The TV industry is excited about apps as a complement to linear programming, with a buzz around ‘two-screen’ interaction as viewers watch TV while using a smartphone or tablet. Meanwhile, connected TV apps are coming into the picture too.
A panel session at MIPTV this morning looked at some of the innovation that’s happening in the apps space around television.
The panel was (l-r): David Jullien, director, business development, digital gaming at Endemol Worldwide Brands; Patrice Slupowski, VP of digital innovation and communities at Orange; Daniel Saunders, head of content services at Samsung Electronics Europe; Tom McDonnell, commercial director of Monterosa; and Jeroen Elfferich, CEO of Ex Machina.
The panel was moderated by Richard Kastelein, CEO of Agora Media Innovation, and publisher of Appmarket.tv. He cited a report saying that 80% of UK teenagers use second screens to communicate with friends while watching TV, with similar trends noted in the US.
“Early adopters may be the youth, as they usually are with emerging technologies, but the rise of the tablet is a game changer for those of us who have played in the field of social TV for some years,” said Kastelein.
Jullien kicked off, by explaining that Endemol first tried connected content with Big Brother years ago, but has moved on to allowing viewers to play along online with the show – starting last year with the Million Pound Drop, screened on Channel 4 in the UK.
Online players get a virtual million pounds to bet on questions, as the contestants are doing it on the TV. Data is then fed back into the show, with presenter Davina McCall announcing how online players are doing in comparison to the actual contestants.
Numbers peaked at 189,000 people playing during one show – 8.6% of the TV audience. 83,000 scores were shared via Facebook during the show’s second series, with 1.3 million people playing along over the first two series.
Endemol is rolling this feature out around the world, as the show is screened in different countries, including Fox in the US. Players can use a PC or laptop, but also a smartphone or a tablet to play along. “We really want to put connected features inside a show – inside its DNA,” said Jullien.
Over to Slupowski from Orange, who showed off Orange’s 2424actu news service, with its iPad, iPhone and Android apps. They pull in television news reports from more than 50 partners, along with radio clips and news articles.
“The idea which is behind that is we definitely want to be presenting on each of the four screens an experience which is adapted to that screen,” he said. “The main problem we have with that is it costs a lot to be present with a dedicated experience, but we are working on that.”
Slupowski also showed off a new ap called TV Check, which applies the Foursquare dynamic to TV, allowing users to check in to the shows that they are watching, connect with their Facebook friends, and win badges for their achievements. It’s similar to US apps like GetGlue, Miso and IntoNow.
There is also an automatic check-in – users point their phones at the TV and use the camera to detect what show is being watched, earning points for their check-in. “People can expect that they will be featured in the shows they like too,” he added.
Over to Samsung’s Saunders, who said that over the last two to three years, Samsung’s new TV sets have been app-capable, and it has smartphones and tablets too. “It’s not just about video-on-demand,” he said, adding that photo-sharing sites like Flickr and Voice-over-IP services like Skype make for compelling apps on a TV. Samsung ran an app development contest last year in the UK, France and Germany, to encourage developers to start building apps for TV.
In 2011, Samsung’s new connected TVs will have social networking apps like Twitter and Facebook “side by side with linear broadcast, which is a first I believe”.
Next up was Monterosa’s McDonnell. “Persuasion is a major factor in some of the things we’re going to talk about here,” he said. “No matter how good the experience or applications are… there’s a huge gap between the existence of that thing and getting everybody to do it.”
In 2009, Monterosa worked with the BBC on The Apprentice, and got 0.2% of viewers to play along online. Later that year, with Living’s Four Weddings, 1.4% of viewers played along. Then with Million Pound Drop in 2010, the first series hit 4.5%, before series two hit 8.6% as explained earlier. “That to me says creative integration is driving response, and also general awareness of this mode of operation – this way that you can play TV is infiltrating people’s consciousness.”
Over six shows, there were 785,000 unique users playing along to Million Pound Drop, with the average dwell time of 27 minutes. He also introduced a comedic element, revealing that Monterosa has launched a site to help people come up with the ideal two-screen pitch.
Next up was Elfferich from Ex Machina, which has its roots in multiplayer mobile gaming technology, but has evolved into a company providing playalong technology for TV shows. Users can vote, make predictions, play trivia quizzes, chat with friends and even buy the clothes being worn by contestants in X Factor-style reality shows. There are more Foursquare-style badges for achievements – everything from logging in to the first time, to making correct predictions and inviting friends.
“We’ve created a lot of interactive components that can be used to create show-specific interactivity,” said Elfferich, whose company is showing off its technology in the MIPTV Experience Hub hall, located outside the Palais.
Kastelein asked the panel for their definition of social TV. McDonnell: “It hasn’t actually got a definition – it’s like Web 2.0. When it was emerging, nobody really knew what it was… I think it’s a collection of things… the intersection of TV and social media.”
Saunders was asked about whether two-screen interactivity means connected TV apps are ‘taking a hit’ – do people just want linear TV on their big screen, saving the interactivity and apps for their smartphone or tablet? “What the tablet device did was create a very intuitive stepping stone between television and mobile – between in-home and out-of-home experience,” he added.
“They create this really nice intuitive bridge between your social television experience… and your personal television viewing experience… A lot of this is about the native or correct context of the content as against the device.”
Slupowski added that “interface is key”, suggesting that big single-screen applications on a TV set will work, as interfaces evolve to make them more usable for viewers. Samsung is planning to introduce twin-tuner connected TVs this year too: “they will allow you to watch one channel on your big screen, while channel-hopping or browsing other channels on your tablet or smartphone“.
“To reach the next market, just like SMS has proven to be so successful because it works across the board, that’s what we need for this as well. It needs to be ubiquitous and universal.”
Jullien was asked about monetisation for content creators, and warned that it is early days. For playalong quizzes like Million Pound Drop, they need to be free – for regulatory reasons as much as anything – but Endemol sees monetisation coming mainly from sponsorship.
Slupowski said that apps like TV Check can make money too, where people sharing a check-in to – for example – an episode of Mad Men on Facebook might include a tie-in for a friend to buy or watch that episode for a discounted price.