With smartphones and tablets becoming commonplace, the second screen is a recognized trend even in India. Many people watch TV as a background activity while surfing the Net, or updating Facebook and Twitter, and the channels want to get these viewers to pay attention to the big screen by making the experience more interactive via their smart device. While this is fairly prevalent in the US, India is starting to see interesting applications of this technology as well.
The latest Indian example is the bindass channel. A part of Disney UTV, bindass has started to experiment with the concept of social TV -- instead of a stand-alone app, it uses Facebook to connect users directly to bindass Jukebox, a daily music programme, and allows them to influence what's on the screen.
Second-screen technology connects the experience on the two screens in some way to make the TV-watching experience more engaging. Many US-based channels took the first steps in this direction by displaying hashtags on the screen to encourage people to Tweet on specific topics. Today, apps like i.TV and yap.TV go a lot further -- if you're watching something on TV, you can also check into that programme on the app, then look up Wikipedia or IMDb, or get news updates, in the yap.TV app.
So, for example, if you're watching the latest episode of Arrow, you might get a link to read about the rumours of the Justice League movie, which you can read at the same time.
The HBO Go iPad app has a second-screen experience for users too -- unfortunately, the app is US-only, but while you're watching Game of Thrones on your TV, you'll see commentary, maps, quotes and artwork on your iPad. These kind of apps take your second-screen experience to another level entirely, and keep you fully invested in the show on television. Without such an app, the viewer is likely to engage more with Facebook or Twitter, and switch off the TV entirely.
The bindass application on Facebook is much more basic -- it works with a music show, and users can control it by voting on Facebook. It's very limited; essentially just the same concept as sending an SMS to vote for the next song, but the idea is to get people who are on Facebook anyway involved with the show.
Earlier, Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa (on Colors) had also integrated a similar functionality -- viewers could use the app to catch up on older performances, and also vote for participants, along with sending tweets, without leaving the app. NDTV has added a similar function on its app, allowing users to vote on the questions to be asked during its discussion shows.
Along with bindass, these channels are trying to stay relevant in an increasingly connected age, but the apps don't really add anything that couldn't be accomplished with an SMS. More data-driven, informative services are needed to really keep users engaged -- but for India, it's early days yet.
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