Second-Screen TV Apps Drive Engagement, Not Necessarily Hard Dollars

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Smartphone or tablet apps that are tied in to a cable TV show are definitely about "discovery and engagement" -- and not advertising revenue today, said Tammy Franklin, senior vice president of affiliate sales and new media distribution, Scripps Networks Interactive.

"We're looking to broaden and deepen that engagement through second-screen experiences," she said, speaking on a panel here at the 2nd Screen Summit NYC, presented by Multichannel News, B&C, TWICE and the Media Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA).

"We think advertising and advertisers will come -- but we're not there yet," Franklin said.

For the premiere of the latest season of Food Network's The Next Food Network Star, Scripps inserted a Twitter hash-tag icon into the episode to evaluate how that would affect viewership compared with the prior-season debut. The results were inconclusive as far as driving TV viewing, Franklin said.

"We definitely saw an increase in engagement online -- but it was hard to see what the effect was on linear TV," she said.

On the other hand, for The Weather Channel, monetization of mobile apps "is a core focus for us" because users have expressed a strong interest in accessing weather-related content whenever and wherever they happen to be, said Patrick McCormack, the network's vice president of mobile sales and strategy.

"Mobile has been a runaway success for us," he said.

Citibank sponsored The Weather Channel's social section, which incorporates tweets about users' observations and comments about their local conditions. "We have the scientific, meteorological approach," McCormack said. "Then there are people walking down the street in New York, and it's hot -- and you want to hear that real experience."

Wiredset, which measures social media activity, worked with Weather Channel to winnow down 1 billion weather-related tweets over a several-day period into a more manageable bunch that is published on the network's site and apps. (Disclosure: Wiredset's Trendrr provides the data for Multichannel News' weekly Buzz Meter feature.)

"You have a ton of real-time, actionable data that can drive an enormous amount of value to your audience," said Mark Ghuneim, founder and CEO of Wiredset and Trendrr. "People don't realize the incremental value here -- your future audience is participating in nothing but this."

A minimum of 1 million users for a second-screen app is necessary to make any money, said Jeremy Toeman, founder and CEO of Dijit, which has developed a remote control TV app. "That's table stakes, and anything else is about stickers," he said.

Toeman said a lot of social-media conversation about TV is worthless. "We haven't been able to capture water-cooler conversation before -- now we can, but we don't have any clue about what percentage of Americans [engage in social-media conversations]," he said.

Dijit found that it needed to strip functions out of the initial iterations of its app because it included features, like looking up actor profiles in Wikipedia, that most users did not care about. "What we learned when we sliced and diced it many different ways is that people were interested in knowing what channel their favorite shows are on and occasionally telling a buddy about it," Toeman said.

Ashwin Navin, chairman and CEO of Flingo, which develops software for Internet-connected TVs, said that the whole concept of "social TV" is redundant: "People watch TV to be part of the conversation. All we've done is time-shifted and place-shifted that conversation to the living room."

The panel, "Monetizing the 2nd Screen," was moderated by Multichannel News editor in chief Mark Robichaux.

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