How tablets are changing our relationship with TV

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    We have yet to see the full potential for tablets as second screen enhancements for television programming and what is being referred to as 360 degree viewing could be an important future development. Laura Chaibi, Director of International Research at Yahoo, who has headed a major study into the impact of tablets on our media experiences, reckons the devices will give us a second view of the programme we are watching on the main screen, one that we can control and which helps us feel like we are a part of the action.

    She points to how Channel 5’s ‘The Gadget Show’ offered viewers a 360 degree view of the studio on their tablets during a trailer, but predicts that this could be ramped up for events programming like sports. In the case of The Gadget Show, the trailer for the Gadget Show World Tour, which aired in April 2012, was billed as the world’s first 360 degree dual-screen TV broadcast. Having downloaded the tablet or mobile app, you could scroll left or right to see camera views off the main set or physically move the tablet so that if you turned around, you saw what was ‘behind you’ in the studio (as if you were sitting in front of the main set inside the building). Throughout, the main television offered you the standard view, with you in front of the action. (XS2, the app developer, has a video showing 360 companion TV in action).

    “Imagine it is a World Cup football game, the television gives you the typical linear coverage with commentary and the crafted story but the tablet puts you in the middle of the pitch before kick-off. You can pan around the entire stadium as if you were there,” Chaibi says.

    Chaibi points out that the tablet harnesses three senses, not two, adding touch to the equation and she thinks that motion detection will become an important tool for producers and apps developers creating enhanced TV experiences. A simple example would be to use a swinging movement for voting on shows. She refers to the beer app where you can pour yourself a pint of virtual beer complete with movement, sound and vision. “You can be playful with a tablet and they capture more of our senses. That is the closest to a real world experience we have ever had in a media sense.”

    In a study on the impact of tablets called Media Senses, which among other things involved going into people’s homes, Yahoo identified three main television related behaviours. The first is the TV extension ‘companion’ experience, where the tablet complements what is happening on the main screen. The second is the tablet as a substitute for the TV set, where there is low involvement with what’s on TV and high involvement on the tablet. The third is when people actually put the tablet to one side and give their full attention to the television screen. Chaibi and her team use the phrase ‘appointment-to-hide’ for this last behaviour.

    She says one thing that remains stable in television behaviour is our desire to sit together in the living room as a social family/household unit, although we may now be watching different things. “That ‘need state’ is still very apparent, but if the Father has power over the remote control, or the Mum does, and not everyone is interested in what they want to watch, the rest of the household are turning to other screens because they did not make the appointment to view [with the main television set].”

    When people use the tablet as a (second screen) complement to a television programme (the extension experience), the primary use is to seek further information about the show. 58% of adults with tablets are doing this in some way, Yahoo’s Media Senses study reveals. Three-quarters of under-35s use the tablet to find more show information, whether it is fact-checking or learning more about actors, for example. The next most common behaviour is to look for things related to the show that are more content related than information driven. 41% of people told Yahoo they do this, leading them to official (producer/channel owner) locations and third-party app partners but also other destinations.

    The third major second screen enhancement behaviour is to get involved in conversations about the content. 30% of adults said they are keen to be part of a bigger conversation around content, whether they are contributing themselves or just watching them develop. In the under-35 age group the figure rises to 49%.

    When it comes to second screen advertising, 27% of adults with tablets who were surveyed said they try to engage in some way with advertiser brands associated with a television programme. The figure is 36% in the under-35 age bracket. They could be looking for more information or interactive content extensions and it could be via an official app or at the website or both. Asked if she thinks second screen engagement will deliver the scale advertisers need to take it seriously, Chaibi says the market is still unfolding.

    One work-in-progress is the development and buying platforms that can deliver audience reach across multiple publisher locations and so deliver large scale audiences in a streamlined way, avoiding having to deal with lots of publishers separately.  “We need to ensure the infrastructure is there to free people up in terms of administration. There is lots of work that still needs to be done on that but these behaviours will cause innovation,” she says.

    In the context of the wider media market, Yahoo found that in the UK more than in other markets, the tablet is replacing the printed magazine. People are looking at travel and retail content among other things. 70% of adults who are tablet owners said in a survey that they browse on their tablet every day. Chaibi says “Browsing is back; it is undergoing a renaissance because the enjoyment factor of browsing the Internet has returned.”

    Previously, when using laptops or even desktops whilst also watching TV, people were performing lean-forward and functional tasks like checking emails and paying their bills. Tablets, thanks partly to their better audio but also because they are tactile, encourage people to enjoy themselves, so that they lean back and go on a journey of discovery across the web. Chaibi adds that people do not seem to favour apps over browsers as their gateway to the Internet, or vice versa, but seek out the entry point that suits them best. So if the app offers a subset of a web experience and they want the full-flavour version, they use the browser. Equally, they are using apps where reduced scope makes life simple, like when buying a train ticket.

    A general characterization of the tablet user is a slightly up-market 24-45 year-old and households with children are more likely to have one. People who are not tech-savvy are embracing these devices and Mums especially see their value as an enabler for their lives, Yahoo found. Interestingly the study revealed a trend for  teenagers heading for university to ditch expensive mobile phone contracts, get themselves cheap phones and invest in tablets instead, partly because of their entertainment and educational value but also because they were worried about living their lives on phones that are vulnerable to theft because they are used so openly in public.

    The Media Senses study used quantitative and qualitative research and included a survey of 500 representative tablet users, living room interviews, real-time tablet web diaries and industry expert interviews.

    Laura Chaibi will be speaking at Future TV Advertising Forum in December where she will be revealing more of what Yahoo has learned about our media relationship with tablets, and what it means for broadcasters and advertisers.

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