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Survey: TV Showrunners Lack Resources to Invest in Second Screen Engagement

THR's
Vince Gilligan

Interviews with 19 Hollywood EPs, including Vince Gilligan and Damon Lindelof, indicate they see online and mobile companion content as a way to draw viewers to TV shows and make them more loyal.

MIAMI BEACH -- A new survey of 19 TV producers and showrunners shows that there is excitement for opportunities provided by having viewers use a second screen while watching their favorite shows -- but primarily as a tool to drive viewers back to the content on their TVs.

That is among the findings in the second part of a two-part study conducted jointly by NATPE and the Consumer Electronics Association. Part one, released earlier in January, found that almost half of those who use a second screen (a computer, tablet, smart phone or other device) have tried synchronizing their content experience to live TV viewing.

The second part includes feedback from consumers about want from the second screen experience, showing 48 percent want information on a shows storyline and characters and 46 percent want additional background on the episode. The producers interviewed for about half an hour each for part two of the study include Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), Anthony Zuiker (CSI), Damon Lindelof (Lost) and Caryn Mandabach (Nurse Jackie).

While they see great opportunity in the second screen, they also see challenges beginning with the need for additional money, people and other resources to create high quality content that works with two screens. "Most respondents say there is not enough time, talent or funding at this point to give the second screen the attention it and the audience deserve," says the latest study research, "and they struggle with using technology to create an immersive experience."

There is another concern -- that real-time viewing on both screens will pull attention from the primary content being delivered. The study found they don't want to leave viewers with a disjointed experience, which could hurt the brand.

"They don’t want to neglect first screen material to create second screen content," it adds, "If it's not going to be truly complimentary -- and not just promotional -- particularly as they seek ways to monetize the second screen experience."

Gerry Philpott, CEO of E-Poll Market Research, which was involved in conducting the study, said second screen experiences can deepen and enhance the viewer's experience, make programs more relevant and create a sense of community. "It makes viewers feel special like they are part of a secret club," says Philpott.

He also echoed comments from other panelists and a network research head in the audience who said it is important not to punish viewers who don't watch a second screen. "You always have to make sure the primary viewer is satisfied," says Philpott.

Steve Koenig, CEA's director, industry research, says a lot of this grows out of the development of new electronics creating a need many people didn’t even know they had. "We always have a variety of screens in front of us," he said. "We almost have this predilection for distraction. This is one of the challenges television producers face."

In terms of what the opportunities are, the 19 producers and showrunners said the opportunity to create an extension of the program brand which could serve as an incubator for new ideas. They also see it as a better way to involve advertisers, which could fund truly immersive engaging content.

They see it as having the potential to transform viewers into brand ambassadors through deeper engagement. This would include the use of social media like Twitter to tweet and retweet information about the show to a wider community. If there are the right resources and technology, they also see it as a way to change the experience for younger generations who can take advantage of a rich second screen experience as they consumer entertainment.

Until now conventional wisdom has been that the use of a second screen is best suited for certain programming, primarily sports, reality shows and news, where it will not be a distraction. This study and others point toward a broader use in scripted shows as well.

"There is a wealth of opportunity," said Koenig. "It really comes down to innovation and experimentation. We're right on the threshold of that."

"The results of this research, along with the findings on the consumer technology side that were presented at CES, offer a truly groundbreaking look at the opportunities and challenges we face with the second screen phenomenon," says NATPE president and CEO Rod Perth. "This research offers great insight into the value of program brands and how to sustain them before, during and after they air, which ultimately benefits both advertisers and consumers."

"Phase One of our joint research project helped identify key areas of consumer interest in engaging in the Second Screen experience," says CEA president/CEO Gary Shapiro. "Part Two provides critical insights on Second Screen from the television production community. A deeper exploration of the intersection of these two studies will help device manufacturers and content producers identify a winning, strategic approach to develop this promising market by providing tangible benefits to viewers."