Gone are the days where I could sit complacently with a bowl of popcorn and eyes glued to the television.
Watching new episodes of my favorite show on television is now a multi-screen effort. The TV is on, my laptop is open, and my phone is buzzing. Watching TV has become a social activity, and digital executives at major television networks realize that the second screen is another way to reach out to viewers who are already browsing, toggling and chatting while they watch.
The "second screen" refers to the laptops, tablets, or phones we have out while watching a show.
Networks promoting the “second screen experience” have taken an existing trend and catered to it by providing exclusive social content aimed at broadening the viewing experience. Nielsen reports that 86% of tablet owners and 84% of smartphone owners in the United States used their second screen of choice while watching TV at least once over the course of a month. For 41% of tablet owners and 39% of those owning smartphones, that multitasking happens at least once a day.
For me, it happens about once every three minutes.
Second-screen strategy is still in the development process, but networks have seen the importance of adapting their approach to the demands of the 21st century. Armed with that knowledge, networks are now offering content that lets viewers engage with the show and even sync their experience with the episode as they’re watching it.
Popular shows like "The Walking Dead" and "Breaking Bad" now come complete with a tailored two-screen experience through AMC’s Story Sync. AMC created Story Sync after they noticed the explosive popularity of live "watch-and-chats." These live chats on the AMC website allowed viewers to talk with other fans during episodes of their favorite show while accessing bonus content.
Digital strategists are drooling over the consistent buzz surrounding each show on social media. AMC is enjoying the increased traffic and enthusiasm. All parties see it as an opportunity to turn TV watchers into active consumers. Story Sync allows viewers to vote in polls, get access to trivia, watch video clips and chat online during the broadcast of each episode of The Walking Dead. Fans can log onto amcstorysync.com through their tablet, laptop or desktop to enjoy dual-screen entertainment while they watch zombies get hacked to bits in hi-def.
According to Mac McKean, senior vice president of AMC Digital, Story Sync was constructed "specifically to tap into the emotional and dramatic moments of the shows that are most evocative, or that people are most responding to.” The AMC digital team collaborates closely with the writers’ rooms and production teams to create the second-screen content for each episode. The result is a digital environment that immerses fans in the show on multiple platforms.
The second-screen experience runs the the risk of detracting from the show itself. People don't want to be "active" when they are watching TV. Fans worry that they’ll be so busy clicking a button or reading a blurb that they’ll miss key points in the drama. For viewers of The Walking Dead who might be a little nervous about missing out on all the action, AMC’s McKean assures fans that the second-screen is meant to enhance--not distract from--the first.
"We're not asking you to click a button in the middle of someone getting shot, or a complex conversation that you should be paying attention to,” McKean said. Since AMC's platform evolved out of a popular web feature, and Story Sync is just another option in the growing arsenal of ways to connect. Just because the traditional way of watching TV has been in a semi-comatose stupor doesn't mean the new platform can't tap into another audience.
As ratings flail and networks struggle to pull in the ad dollars they once enjoyed, these networks are smart to diversify.
AMC is already receiving encouraging feedback from their fans about Story Sync. McKean and his team are still in the process of developing the second-screen experience, but they are aware of its importance in a generation that demands more ways to engage. Rather than copy-and-pasting their original message onto a different platform, they recognized the value of providing new content for new devices. McKean said doesn’t have "any doubts that we're tapping into something that's going to mean more in the future.”
In the post-apocalyptic world of zombie-killing, the ‘Double Tap’ rule means that you fire two shots instead of one to be absolutely sure you hit your target. AMC made use of a valuable existing resource by tapping into that second screen.
Author: Lane Jones is our Fall Editor & Word-Smith here at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.