What if the most interesting growth area in the media economy isn't in providing stuff for people to read or watch but to create things to act as a companion?
"Second screen" behaviour is already an established phenomenon. According to Ofcom's 2012 Communications Report, seven out of ten of us regularly look at a mobile phone while watching TV and 54 percent access the internet.
Will this technology transform the TV industry and can publishers get in on the act?
Anthony Rose, former head of Future Media and Technology at the BBC and a key architect of the iPlayer, knows a thing or two about TV and digital media. His second screen startup Zeebox offers a stream of interesting facts and social interaction from friends.
Rose says TV is developing into an interactive medium, first through social media and now with truly two-way interactions between audiences and programme makers. He tells us:
If you think about three phases of TV, you started with programme makers creating programmes that are broadcast to people at home. You could yell but no one could hear you. Now with social, people create second screen experiences around them, you can shout, and people can connect around the show, but the TV programme remains somewhat impervious to this conversation.
The evolution of the third phase of TV is where shows are now created where the content is not just the video, the package is you and other people watching. In that model you are creating new models where audience participation is fed back in.
Rose points to NBC's forthcoming US TV show Million Second Quiz, which will allow viewers to play along and, if they outperform the on-screen participants, get flown out to take part.
ITV in April launched second screen apps for shows including Who Dares Sings, Four Weddings and Hell’s Kitchen, while Channel 4 this month launched a beta version of its 4Now app offering tie-in activity with a range of shows. ITV CEO Adam Crozier has described second screen as a "great opportunity" with demand being driven by brands.
A different TV ad economy?
Rose founded Zeebox three years ago as a companion TV guide app incorporating social media and has since racked up five million downloads in the UK, US and Australia.
Zeebox is working with, and has taken investment from, broadcasters including Comcast and BSkyB and is partnering with the likes of HBO to build new complementary TV services.
Creating new ways to engage audiences is becoming ever more important for broadcasters as time-shifting and digital recording devices mean many consumers fast forward through the ad breaks. Rose says some Zeebox partners are seeing as much as 50 percent of drama, entertainment and comedy being watched after the original broadcast.
But the creation of these new relationships could change the TV advertising economy as programme makers get more involved in direct relationships with the audience. Rose says Zeebox doesnt seek to upset the broadcasters' role in advertising, but he says programme makers could become more closely involved through second screen.
New content opportunity?
But is there room for non-broadcasters to get involved as well? Rose says Zeebox is working on something similar to a "Flipboard around TV shows" which will aggregate relevant content and social conversations and deliver it at the appropriate time to coincide with what people are watching. He says:
Content related to television is currently distributed in different places. You can go to the Guardian and get live blogs, you can go to eonline, but you have to go to many places.We will essentially be a Flipboard around TV shows, so if you like Top Gear we will give it to you on a home page.
Can you author content specifically for second screen? It’s too early to tell and at the moment it’s just aggregation, but there are also a lot of opportunities to create customer content for that audience. When you create content there’s always a commercial opportunity involved.