Cracking the screens
Media bosses hope mobile devices will help, rather than hurt, television
IN THE television business, as at buffets, people crave seconds.
A series is deemed a success if it is renewed for another season.
The industry is currently obsessed with the second screen—mobile phones and tablets that people play with while they watch TV.
Around three-quarters of American internet users regularly fiddle with a mobile device while watching the gogglebox.
Media executives are abuzz working out how to turn this distraction into profitable transactions.
Twitter, a social-media firm which published its filing on October 3rd for an initial public offering, has big ambitions for little screens.
It trumpets its role as a complement to TV, pointing out that Americans sent 24m tweets during this year's Super Bowl and that 45% of the TV ads during the event invited viewers to tweet about them.
The firm has launched Twitter Amplify, a service that lets media firms and others tweet clips of shows or sporting events.
These carry sponsorship messages from advertisers and make money for both the TV company and Twitter.
Old-fashioned TV companies see the opportunity too, and insist the second screen will not hurt their first, and primary, source of advertising revenue.
Viewers who are multitasking with other devices tend to tune in for longer, because they are commenting on the shows online or interacting with extra content through the networks' apps.
A survey by Bravo, an American network owned by Comcast, found that viewers using mobile phones were also more likely to sit through adverts.
TV executives predict it will become more common to sync TV and mobile ads, so marketing messages are reinforced across the two screens.
On October 7th, Nielsen, a firm whose ratings determine how much TV networks get paid for ads, launched a new product that analyses how many people comment about shows on Twitter.
Sporting events and talent shows present the greatest opportunity, because they attract passionate fans who like to chatter online.
Some shows, such as The X Factor, encourage voting, and others feature social-media comments on live TV.
There are now as many start-ups vying to profit from the second screen as there are Real Housewives.
A daft name, like Zeebox or Viggle, is mandatory.
But with more screens, advertising may become confusing.
Firms will start to advertise on mobiles while viewers watch a TV ad for a rival product, predicts Charles Muirhead of Rightster, an online-video platform.
And media firms must be careful not to besiege viewers with too many ads and novel features.
There's a fine line between providing consumers with information they want and annoying them, says Alan Wurtzel, president of research at NBCUniversal, a media firm.
The second screen is unlikely to be as lucrative as many hope.
For one, its impact will be limited to certain shows.
Second-screen applications work best when people watch live TV, says Jonathan Reynaga of Tiny Horse, a digital-media firm.
一个叫Tiny Horse的数字媒体公司的Jonathan Reynaga 说第二屏幕在人们观看直播电视时应用最好。
But more people are watching shows on demand.
No one is sure whether the money spent on advertising will grow thanks to the second screen, or simply come out of marketers' overall TV budgets.
At a recent gathering of TV executives in Cannes, Dan Rose, who oversees partnerships for Facebook, gave a slick presentation about his firm's ambitions for making money from TV.
He did not discuss whether the advertising pie would shrink for TV companies.
The audience must have found themselves wondering.
He left the stage without taking questions.