A First Look at Second Screens

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Getting Closer to the Action

As the United States Tennis Association (USTA) learned, second-screen apps are also useful for helping fans stay involved with a live action event that takes place over a number of days. Last summer, the USTA gave fans a new way to follow their favorite players during the US Open when it introduced the 2012 US Open Tennis Championships app. Developed through a partnership with IBM, the app, made available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, provided match data, player analyses, news updates, videos, photos, tweets, and Facebook updates in real time. The data that fueled the app came from IBM's on-site hub, where dozens of people monitored the live scores, Twitter sentiment, and other analytics.

The purpose of the app was to enable fans to stay engaged with the action at the US Open wherever they were, explains Phil Green, senior director of advanced media at USTA. "People are on the go so [having an app that provided] scores, news, videos, and photos is important for that core live experience," Green says.

The social media component is also critical, Green adds, because it allows viewers to participate in the same conversations. "Whether you were watching the match on TV, sitting in the stands, or sitting in a cafe in France, you were part of the same social conversation regardless of the device" he says.

During the 15 days that the US Open took place last year, the USTA received more than 325 million page views across its platforms and nearly 12 million unique visitors—a "phenomenal number," according to Green. Between the iPhone, Android, and iPad, the USTA had nearly one million downloads of its app during the tournament. At one point during the Open, the iPad app even topped the list of free sports apps in the iTunes store. The USTA was more than pleased with the app's results, according to Green. "When users come to our site, whether that's on the desktop or laptop or our app, they are engaging with us and they're sticking around," he says, "and you can't ask for more." Green stayed mum on further plans for the app except to say that the organization is working on ways to enhance the fan experience even further.

Targeted Synchronization

Gracenote, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America and a competitor of Shazam, is making its own mark in the second-screen advertising space. Like Shazam, Gracenote started out with audio recognition technology for music and has since branched out into ads for second screens.

What differentiates Gracenote, according to its president, Stephen White, is that instead of having users tap a button to access the exclusive content, Gracenote uses its audio and video fingerprinting technology, combined with other software, to recognize the content on a person's TV and then deliver synchronized Web ads and other content automatically to a brand's app.

"Synchronized second screens open new possibilities for advertisers, and we're building out these platforms that allow for this [synchronized] capability to be seamlessly integrated into apps," White says.

The Syfy network used Gracenote's Entourage offering to power the recognition feature of its Syfy Sync iOS app, allowing viewers to further engage with shows like Haven, the original series based on a Stephen King novella, and the reality show Faceoff. If viewers open the Syfy app while watching Haven, for example, the app will serve up interactive content that is synchronized with what is being shown on the television screen. The content includes alternate endings, behind-the-scenes photos, videos, polls, and quizzes.

Although the network declined to share ROI stats about the app, Syfy is an example of the ways that brands are experimenting with second-screen content, according to White.

"Brands are starting to tap into these interactive capabilities and provide a new experience," White says. "This is the time to experiment and try things that haven't been done before."

To that end, Gracenote plans to give its clients even more options to experiment with through its partnerships with other vendors. In January, the company partnered with Invidi to develop an advertising system that can identify the TV programs and commercials viewers are watching in real time and determine which commercials should play next. By combining Gracenote's audio and video fingerprinting technology with Invidi's ad decisioning engine, advertisers can target preselected audiences with specific commercials on their television sets and mobile devices based on demographic data.

Also in January, Gracenote teamed up with the video stream management company mDialog and the ad management and distribution platform DG. Gracenote and mDialog are developing ways to deliver targeted advertising to viewers across cable and satellite broadcasts as well as second-screen devices in a more seamless manner. Gracenote and DG are fueling the delivery of targeted advertisements that are automatically synchronized between what is being shown on the television and a brand's Gracenote-powered app.

In terms of how companies could develop branded content for second-screen ads, John Douglas, DG's product marketing manager for converged media services, sees two patterns developing. "Companies have an opportunity to create a more engaging ad through second screens," he comments. "Say Lexus had a commercial for their fall line on TV, and they knew something about the audience member. They could serve up an ad for a roadster versus a sedan, and inside that ad are car configurators, different offers, and dealer locations."

Douglas also describes a situation where the second-screen ad could be "nothing more than a 'like' or a simple link to a URL or Facebook page. It's an ad that wouldn't necessarily interrupt the experience that a user has within the application."

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