Challenges of the multi-screen user

Nov 16, 2012, 4:06 PM EST


By Homa Zaryouni

Entertainment and technology executives at the Digital Hollywood conference spoke about the challenges of creating a seamless and cost-effective experience for consumers who use multiple screens.

The panel started off with some statistics. Craig W. Wigginton, leader of Deloitte & Touche’s Telecommunications Practice said that 27% of the U.S. population own tablets and 50% own smartphones. 53% of the tablet users use the device while watching TV and 43% of them say it has become a more important entertainment device than the TV. More time spent on different devices means the content provider who can adapt to multiple screens, wins. 

Making content for various devices is not as simple as it sounds. Eric Berger, vice president at Sony Entertainment Networks pointed out, it’s not just a matter of creating a show for television and adapting it to the smaller screen. Berger also supervises Crackle, a website owned by Sony that allows users to view full-length movies and television shows on tablets and mobile. Berger said developers and content manager tinker with the codes device-by-device and platform-by-platform. He described it as a costly process that is not in any way scalable. Berger added that before deciding to extend certain content to mobile and tablet, the company decides whether it would be worth the cost.

Barry Blumberg, executive vice president at Alloy Media and head of Smosh, said content produced for a tablet should be something consumers can interact with. “We want to create content in our brands that people can interact with the way they want to.” Blumberg said interaction with content is not limited to video. Text and photos are popular since users like to share on Pinterest and Tumblr.

In addition to challenges on the development front, media companies face limitations on providing an easy experience for consumers who expect content to appear on different devices without any glitches. All panelists agreed that smartphones’ short battery lives reduce how many videos they can watch on mobile, if any. Multiple remotes are considered a chore, now that smartphones can have built-in remote capabilities.

Ahmet Ozalp, vice president of products in the media division at Akamai said the multiscreen ecosystem is a great opportunity for energy and service providers to “take the complexity out of [it].” He added “These trends have been making life harder for everybody. The expectations for quality have been rising.” In an interview with Blouin News on the same day, Ozalp said he viewed this change as a positive, and that ad dollars will follow the consumers. 



As far as making a profit from the seamless content advertising will always be at the core of monetization, even if consumers pay for some shows or channels. Berger is not a proponent of freemium, content that starts as free but requires payment for more or better content, because it confuses the consumer. Berger said convincing the younger generation is extremely challenging because it is the first time they are personally paying for content. “The younger generation thinks TV is free,” he said. When we offer  $1.99 for them to subscribe to something, they gawk. But they don’t gawk at the $80 to $90 cable bill, because they don’t pay for it.”