG’s support of the Smart TV Alliance and other efforts to simplify app creation.

Second-screen app providers are also working to come up with new ad opportunities. GetGlue recently launched a “Promoted Entries” product that allows sponsored content on top of the GetGlue feed.

ConnecTV has launched its Ad Sync network, which allows brands to buy specific words such a “back to school.” When the phrase occurs during television programming, an ad might appear on the second-screen app for a retailer like Home Depot.

“Brands are investing tens of billions of dollars in TV advertising,” says Stacy Jolna, chief marketing officer of ConnecTV. “By putting a small percentage of that into the second screen, they have the ability to activate that investment in TV advertising.”

E-mail comments to and follow him on Twitter: @GeorgeWinslow