Intrinsic Insight

The naughty little one: tablet is TV’s new best friend?

A recent announcement that almost 75% of UK viewers now prefer to watch TV accompanied by a second screen sent ripples of panic across the already competition-aware community of traditional broadcasters. Before we jump to the conclusion that the days of terrestrial networks’ supreme rule are counted, there’s one fact to take on board: tablet use drives greater TV watching, bringing it to the audiences that for some reason aren’t excited about the larger screens.

Researchers in the US asked 18-49 year olds who use their pads to watch online TV programs – a key TV demographic – whether tablet adoption affected their regular TV viewing. The results were surprising to many: 39% reported an increase, with only 15% saying they are now watching less TV. Even among 50+ users, the net impact is close to zero, according to a study by TDG (The Diffusion Group).

Sounds like good news for the established players: the highly-desired and increasingly hard-to-reach age group are not running away just yet, with so much competition on the tablet market resulting in prices going down and choice multiplying every day. No doubt people will keep buying tablets – arguably the favourite consumer innovation in years. How do TV broadcasters jump on the bandwagon and hold on to a dedicated audience?

There are three things to consider here: new technology, app sidekicks and customer engagement. If these are handled appropriately, chances are the revenues will stay – generated by online video advertising, pay-per-view content and streaming subscriptions.

With video on demand applications promptly developed and marketed by all major stakeholders in the British TV broadcasting industry, it’s time to adopt yet another promising technology made prominent by the 2012 Olympics’ streaming – TV Everywhere, a solution allowing to watch TV on multiple devices.

Asked a year ago, nearly 30% of British broadband households said they want a TV Everywhere solution. Many are still waiting to be served.

It wasn’t a perfect act: the American broadcaster NBC made many viewers unhappy by restricting the live streaming service to cable-subscribers only, no way to tune in and pay for it, thank you. Yet participating households generated 88 million authenticated streams, the most ever recorded for live TV channel streaming associated with the TV Everywhere movement. 30% of these streams came from smartphones and tablets, and the numbers are sure to grow.

The UK broadcasters are starting to pick up the trend: Channel 4 is the first terrestrial network to be added to Sky Go, the TV Everywhere service offered by the satellite Pay TV operator and used by more than 2.7 million of its customers.

Another approach eagerly adopted by smaller companies is launching second-screen applications to match primary TV viewing. Again, there are ways to use the technology to strengthen ties with the audience. Social media discussions, creative ways to predict and explore developments of a show or series, special merchandise offers can all help viewers sit through the advertising and keep them watching along, maintaining their interest in the programming. It is easy to get assistance, too: app creation platforms aid broadcasters in building companion apps.

Social networks deserve a special mention. Many a word was said and written on the importance of engaging customers within the environment they feel most comfortable about. Phone calls are annoying, billboards are the easiest thing to ignore. What if the brand’s Facebook or Twitter becomes one of your favourite conversation partners? I admit I was sceptical, thinking nothing could rival the content you directly relate to. After I “liked” a certain gym chain, my perceptions changed: the knowledge they share gets me thinking and wondering, and I see a great deal of interaction happening on their page, too.

The TV industry is an established frontier fighter for innovation, adapting new technology as it comes along – the UK transition from analogue to digital viewing is a fine example. Uncertainty has been there forever, unnerving the unfit and creating opportunities for the brave.