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Online Video Insiders Aren't Using Second-Screen Apps: Study

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Knowing what to offer consumers, at least when it comes to second-screen applications, starts with knowing what we as consumers like or dislike about the very same second-screen apps.

At the Streaming Forum 2014, held in London in late June, I presented a session on trends in second-screen application usage. The basis for the presentation was a survey and a subsequent report, produced for Streaming Media and the survey sponsor, Piksel.

One set of questions revolved around survey respondents’ usage patterns. I’m not going to give away the details here, but suffice it to say that senior-level executives across the industry, including a quarter of respondents who work for companies that develop second-screen applications in Europe and North America, choose not to use second-screen applications themselves during a live sporting event, breaking news, or even a first-run television episode.

On the other hand, I also found a few key areas of promise, partially driven by the methodology of the survey. One key area was that of pricing for content, and the methodology was designed to ask the same question from two different vantage points. The first dealt with how a respondent felt about pricing for his or her own viewing habits, while the second dealt with anticipated consumer behavior when it came to pricing.

We also asked the questions using two parameters, at least when it came to eliminating advertising from a show for a set price: One pricing threshold eliminated ads from all shows for a month, the other from one show for a week.

More than half of the respondents anticipated that viewers would support a $3–5 threshold to eliminate ads from a catch-up service for one month’s time, with an additional 18 percent of respondents seeing a $10 threshold. On the flip side, 17 percent of respondents thought this feature would fetch no more than $0.50 per viewer.

In addition, when it came to eliminating ads from a single favorite show for one week’s time, more than a third of respondents anticipated that viewers would support a $0.50 threshold to eliminate ads from a catch-up service, with a total of 64 percent of respondents seeing a $1 threshold as viable.

In addition, we looked at the question of recommendations. Many of the respondents said they ignore auto-generated recommendations, and a large number said they personally ignore personal recommendations -- a surprising revelation since personal recommendations for general consumers have been shown to have surprising weight when it comes to viewing content. Think of the old “word of mouth” or the newer “viral” phenomenon and you’ll see how personal recommendations work.

While personal recommendations continue to grow in importance, up by 75 percent over current adoption rates, it’s quite interesting to note that -- when asked to predict which types of recommendations might grow in the next 12-to-18 months -- the value of trending recommendations changed when the perspective of future-casting came into play.

Responses show the potential for trending recommendations may make a 33 percent gain versus personal recommendations, perhaps because trending is seen as less susceptible to the perception of gamesmanship exhibited by consumer responses to automated or sponsored recommendations.

Or perhaps it’s all about not being left out of something that’s becoming exceedingly popular. Either way, this potential trend deserves further study.

In the end, what we’ve found is that the industry may be its own canary in the coal mine. The value of second-screen applications cannot be understated, and several free-form answers to survey questions reveal exciting opportunities and ideas for those companies who sell the software tools to develop second-screen applications to content owners. Yet at the same time, we as an industry need to come to grips with the fact that we don’t always use what we sell.

That fact should be a warning to us all.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2014 issue of Streaming Media as "Second-Screen Apps: If We Don’t Use Them, Who Will?"

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