The Changing Flow of Story Telling: The Potentially Large Impact of the Second Screen

Today there is a tremendous amount of focus on the proverbial “second screen.”  But today when most refer to the second screen they mean some screen adjacent (and subservient) to the television.  I think this relationship is changing.  As I’ve outlined in other places, ownership rates of connected devices has increased significantly in recent years.  CEA predicts some 350+ million IP connected devices will sell in 2013 alone.  Worldwide the tally will be well in excess of a billion devices.  Among this count are tablets – which globally sold over 150 million devices alone in 2012.  Global smartphones will approach 900 million in 2013.

Television continues to enjoy a greater installed base, but the proliferation of mobile/portable devices with connectivity and screens will cause that to change quickly.  More, device usage among owners is changing quickly. We now spend 11 hours a day consuming media.  At the same time, consumer attention is becoming increasingly fragmented across media platforms and devices. Flurry recently reported that consumers are spending 127 minutes per day in mobile apps, up 35 percent from 94 minutes a day during the same time just a year ago. At the same time, desktop web usage actually declined slightly – falling 2.4 percent from 72 to 70 minutes.  This means that U.S. consumers are spending nearly two times more time in mobile apps than surfing the web on desktop computers.

Time spent with mobile apps is starting to challenge time spent watching TV. Flurry estimates that the average U.S. consumer watches 168 minutes of television per day, based on data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2010 and 2011. As the chart shows, in December 2010 individuals spent about 66 minutes a day in mobile apps and 162 minutes a day in TV viewing.  Today those numbers are at 127 minutes and 168 minutes. I think by 2014, we could see individuals spending more time on average inside mobile apps than they spend watching television.

Time spent within apps is also morphing.  Entertainment apps and utilities gained market share at the expense of social networking and games. Last year, games took up 50 percent of time spent in mobile apps while social networking accounted for 30 percent. This year, gaming’s market share is down to 43 percent while social networking comes in at 26 percent. A recent report from Ooyala Global found “among users of connected devices, share of time spent viewing on tablets has grown 90% over the last two quarters, with nearly three-quarters of tablet viewing time spent on long-form content. Tablet owners in particular spent 71% of their total tablet video viewing time watching videos of ten minutes or longer and 30% of total tablet viewing time was spent watching content over an hour long.”

Today, consumers are increasingly engaging on multiple devices. We’ve become digital omnivores. According to recent research from Nielsen,  40% of Americans use their tablets or smartphones at least once a day while watching TV and 85% do so at least once a month. The Diffusion Group recently reported when it comes to the use of social TV apps among tablet-based social TV users, 84% use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to interact with friends about the TV program they are watching at that time (34% do so daily), 88% search the web for information about the program they are currently watching (22% do so daily), 70% text or instant message others about the program they are currently viewing (20% do so daily), and 63% use apps that synch in real-time with the TV program being viewed (16% do so daily). TDG reports, “the same phenomenon is observed among smartphone owners, though the frequencies of social TV activity vary (a bit lower for all but texting/instant messaging, which is a task better suited for smartphones as opposed to pads).”

Here is where I see the potential for the greatest impact on the “second screen experience:” if consumers are starting their engagement of a given media asset on a mobile/portable device then the flow of engagement changes and tablets (or smartphones) become the primary screen.  TVs become subservient to them.  Consumers will still watch content on the television, but how they get to that content is different.

What are the implications for story tellers? Here are a few things to think about:

1)      Engagement is going to start with smaller screens but that isn’t necessarily where consumers want the engagement to end. Today, many studios and other content owners are using second screens as a dumping place for what they commonly view as secondary content (outtakes, interviews, etc).  How does this change when the second screen is where the engagement is beginning?

2)       Consumers are going to push content to the TV from their mobile devices. This means content engagement on the TV might not start in the beginning of the story.

3)      With engagement starting on mobile devices, there are implications for video quality

4) With engagement starting on mobile devices, there are implications for video length

5) There are also implications for monetization of the content.  If consumers start with the content on the second screen they might buy it on the first screen.