In today's world more people are using their tablets and smartphones to access catch-up TV and media content. The second screen provides an extension of the television set, and also a clear opportunity for broadcasters to tap into a new type of viewer
A growing amount of people are increasingly consuming media content on multiple screens. This rapidly exploding phenomenon has been made possible through the widespread deluge of tablets and smartphones that are now available at various price points, and thus are of greater appeal to much larger segments of society than previously.
Laptops too fall into this category of mobility and portability, offering viewers an opportunity to consume content on larger screens. TV content is now available for viewing, how you want, when you want it and where you want to watch it.
With Icflix, they can do exactly this by logging into their account on multiple devices including smart TVs, tablets, personal computers and smartphones that will each give them unlimited access to their content."
Abim Onasanya, head of Research & Insights at the
He says: "Today's second screen experiences do not make any tangible dent on the way we watch television. Very rarely, if at all, do existing second screen apps augment the TV viewing experience on the big screen.
The one notable exception is, of course, social media engagement – e.g. tweeting whilst watching a TV programme that instigates you and your friends or declaring your affinity to and love for a show by checking in, or following… all of which, research shows, correlates to enjoyment of a TV programme.
"The real change to how we watch TV is being brought about by dual screening – i.e. watching TV on the big screen as well as – or increasingly more - on laptops, tablets and smartphones. Mostly, this is done at home, rather than on the move, which is a significant distinction to point out," continues Onasanya.
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Hamm says: "There is no doubt that the second screen phenomenon presents an exciting opportunity for TV content and service providers to further engage their viewers and greatly enhance the "TV" experience.
Tablets and smartphones are much better platforms than the television to provide engagement, social and interactive features. We're beginning to explore and develop some early second screen experiences for our broadcaster clients in the region, like Dubai Media.
From a second screen app, a consumer can get more information about their favourite TV shows, actors, directors, etc., anytime and anywhere.
The app can also provide remote access to the EPG, so viewers can see ahead what's playing on TV when they get home, and even watch some previous episodes if they need to catch up. A more advanced feature might be the ability to remotely program a home DVR from the app, if integrated with the service provider's STB.
"While watching TV, a second screen app can be the best place to engage with the social web, allowing viewers to share their experiences by tweeting, posting on
Let's not forget the opportunity to merchandise using second screens! In the very near future, we will see much more interactive second screen experiences, for example allowing viewers to engage with live programming in real time by providing immediate feedback like voting or answering trivia questions, even via video.
The second screen has the potential of pulling the audience into the programming itself, which could significantly change the way people watch TV," adds Hamm.
Since content is now available on smartphones and tablets, compatible apps are necessary to facilitate viewing on these devices. Onasanya says: "It is essential that all MBC content is available on as many internet-connected devices and platforms as our viewers own and use. We deliver content via Apple iOS; Windows; Android and Blackberry."
"The most popular device for streaming Icflix, as for online streaming in general, is the laptop. However, we have found that more and more users are opting to use their accounts from their tablets and Smart TVs as well. Mobile devices are not as popular, likely because of the convenience of streaming on a larger screen," according to Tibi.
Hamm, takes things a bit further and explains why he thinks there is tremendous potential for second screens. "Seems like anything can be a TV screen – refrigerators, automobile dashboards, watches, glasses! Seriously, expect to see an explosion of screens in the coming months and years. For now, we're focused on the main screens, which is challenging enough.
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TV's are very interesting because there is a massive struggle going on to keep viewers glued to the TV. Smart TVs pull it all inside the television, but so far have fallen a bit short on the user experience side.
We are going to need more HDMI inputs, because more OTT video devices that connect to the TV are flooding the market.
We like the
Although it can be a challenge adhering to Apple's user experience standard and get through their approval process, at the end of the day, it's easier to deliver a consistent user experience on iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches than the more open Android platform.
The good news with Android is that it's more open and easy to get on Google Play. However, the downside is there is much inconsistency across the Android devices, in terms of screen sizes, UI and video playback. There are also Windows and Blackberry devices to consider, although we haven't seen as much demand for putting native apps on those platforms," continues Hamm.
With all these different devices that content needs to be streamed to, adaptive streaming is incredibly essential. Without it, there would be a constant lag when viewing content, based on the capabilities of the device.
Even more so, the virtue of adaptive streaming is that it allows files to be streamed onto different devices, at different bit rates and different resolutions, creating a much more satisfying viewing experience.
Hamm explains: "Adaptive streaming is very important for the simple reason that we cannot control end-users' Internet bandwidth. Progressive download helped to solve video playback for lower or inconsistent bandwidth users, but we're seeing less demand to deliver video in this format, especially if the video requires secure delivery or digital rights management.
For both live video and video on demand, adaptive bitrate streaming allows us to deliver the highest quality of experience possible given a viewer's available bandwidth.
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Lowering a video's bitrate is a much better user experience than continuous buffering as a user's connectivity changes. If delivering multiscreen video, we can deliver the appropriate protocol with the multiple renditions needed for adaptive playback. This is how we're delivering for most of our clients today."
Tibi agrees and says: "Adaptive streaming is critical to our members' experience as it ensures that their video will never stop to buffer because of lagging Internet speed. Instead, video quality will decrease until the Internet is working at the minimum speed of 1.5Mbps required to support full HD quality (1080p)."
Onasanya says that whilst there is an increase in dual screen viewing – i.e watching TV content on laptops or mobile devices as well as on TV screens, TV is still the dominant platform by a very long margin.
According to the network's research carried out amongst Arab Idol viewers that stream video content, it showed that 79% watched the series on live TV; of which 20% watched on both live TV and online platforms (including via mobile devices).
He says: "The number of dual screeners is set to grow as content owners / broadcasters make their content more readily available online and smart device penetration, mobile broadband and Wi-Fi availability continues to grow. In terms of how demographics go, we are observing growth across the board even though dual screening is currently youth-led."
Hamm adds: "I believe we will definitely see continued, if not accelerated, growth in consumers spending their "TV time" on devices other than the TV. At the same time, as mentioned before, there is a renewed battle going on between pay TV, Smart TVs and connected TV devices, such as
Regardless, TV portability will be a major driver for TV on mobile devices and tablets. Demographically, I've seen some research by firms like
According to Tibi "The number of new members joining Icflix has been growing consistently since the launch, but there is still a long way to go. The service has been met with such enthusiasm because it is the first to cater to viewers' native language entertainment needs online.
South Asian and Arabic expatriates globally now have easy access to content they could not find before, and users in MENA also can stream popular
Leading the way in subscribers are the
So now for the real question, will second screens kill linear TV? All of our experts disagree, and instead think that second screens will pave the way for a different way of enjoying TV, and if anything, complement it.
Onasanya says: "Watching television is a principle family and social activity. Besides, the economics of the TV business does not lend itself to mass unicasting.
As well as the flexibility and convenience of streaming two separate programs on two screens, there will also be augmented TV viewing of big entertainment formats; Event TV; Sports: where viewers can be provided with secondary video feeds, different camera angles, alternate footage e.g. "as seen from Arab Idol contestants POV," explains Onasanya.
Tibi concludes by saying: "TV broadcasting and services like Icflix complement each other as they serve a different function. What Icflix does is allow people to have more flexibility when consuming content as they can browse and choose what to watch on-demand.
However, TV consumption rates have not dropped, but are actually still increasing as traditional broadcasters also update their systems.
Research is showing that people now tend to use each of their devices for a different purpose and are actually consuming more content but on a variety of screens. With technology like the smart TV, which allows consumers to view both types of entertainment, it seems like the two can coexist easily."
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