Who really owns the second screen?

Few of us just watch TV anymore. Some 39 percent of us use a second screen while plopped in front of the boob tube at least once a day, according to Nielsen. Among tablet owners, 85 percent use the device while watching TV at least once a month, while 41 percent use it that way at least once a day.

Much of the time, what we’re doing on that second screen is unrelated to what we’re ostensibly watching, like checking work emails, updating our Facebook status, or playing Angry Birds. But enough of the time, what’s on the second screen is sufficiently related to the first to make it potentially valuable to someone within the overall TV ecosystem. Who exactly that is — or should be — however, is becoming a source of tension within the business.

Speaking at the Variety Entertainment Apps conference in Los Angeles this week, Fox Broadcasting VP of platforms and innovation Hardie Tankersley noted that when it comes to developing second screen apps for particular TV series, there is often a lot of fingers trying to get into the pie. “There’s the studio, the networks, the sponsors. There are a lot of different people with a piece of that show,” he said. “There’s still a lot of murkiness over who owns the rights to do what.”

Tankersley said Fox is moving away from creating companion apps for individual shows, where the lines of authority can get tangled, in favor of a more generic, Fox-branded network app “because it’s a lot cleaner in terms of who can do what.”

Into that murky mix also come third-party platforms and developers seeking alternately to partner with the networks on creating second-screen apps for particular shows or to build their own ecosystems around those shows.

In announcing his company’s $75 million acquisition of GetGlue, for instance, Viggle CEO Robert Sillerman said, “With this deal, we are combining very experienced and creative product, engineering and management teams that will continue to build great user experiences and provide industry leading platforms for consumers, networks and advertisers.”

Just how good a deal it is for networks, however, is not as clear as Sillerman makes it sound.

“I always get uncomfortable when startups come in to pitch us [on second screen apps] because there are really only two sources of revenue they can tap,” Tankersley said at the Entertainment Apps conference. “They either want to do something that eats into our TV advertising, which I don’t like, or they say they want to partner with us to drive tune-in, which comes out of our marketing budget.”

Appearing on the same panel as Tankersley, Shazam’s executive VP of marketing David Jones defended third-party platforms’ value to the networks. “We can drive five to 18 times the traffic to a network’s own social media content,” Jones said. “We aggregate all the content that exists out there around a show, that isn’t created by the network, and make it easy to find and available. That helps drive the whole engagement cycle around the show. ”

Maybe so, but engagement is not the real prize. If social TV ends up being simply about engagement than Twitter and SMS are going to the only real winners. For dedicated TV companion apps to have a future, whether developed by the networks, the rights owners, or third parties, they will need a more easily convertible currency than engagement. Something like e-commerce, for instance, or interactive advertising.

Most of the jousting going on today over who is able to do what on the second screen is about gaining inside position to claim that ultimately prize, should it ever materialize. For now, though, engagement is all there really is to fight over. The real fight is yet to come.




Showdown on the second screen

Viewers increasingly chat in real time about what they’re watching using second-screen devices and social-TV apps. So naturally those second screens are becoming contested ground as more marketers plant their flags.

Renewed or canceled? This social TV app thinks it knows

Now here’s an interesting use for social TV data: The iOS app Renewed predicts the fate of TV shows based on their number of check-ins. Renewed is a relatively new player, but its makers eventually want to take on Nielsen.

Today in Social

I’d argue NBC Universal is pushing harder against the boundaries of online streaming than social media in its Olympics coverage, so it’s amusing to watch the digerati complain about event streaming availability. There’s no question that when a company spends this much, it’s going to protect prime time audiences and advertising. And the audience numbers have been very good so far. The opening ceremony was huge – 41 million viewers – and the next day’s sports coverage seemed to be doing well. Social media traffic is big, and even Twitter acknowledges we’ve got a lot to learn about integrating the mediums. Recently, we’ve done some relevant analysis of social TV apps and social media entertainment discovery, as well as over-the-top TV to fuel your thinking.

Today in Social

Twitter will join Facebook as a social media “partner” for NBC Universal’s Olympics extravaganza. No money is changing hands in either arrangement. NBC will be promoting and making use of Twitter and Facebook content on-air and incorporating the social “conversations” into its coverage. All of this makes tremendous sense, but doesn’t feel particularly innovative on either the traditional or new media side. There’s no NBC video for the social networks, and no one is doing joint sponsorships or ad sales, according to any of the reports I’ve seen. Facebook thinks it will help viewers navigate NBC coverage (thousands of hours across multiple networks) and perhaps discover hot events they wouldn’t have otherwise. NBC will help sync up Twitter by name-dropping hashtags. As Mathew Ingram writes, Twitter’s media company ambitions grow every day (maybe that’s why it wants to sell its own ads). But if you strip out the word “social,” this sounds an awful lot like something NBC would have done with Yahoo or AOL in 2004.

Wywy wants to sync social TV, and scores $3m to do it

In social TV’s second-screen dream, timing is everything. And German startup wywy has just burst out of stealth mode with an impressive set of tools for keeping broadcasters, advertisers and viewers in sync — as well as control of long-established media monitoring service Idioma.