Take a look at any average young family and you’ll see a household littered with screens. A laptop or two, a couple of smartphones, maybe three. Maybe even a couple of iPads. Probably a TV in the bedroom apart from one in the living room. That’s possibly seven screens and counting, even before the kids get into the act.
Whether you’re a media or content business, a brand or a digitally delivered service, this screen proliferation presents both a challenge and an opportunity.
Traditionally the television has held the pride of place, thanks to its size, centrality in the household and because of all that the word implies ('television' comes from the ancient Greek words for 'seeing' and 'far'). But increasingly for a new generation of users, the TV is just another monitor for delivery of on-demand content. Many people under 30 do not buy a television set, instead choosing to consume media off a laptop or an iPad.
Even for TV watchers, we have seen the emergence of the 'second screen' – where a viewer will also have a smartphone or laptop alongside the TV, while watching a show. The interplay between the 'primary' and 'second' screen has been the subject of much interest over the past few months. Game shows, sports and current events have tried to woo viewers on multiple screens, often combining social media or a partner app for a TV show.
At the moment, I am exploring the counter-intuitive possibility of allowing the second screen to drive the first. In other words, capture the activity in the second screen to create a shared storyline for TV. A good example of this is to capture sentiment in real time during a live show (news, current event or sports) and to present that dynamically as a part of the storyline on television, and make it a part of the program.
Despite the rise of on-demand content, TV is far from a dead medium. While a lot of the multi-screen content and behaviour has been seen as contributing to the downfall of TV, social media is driving people back to the schedule via recommendations, comments or 'likes', taking the place of the traditional commentator and working in real time.
This would be a good time to explore creating an innovation lab, dedicated to the study of emerging consumer behaviours, devices and technologies, so that a lot of new ideas could be tested without impacting the core business. We now need to consider three, four or more screens and work out how they can potentially combine to create single experiences or monetisation opportunities.
If you 'own' the multi-screen world, you edge ever closer to owning the consumer.
Ved Sen is director of mobility at Cognizant