CES 2014: Second-Screen Challenges: Who’s Going to Pay For This?

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Hardie Tankersley admits he’s gotten a little cynical about second-screen storytelling. As the vice president of digital production, platforms, and innovation for Fox Broadcasting, he knows that creating five extra minutes of video content for a Fox drama to show on a mobile device can easily cost millions of dollars. The problem is that no one wants to pay for that.

“We keep getting stuck there,” Tankersley said. He was speaking on a panel on second screen challenges at the 2014 International CES show. The first question show creators ask his team when they get a request for extra original content is “How much are you going to pay me?”

Creators and advertisers also ask “How many millions of viewers are you going to reach?” When Tankersley answers “None millions,” the discussion gets chilly.

Advertisers don’t want to pay those costs, Tankersley said, because they’re looking for ratings points and that’s not what a second screen experience provides. Pushing the business model beyond ratings points is a challenge: 75 years of TV advertising history say that media planners get a certain amount of sales for their ad dollar, he noted. Second-screen viewing is outside that model.

“You have to prime the pump,” said panelist Eric Anderson, vice president of content and product solutions for Samsung. His company is helping to pay for some second-screen content because it impacts Samsung’s bottom line. The key is to get involved pre-production, at the script level, and to work with the right creators. Creators will be more interested in the future, he believes, after second-screen successes show them what they’ll get for their efforts.

“Creators are looking for the next thing,” Anderson said. They want a new area to conquer where they can be a leader. He predicts that more will want to take part in the near future.

“You’re going to see some really exciting stuff over the next 12 months,” Anderson added.

As for what kind of second screen content to create, Tankersley noted that unscripted television was the easiest. Looking an “American Idol” voting, he joked that Fox has been doing interactive television for 12 years. Viewers love screen clutter during sports, but hate it during dramas. Comedy is the toughest nut to crack for the second-screen. “Nobody’s figured out how to do comedy yet,” he noted.

The goal for Fox is to use the second screen to make broadcast viewing more fun. Tankersley is optimistic, believing that viewers want to engage.

“For us, the second screen is an additional piece of the creative talent,” Tankersley said.

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