Connected TV company says second-screen apps are distracting

For the Super Bowl, the connected TV marketing company CTV Advertising conducted a survey. It worked with ten heavy-consuming TV viewers (“couch consultants”) around the country, and asked them to fill out questionnaires before and after the game about “companion applications,” with an emphasis on synchronized advertising. And the results are in:

  • 6 of the 10 said they experienced “social disruption” in engaging with a second-screen app during the game, including negative reception from others in the room.
  • 4 of the 10 said the second-screen ad experience distracted from the primary TV spot
  • 7 of the 10 said they had trouble getting the apps to work properly, including “poor content recognition, loud group conversations and a general confusion as to what ads actually held synced capabilities.”
  • But… 8 in 10 said they derived value from the second-screen content experiences. “There was also a widespread acceptance and deeper engagement found for ads that rewarded their viewers with specific incentives.”

All this, according to CTV Advertising, adds up to one conclusion. “”There is a lot of power within the second screen, but also a lot of considerations and difficult factors when creating brand experiences for consumers,” said Zachary Weiner CEO of CTV Advertising. “Our belief holds that true two way interactivity found within the first screen holds the potential to have more seamless user experiences, such as our main practice area of connected TV advertising.”

Now, ten “couch consultants” are not a statistically-significant sample by any stretch, and CTV Advertising certainly has a vested interest in attempting to prove the point that second-screen apps are distracting. But I think there’s some truth buried in here.

As we mentioned in our Super Bowl social wrap-up, the big game is a different animal and not a good gauge for daily TV programming. Many people are watching with their friends — more than any other TV event — and the social TV experience is happening in real-life. “Second screen experiences are very unsocial when watching with friends in real life. Not sure of solution,” tweeted NBC News’ Ryan Osborn during the game. If I’m watching alone, that’s another matter.

Second-screen ad experiences are still in their early days, and they have a ways to go. “So few of them were done with any forethought whatsoever,” wrote Alan Wolk, managing director of the social strategy department at KIT Digital. Wolk argues that most second-screen ad experiences are “way too time-consuming and confusing” to conduct while trying to watch TV. “Let me save something for later in a basket, bookcase, coupon book – whatever you want to call it. But don’t make me stop and make decisions I have to think about.”

Wolk also raises one of my longtime concerns about Shazam. Unless you’re lightening fast — and know exactly where you’ve stashed your Shazam app — tagging a 30-second commercial is a challenge. (For the record, Shazam says it saw “record engagement” during the Super Bowl.)

In the world of companion TV experiences, the second screen has a big head-start over connected TV. That’s because 1) a touch screen interface beats a remote control hands-down and 2) the iOS and Android platforms have tremendously more scale than all of the fragmented connected TV experiences combined. But what happens as Android (underway now) and iOS (probably soon) apps begin to extend into connected TVs themselves? Will the first screen or second screen become the primary “companion” experience? What if it’s both, synchronized together? This will be a very excited time over the next two years.

What do you think about the first screen vs. second screen debate?

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