Television makers, networks and movie studios are embracing the tablet and developing original content and software to drive audience interaction and new advertising revenue after initially dismissing mobile devices as a distraction.
At the heart of this volte-face is a growing recognition of how TV viewing, which has stayed much the same over the past decade, is evolving amid the growth of hand-held devices like the tablet. More and more, viewers are fiddling with tablets or smartphones while watching television or tuning out during commercials.
The trend is prompting developers, manufacturers and broadcasters to create tablet applications to hold viewers’ attention, network executives and developers say.
About 40% of Americans use tablets or smartphones while watching TV at least once a day. Twice as many do so at least once a month, according to a Nielsen report.
Pew Research showed that 11% of viewers who followed the first live telecast debate between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama simultaneously followed coverage of the event on computers or mobile devices.
Enter so-called “second screen” apps, software applications on tablets or phones that synchronise onscreen action with supplementary information such as behind-the-scenes footage, costume design information, location details and games. They feed viewers information such as cast and crew comments. They also invite viewer input, such as voting for favorite scenes or characters.
On the hardware end, major manufacturers are gearing up to introduce second-screen features in a big way. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, the world’s largest TV manufacturers touted interactivity with mobile devices.
Sharp showed off a SmartCentral app for its line of Aquos TVs that allows a tablet to function as a remote while also allowing Web browsing.
Users can also browse and select movies from their tablets, and transfer photos and videos to their TVs.
Panasonic demonstrated how viewers can share content from TVs with their Google Android devices. And Samsung Electronics said a major effort in 2013 would be to combine mobile phones with TVs.