Second Screen Provides Opportunity, Complications for Sports

As the last bastion of appointment viewing, live sports programming presents seemingly limitless opportunities for second-screen engagement. Checking stats on a smartphone, choosing alternate camera angles on a laptop, even watching an entirely different live game on a tablet have become not only accepted while watching the first screen, but expected.

Moderating an early-afternoon panel at yesterday’s 2nd Screen Summit in New York City, MLB Advanced Media SVP of Multimedia and Production Joe Inzerillo encouraged the definition of certain buzzwords within the second-screen discussion.

“Part of the thing that we’re dealing with right now [is] people sometimes use terms that become sort of amorphous,” said Inzerillo, speaking to an audience gathered in the Metropolitan Pavilion. “One of the things that I’d love us to focus on is the notion of over-the-top versus multiscreen versus second screen, because they really all blend together, and you’ll see that it’s actually much more complicated in a lot of cases, especially for live sports where we sort of live and die by the timeliness of our connection.”

Pete Scott, VP of Emerging Media for Turner Sports, discussed the pay model of March Madness Live as a way to increase fan engagement by allowing fans to jump directly into the experience. March Madness Live is a suite of live products offered across multiple platforms for $3.99.

“What we constantly see is, each year, the growth of mobile and the ability to basically watch all this content on mobile devices,” said Scott. “As you can imagine, this happens every year. As they keep growing, I think, for us, you sort of have to play the balance of how we can essentially sell that content, how we can placate the cable operator, and make sure that we drive TV Everywhere consumption and usability.”

Although the term “second-screen” infers a synchronous first-screen experience, the panelists discussed opportunities to use mobile devices both independent of, and sometimes in place of, a television set.

“Linear TV only has limited shelf space; you can only program so many hours a day on your TV network,” said Damon Phillips, Vice President,, “What broadband allows us to do is, you can take Games 1 through 16 of college football and put them on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and have Games 16 through 50 and put them on ESPN3… [When] we look at second screen, we look at things like: Do you want to go deeper into what you’re watching on television right now? Do you want to do something else? You can be checking scores, checking fantasy; you can also be watching another game.”

To Inzerillo’s point, determining what is meant when one mentions second-screen is pivotal to the second-screen conversation, particularly when the conversation turns to monetization. While a consumer may have no problem with paying to watch an entire game on a mobile device, he or she may not want to pay for a secondary experience, thus necessitating ads and sponsorship.

“I think when you talk about the second screen you really have to differentiate,” said Bill Hendler, CTO, Chyron. “[Mobile devices] are becoming primary viewing devices [which is] a different prospect than the interactive platforms and the audience engagement, direct user communication interactivity platforms. We’d really like to see that stuff turn into a business.”

The panel also discussed whether the producer of the first-screen production should be responsible for the second-screen content, or a different unit entirely. Bruce Gaum, director of client solutions and technology for Dome Productions, described the “clash of cultures” between the first- and second-screen producers and his company’s decision to build a companion trailer for second-screen.

“Over the course of the last year, we started seeing the deployment of more tablets, smartphones, [and over-the-top devices],” said Bruce. “There’s been such a huge increase in the demand for content on the second screen, so we’ve developed a companion trailer that we’ve built, engineered, [and integrated]… We’re showing up to do live sporting events in the big truck [and bringing the companion truck for second screen].”

On the flipside, Hendler argued that for a truly synchronous experience, the first- and second-screen productions should not be separated.  With 80% of those watching live sports engaged in second-screen activities, according to Hendler, including social media, it’s essential to tie that live conversation into the first-screen broadcast.

“A big part of social media integration is [it’s] a live conversation about an event still drawing live viewers,” said Hendler. “To be able to contribute to that interactive metadata from that main production without having to strap on extra people and extra equipment… [and] to take the second screen and tie it back into the first screen live broadcast [is necessary for current revenue models]… Financially, it’s going to be a long time before it’s an adequate revenue model [to separate] the second screen other than on marquee events.”

Regardless of how content creators treat the second screen, all are faced with the multitude of devices on which content is expected.

“Second screen by definition has a lot of fragmentation right now,” said Sam Blackman, CEO and co-founder, Elemental Technologies. “If you want to reach a person on Android devices or Apple devices or Microsoft Silverlight devices or Adobe Flash devices, there’s different protocols and different standards … Given the challenges [surrounding] revenue on the monetization side, we think it’s important to simplify the process to customers so that they don’t have to worry about how to reach out to [each device].”

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