April 23, 2012

RAI: Broadcasters need second screen apps and a new mindset

Broadcasters can use second screen apps to start engaging with individuals rather than just mass audiences and according to Francesco Amore, Head of Business Innovation & New Projects at the Italian broadcaster RAI, the use of tablets, smartphones and the PC means there is an excellent opportunity to better understand who the final customer is and what they like. “You need to be ready to understand the information that comes from the different screens and use that to get insights that allow you to improve the content offer. You can also translate this into advertising opportunities,” he declares.

Amore says broadcasters need to change their mindset and start thinking about audiences as individuals, establishing the kind of one-to-one relationships that mobile operators enjoy with their customers. One way to achieve this is the use of second screen apps that are dedicated to programmes, and especially synchronized second screen programme apps. RAI has been experimenting with such apps but until now the approach has been cautious, partly because of fears in the sales department that second screen apps could cannibalize TV audiences and therefore advertising revenues, and partly because, so far, there are no third-party app providers threatening the status-quo.

“Like a lot of broadcasters in Italy, our focus has been the first screen, the television, and we are a little late when it comes to the second screens,” Amore says. “But we are not worried yet because, while people are using smartphones and tablets to text and Facebook while they are watching TV, they are still relaxing around our TV programmes. In Italy there is no way yet to measure what they are doing if they are looking at other things and if they are looking at different advertisements on the tablet.”

If advertisers cannot get the measurements they need from the second screen, they will continue to favour the first screen, so in one way this favours RAI as a traditional broadcaster. But this is also making it harder for the new projects team to drive change as well. “There is an opportunity for synchronized second screen advertising and we are considering these new kinds of features,” Amore reveals. “But typically broadcasters, certainly in Italy but also around the world with the exception perhaps of the UK, are scared about cannibalizing their existing revenues. So they are holding back and pushing forwards slowly.”

Before it lost the rights to the X Factor to Sky Italia, RAI created a voting app for the show in one example of how it has been working on second screen concepts. That was in 2010. There were two notable attempts to synchronize second screen engagement with the main TV programme last year. The first was the X2-TV app to accompany the ‘Voyager’ programme on RAI 2. This provided additional information around the science/history documentary show. The broadcaster has been looking at how it can integrate e-commerce into this app, so that viewers can link to information about travel deals related to places in the show, for example. The other second screen app was created for ‘Social King’ on RAI 2 and the children’s channel RAI Gulp.

Amore is keen on real-time synchronisation of second screen apps if advertising is involved. “It is important for us to know the right moment to push an advert,” he notes. He is not concerned about the potential for third-party app providers to use content recognition to serve alternative advertising, not sold by RAI, on tablets or smartphones in tandem with the broadcaster’s programmes. He argues that apps of this kind will need broadcaster cooperation to succeed.

Francesco Amore is speaking at the Connected TV Summit next week on the panel: ‘The battle for the synchronised second screen’. This considers questions like: What features make a good synchronised app for live television?; What can third-party apps provide that a broadcaster cannot?; What can programme owners/originators provide that third-parties cannot?; and What is the market for synchronised advertising, and who gets the money? Zeebox, Channel 4, TV Nova, Civolution and NOS are also on this panel. Get more details about the conference here.