We’re all guilty of having favorite TV shows that we tune into week after week. But what used to be a solitary experience has turned into an interactive, communal experience. The proliferation of smartphones, social media, and high-speed Internet has given us the ability to experience TV with other people and interact with our go-to shows in real time. This new way of life is called the second-screen experience: the experience of users engaging with live television shows through the use of at least one additional device, such as a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
Nielson reports 84% of smartphone and tablet owners use their devices while watching TV. AMC, one of the most successful media players, realized early on that people were starting to consume media differently and saw an opportunity to adapt to the way users experience TV—with a mobile device or tablet in hand.
The second-screen experience is more important than ever as companies like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime revolutionize the TV industry. Netflix, which releases an entire season at once, allows users to watch what they want, when they want. Giving users the ability to binge-watch shows has taken a significant amount of viewership from traditional TV.
However, because these streaming services are on-demand and cater to a viewer’s own schedule, traditional networks have the unique opportunity to capture the enormous masses of viewers during live broadcasting. In other words, traditional networks that premiere shows at a set, regular time can take advantage of the viewers who tune in every week.
The Walking Dead Comes to Life
Widely known for the blockbuster successes of Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, AMC pushed the envelope again by pioneering the second-screen experience. Fans of The Walking Dead were already engrossed in the show’s website chat feed, also known as live “watch and chats.” In response, AMC created an app called Story Sync. During the live show, Story Sync allows viewers to immerse more deeply into the series by participating in social media polls, contests, and questionnaires.
AMC created an experience where viewers feel like they are part of the cast. Using Story Sync, viewers can express their opinions by answering timely polls and trivia questions that “sync” with the episode’s plot—with each terrifying turning point in the story, new media appear in the app with which users can engage. The questions spur debates and allow users to see opinions of other people who are watching the same episode across the country.
A Story Sync “Judgment” poll during the show
Roughly one million Americans turn to Twitter as their second-screen app of choice. Due to Twitter’s real-time nature, TV shows and live televised events are some of the most frequently discussed topics. AMC network execs saw the power of the hashtag and created the #WalkingDead to curate content. Using the hashtag, AMC can stir conversation and connect viewers. Sometimes the network goes a step further by hosting live Walking Dead Twitter chats during which viewers can ask the cast and crew questions.
AMC organized a Twitter chat with Steven Yeun, who plays the character Glenn, using the hashtag #AskWalkingDead.
The Viral Spread of the Second Screen
Not to be outdone, major media networks and providers like ABC, HBO, and CBS have taken up a second-screen experience strategy. For example, Survivor, one of CBS’s longest-running reality shows, adapted to the second-screen hype by creating an app that offers details on the castaways, behind-the-scenes information on the challenges, and participation in polls and quizzes.
Other hit shows that haven’t yet adopted a second-screen app rely on Twitter to drive social conversations around the shows. However, Twitter cannot be a network’s only distribution channel. If large media players want to take the second-screen experience to the next level, they need to invest in more technology to interact with their viewers and enable them to dive deeper into each and every episode.
Broadcasting the Benefits
Obviously, the second-screen experience benefits fans of shows like The Walking Dead, but AMC receives many brand benefits essential to its business’s goals and objectives.
- Increases ad revenue by encouraging fans to watch the show live (instead of recording it on a DVR and skipping the commercials later).
- Boosts ratings and retains viewership by providing additional content fans crave.
- Increases social chatter and brand awareness by incentivizing users to share their experience on social media.
- Collects customer insights & data from users interacting with the app