The companion screen: will TV learn to be social?

I’ve been traveling the past few days and did not have access to substantial enough bandwidth to make meaningful contributions to the blog.

However, I will be online for the next few days and will catch up.

One observation I had while visiting App World is how apps are affecting the future of television. The notion of single screen viewing is rapidly receding. In the UK among certain demographics, half of the viewers watch TV while interacting with a “companion” screen. This figure is significant in other markets as well.

The consequences of this dual-screen experience could be profound. More profound than what PVR technology enabled. What I would like to think about is whether the dual-screen experience enables new jobs-to-be-done for TV (e.g. “social” TV) vs. what PVR did which was make TV watching “better”.

The key question is whether solitary TV viewing is a different job from accompanied viewing.

If viewing while in the company of others is a distinctly different job from solitary viewing then a dual-screen approach will allow interaction with a companion even if they are not in the same room. This implies that the more natural interaction for TV viewers is not with the programming but with other viewers.

On the other hand, solitary viewing may be hired for a very different job. Not all programming is suitable for a social experience. Producers need to carefully categorize their production according to what jobs it’s getting hired for.

An even deeper strategic question is whether programs themselves should be designed with social interaction in mind, and if so, is TV production something that should be built in an inter-dependent way with the devices and the second screen in mind? Does there need to be a “studio system” for TV where production, talent and distribution are under one over-arching controller?

This discussion parallels that around the re-integration of the value chains where Apple participates. Perhaps the challenge for the re-invention of TV is really to what extent can any one participant in the value network orchestrate an integrated approach.

More on this topic to follow.