Understanding Dual Screen Content Apps: A Market Overview

Understanding Dual Screen Content Apps: A Market Overview

In our current media and technology climate, hardly a day goes by without a new announcement about dual screen applications. We believe that there are plenty of reasons for people in the content business to care about this evolving space. As Brightcove CEO Jeremy Allaire explained in a previous post, we think the rapid adoption of mobile devices such as the iPad will have a huge impact on the way consumers interact with content, potentially putting billions of consumer dollars up for grabs: cable licensing agreements, advertising budgets, on-demand subscription fees, not to mention the future of the connected home.

But despite all of the excitement -- or perhaps because of it -- there is still a lot of confusion about what the different types of dual screen apps are and how the technology is evolving to support this use case. In this series of posts, I hope to give some shape to this area and shed some light on where each of the major players are placing their bets. 

Multi-Screen Users: Opportunity or Threat?

First, we should clarify some terms. When people talk about dual screen experiences, they generally mean scenarios where a consumer is engaged with two screens simultaneously, most often a television and a mobile device such as a tablet or a smartphone. For instance, Google recently shared research that showed up to 77% of consumers are using a second device while watching TV

But while some fans will be truly engaged on both screens -- e.g., tweeting about the touchdown they just saw on their flat screen -- many others are just multi-tasking, say, checking out the latest pictures of their friend’s baby. The first case is good for a content publisher, the second not so much.

If you’re a content owner, you want to make sure your audience is not distracted. For you, dual screen apps represent both an opportunity to recapture the interest of those users and to direct that attention in ways that are more profitable. Rather than just a single, one-way screen, content providers now have two surfaces with which to engage their audience: one to deliver the TV show or sporting event and another to create an interactive experience that enhances it with additional information, related advertising, or calls to action. These are the types of experiences that are poised to radically transform the way consumers engage with content.

Emerging Technology and Startups

Of course, wherever there is opportunity there is going to be competition, and both startups and tech giants have started targeting the dual screen space. Roughly speaking, they fall into two categories:

  • Social aggregators of dual screen content. Companies like GetGlue, Shazam, Zeebox, and Sidecastr have all created apps that detect what program a user is watching and present social or companion content on their device. Their hope is that they can assemble a large enough audience to become interesting to advertisers that want to target these users.
  • Platform providers. Apple, Google, and Microsoft are each building enabling technology for dual screen apps into their platforms, as they view content-centric apps as a key battleground in their overall platform war. Also participating are consumer electronics giants like Samsung, Sony, and LG. 

This battle is still playing out, and it’s not clear which approach will win, but when fundamental technology architectures are in play, platforms generally win in the long run. If you can successfully deliver the capabilities that enable armies of developers to build vertical or use case-specific applications, the network effects will generally overwhelm any individual competitor that is trying to do everything on its own. In the meantime, Brightcove's goal is to help our customers manage this evolution by providing solutions that allow you to reach the technology platforms that matter.

With that in mind, I will devote the next few posts to looking at how Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others are approaching the world of dual screen apps. I’ll give an overview of the technologies, then look at how they are addressing what I think are the four most important pillars that will determine success:

  • Technology foundation -- What are the built-in capabilities of the technology? Are there inherent limitations in the approach?
  • Ease of use and flexibility -- How easy is it for the average consumer to discover and use the technology?
  • Interoperability -- How compatible is the technology with existing infrastructure (e.g., existing TVs or set-top boxes) and standards
  • Developer enablement -- Does the platform enable individual developers and partners to extend the ecosystem, thereby creating network effects that drive adoption and create barriers to entry?