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March 26, 2012
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Still early days for synchronized apps

The rising tide of computer tablets is encouraging content creators to write companion applications that allow viewers to watch programs and interact with them simultaneously, but trial and error is one watchword for this young market.

“There’s a slot of consumer interest, a lot of teething problems to sort out, but some very interesting potential,” said David Mercer, Vice President and Principal Analyst for Strategy Analytics, who participated in a Videonet-hosted webcast last week titled, “Making Pay TV First Choice on Every Screen.”

Mercer pointed in particular to a multi-screen TV app for FX UK’s new series of “The Walking Dead.” The app was created by Red Bee Media using Civolution’s audio recognition technology. One of Mercer’s colleagues conducted an ethnographic study of this second-screen app with six iPhone and iPad users who were fans of the show.

The study reported mixed results. As noted in Mercer’s Strategy Analytics blog, one of the app’s most popular features was one of its most basic, namely: to remind users when the TV show was about to start. On the downside, within 10 minutes of the show starting, viewers lost interest in the app, shifting their attention instead toward a “single-screen experience.”

Strategy Analytics also found that some users encountered technical difficulties with audio synchronization. Raising the volume on the TV is one way to improve audio synchronization, but one viewer found the noise overpowering. Losing the connection between multi-screen devices not surprisingly leads to dissatisfaction.

In the webcast, Mercer said it was important to keep these second screen experiences in context. Only 7 percent of the overall UK population had looked at Internet video on a smart phone, and that number is even smaller for tablets, despite their rapid rise. Yet that growth bears watching.

“It’s a long term opportunity,” Mercer said. “I would hope that somewhere down the line, television producers and content guys actually think about multiple screens as they begin developing these programs.”

Videonet’s latest round-table discussion, ‘Making Pay TV First Choice on Every Screen’, assesses the impact of multi-screen Pay TV services so far and next steps in terms of business models and technology, including delivery models and content interoperability challenges.

The panel brought together Aleks Habdank, Director of Digital Entertainment Product, Virgin Media; Neale Foster, VP Global Sales, IA, ACCESS; Samuel Sweet, Head of Pre Sales & Partners, EMEA, NDS; and David Mercer, VP & Principal Analyst, Strategy Analytics.

You can view the discussion here.