What is Connected Viewing?
Connected viewing, while specifically referring to a multi-screen and multi-tasking entertainment experience, relates to a larger trend across the media industries to integrate digital technology and networked communication with traditional entertainment practices. Yet, as a relatively new entertainment activity, the phrase means different things to different people.
In an effort to clarify the objectives of MIP’s Connected Viewing Initiative (CVI), we generated this primer to highlight basic information, definitions, descriptions of products/services, and relevant questions. Specifically, we aim to provide some guidance about how connected viewing is understood while acknowledging that there are a variety of ways to approach this research topic.
Definitions and Questions
MIP defines connected viewing as any product or service that augments the entertainment experience by integrating Internet access, game play, and/or social networking. The prototypical connected viewing activity brings multiple screens into alignment, offering audiences a way to enjoy the interactive capabilities of mobile devices and laptops while simultaneously engaging with traditional media texts. Digital distribution strategies, cloud storage options, digital production, gaming, social networking, and a variety of regulatory and economic factors enable the experience of connected viewing and are crucial to analysis of this entertainment experience.
The following are some of the areas CVI is addressing in its research on connected viewing:
- How is connected viewing transforming the relationship of viewers to media content and access?
- How is cloud storage and digital collecting different from collecting “packaged media” or physical copies?
- How does mobile and remote access to content affect user experiences?
- How are these changes affecting the production, delivery, and consumption of modern media?
- How does the integration of second screen technologies influence consumer engagement and preferences?
- How are social networking services driving the “search and discovery” of media content?
- What are the key implications for content producers and consumers?
- Do connected viewing technologies privilege a certain type of consumer?
- How does the production of connected viewing content align with current media production budgets/time tables and consumer home entertainment budgets/time tables?
- How will changes in the industrial landscape (regulatory policies, media ownership, and digital innovations) have an impact on connected viewing strategies and capabilities?
In our interviews with industry executives, we have learned about their concerns and strategies for connected viewing. Many of the executives understood connected viewing as a way to increase the value of home entertainment products in the wake of declining DVD sales. They expressed concern that consumers are choosing to rent more often than they are choosing to buy, treating streaming subscription services (or SVOD) as personal cloud collections instead of buying new content. Executives believe that by changing the “ownership proposition” – providing new access to content, providing access across digital platforms, adding value to extra content, and integrating social networking and games – they will encourage consumer desire to buy.
The questions executives have about CV are focused on ownership and the decision-making process of consumers:
- What kinds of extra content do fans value? What would they pay for?
- How can the game micro-transaction or micro-payment model, i.e. where customers pay small fees for increasing access to content, be applied to linear video formats?
- Why do consumers rent instead of buy? Why do they choose one distribution service over another?
- What experiences do consumers prefer on which platforms or devices? How do they allocate their time?
- How would a direct-to-consumer service work? What are the obstacles involved in these propositions?
- How does the context of viewing influence the type of content consumers want and what they’re willing to pay for?
- What do consumers want from digital ownership? What do they value?
Categories of Connected Viewing
Second Screen Content
Second screen content refers to any kind of website, app, or mobile service that is designed to be used in conjunction with television viewing (be it DVD, over the Internet, or live programming).
As an example, sports and news programming often integrate second screen (or “companion”) viewing opportunities providing the audience with interactive content, such as chats, voter polls, statistics, and additional video footage (behind the scenes, alternate angles or related stories). These activities are sometimes integrated into an orchestrated event such as BD live Blu-Ray viewing parties that connect audiences across the globe. Disney has concentrated on the gaming aspect of second screen content by creating apps that allow viewers to play along with their home video collection by answering trivia, learning about the special effects, and solving puzzles on their mobile devices and tablets.These technologies make the home viewing experience a multi-tasking multi-screen experience. They also emphasize the live event as one screen that must be synched up to another to create the connected viewing experience.
Social Networking Services
Essential elements of connected viewing strategies are found in efforts to integrate social networking into the viewing experience. Television broadcasts have made Twitter hashtags a regular feature of live shows. Some industry professionals claim to be able to predict ratings based on Twitter usage. Because of this correlation, shows use social networking websites to remind viewers to tune in for live broadcasts and to generate buzz about upcoming episodes.
Social networking sites are also used to organize interactive chats with the show creators during broadcasts. HBO, Showtime, NBC, and USA have all created services designed to organize their social networking. Facebook has also been used as an exhibition venue – Warner Bros., Paramount, Miramax, and Universal have all made their content available on these websites. The Facebook Social Theater app for Universal Pictures allows the audience to “tag” particular scenes and share comments with their friends. This kind of peer-to-peer communication has the potential to boost ratings, promote content, and enhance the “search and discovery” process.
Apps and Websites
Connected viewing apps bring a variety of connected viewing activities together in one place. They allow audiences to use social networking services, cloud access, games, and second screen services on a mobile platform. Like games, these products and services often use a micro-transaction model – consumers pay a small price for access to the movie and make additional small payments for the “complete experience.”
Warner Bros. is one of the few entertainment studios to offer app versions of their films. It is much more common to find connected viewing apps associated with television shows. Television connected viewing apps replicate the content from a network website and present it through a more convenient mobile interface. For example, in some of the more interactive apps, like “Psych Vision” for USA’s Psych, audiences can answer trivia about the newest episodes to unlock extra content. Offering extra content in these platforms is another way to add value to connected viewing strategies.
In many ways, “over-the-top” technologies are Web TV 2.0 – they bring the interactive and networked capabilities of the Internet to the television screen. Game consoles, like Microsoft Xbox, Sony Playstation, and Nintendo Wii are the preferred conduits for over-the-top viewing, and they account for the majority of the Netflix streaming traffic. Apple TV and Google TV are recent examples of technology designed to revolutionize or replace the cable box as the device that delivers entertainment to the television. These services offer connected viewing capabilities, and have the potential to significantly affect traditional distribution models.