Wednesday, 7 September 2011

TV is the Second Screen

TV is the second screen

There are a lot of surveys and statistics and sound-bites out there saying things like “The majority of viewers now watch TV with a second screen in front of them.” This is a rather presumptuous way of interpreting the data. I don’t doubt that the basic numbers are entirely correct and I don’t doubt that the trend is pointing to more of these behaviours, not less. But the entire statement is back-to-front.

The majority of home internet users have the TV on in the background. That’s a more accurate way of looking at things. This is an entirely logical conclusion. After all, if the TV was engrossing enough to retain people’s attention, they wouldn’t be looking at the internet in the first place. The internet is usurping the TV as the primary source of entertainment in the home.

Nothing further to add, your Honour

The TV is still being switched on. TV has the advantage of both being suitably ambient - the internet often doesn’t have any sound - and of being a habit. So you come home, you stick the telly on and you get on the internets. Sometimes you watch the TV, because something you like is on. Mostly, it just chunters away to itself, pleasing human noises filling your lounge.

TV is the second screen.

Social TV is bullshit

A recent blog at started with these words. “We love watching TV and more than that, we love discussing it with our friends.” Well sort of. How about we try “We love talking to our friends, and TV gives us something to talk about.” 

Social TV is a non-starter because it’s not about TV, it’s about social. We want to talk to our friends and TV is as good a subject as any. We’re already talking to our friends and the TV is on in the background and if it’s on in their backgrounds too, then hey, why not talk about it. That is social TV. 

People talking in big letters. About TV in little letters.

'Oh christ, I didn't expect you back so soon.'

The assumption that the TV bit is more important than the talking to friends bit could only come from inside the TV industry. Think about it from a normal human’s perspective for even a second and it instantly becomes obvious what the hierarchy is. 

TV is the second screen.

Look around you

I straddle the worlds of gaming and television. That’s my job, introducing them to each other, laying on some drinks, some sweet music, subtle lighting, then nipping out of the room and hoping they’ll make babies.

When I go to gaming conventions and seminars, I feel like an outsider, because all anyone cares about is games. Everyone is standing in a big metaphorical circle, all facing in, all looking at each other, completely ignorant that there’s a whole world of other stuff out there, ripe for the picking.

When I go to television conventions and seminars, I feel exactly the same and I see exactly the same thing. Apps, second-screen, marketing, advertising, gamification - I mix with all these incredibly close disciplines, all of which share considerable space on the Venn diagram I’m not going to draw, and they’re all looking inward, all trying to understand the world in their own terms and no other.

Well that’s some serious bullshit. Stop doing it. It’s dumb.

As if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared
The future of television, the same as the future of games, the same as the future of advertising, marketing, media, content itself, is a big, interweaved basket with bits of all of these things working together. Open your eyes, look around you, try, at least a bit, to understand the world in terms of the world and not your tiny bit of it. It’s not about the future of television, it’s about the future of entertainment.

And remember, TV is the second screen.


  1. Yes. This. Especially with the Venn diagrams. I make games & do news, and it's the same thing. Even within disciplines of gaming. Everyone looks inwards and lots of wheels get very badly reinvented.

  2. Glad to know it's not just me! I would be amazed if, were you to show a bit of popular media from ten or so years hence to someone now, they wouldn't have a job describing it as a game or a TV show or an advert or what have you. The point of all this 'the internet' stuff is that its blurring the lines between these disciplines.

    At the end of the day, we're all either making stuff or consuming what others have made. What those things are, is staggeringly un-important. It's what they do, what they mean, that matters. We only have so many emotions, we only tell so many stories. You can make someone aware of a brand with a poem, teach them Spanish with a game, make them cry with a youtube video and make them laugh at a painting.

    We're all working on the same platform, in the same medium, when it comes down to it.


  3. 'Social TV is bullshit', <= Indeed. 'Social' is the new 'interactive'. Lazy minds stick it in front of anything they want to sound more interesting.

  4. This is great.
    I've been guilty of saying 'socialtv' (though not with any malice aforethought). Never again ;)

  5. Actually I think TV is the third screen if Apple and Microsoft strategy is anything to go by...

  6. That is a bloody great article. That large screen will be communal and background. The small screens, more personal.

    Thanks for the comments :)

  7. 1. Being on the periphery is where it's at Mark - only then do you look around - take a proper butchers and spot things others more focussed don't. Plus you can dip in and out of different circles/ industries far more easily enabling you to cement your position on the periphery.
    Can't remember who said it but something about innovation happening around the edges and the consultancy What If, call it "river jumping" or some such management spiel which makes them lots of money. I do however agree with the principle.

    2. We avoid talking about people because we're the hardest bit to work out and predict.

    3. That's it.

  8. Actually there are 4 screens:

    1. TV
    2. Laptop
    3. Ipad or tablet
    4. (i)Phone

    So TV is the fourth screen.