Looking to the second screen future with deltatre

Carlo De Marchis is Chief Technology Officer of deltare, and thus one of the people with their fingers firmly on the evolving digital pulse of sports broadcasting. He says that London 2012 sent a clear message to the industry; namely that fans need sport, sport needs reach, reach needs digital, and that the genie is now well and truly out of the bottle labelled ‘second screen.’

“This is clearly a very exciting and challenging period for the digital sport business,” he says. “Online users are still growing, mobile adoption is growing very fast, apps are become more and more relevant, sport content is king and live sport content is growing impressively on digital. Overall I see better discovery, more consumption, more reach with challenging and innovative ways to monetise.”

He maintains that digital (a shorthand for second screen, IPTV, Connected TV etc in this context) is there to help broadcasters not to compete with them for eyeballs and in the wake of London 2012 and the Sportel conference and expo in Monaco in October, sees the second screen everywhere.

“It seems to be the thing everybody is really talking about,” he says. “Broadcasters see second screen as a threat and an opportunity, they are desperate to take control of it. They understand someone else can if they don’t. But what have they that others can’t do? That’s the question they should ask themselves.”

De Marchis points out that the second screen, even if implemented normally in just one way as a tablet in front of a TV screen, does not represent one, single user experience, but many. He classifies these as:

  • Informative – asynchronous use of the mobile device for unrelated or loosely related information consumption
  • Synchronized – synchronous information consumption (with watermarking or fingerprinting technology)
  • Engaged Native – synchronous engagement on a specific UI built for the TV programme/sport event
  • Engaged Social – realtime engagement on social
  • Airplay – mobile device sending video to the big screen
  • TV remote control – mobile device controlling the TV and adding synchronous content (no watermarking or fingerprinting needed)

Interestingly, he also contends that the importance of what has become rapidly labelled Social TV looks to been over-estimated. “There was a stand mentioning the term at Sportel and some broadcasters have alluded to it, but it was not a massive volume of interest,” he says.

“Twitter is great for sport, it’s realtime, it’s simple and immediate – ideal for mobile consumption too,” he continues. “But it may miss something to really attract the masses. The engagement model also has some issues as it’s very often not so easy to have dense conversations around a live topic – explore ‘hashtag X’ is a bit for advanced users.”

As he points out though, Twitter works supremely well on mobile. “The new generation is using less and less laptops and more and more smartphones and tablets; soon kids will start their journey in digital natively from mobile devices,” he says.

This, of course, presents a challenge for broadcasters and others, who need to design with the multi-platform landscape firmly in mind, rather than simply coming up with a web design and then trying to work out how to make that go mobile in turn. “Smartphones are the backbone of our digital life – the smartphone is the device that is always either in our hands or in our pockets. Many user interactions start from the smartphone,” he says.

So, who does De Marchis think is adapting to the new landscape well? In a word, sponsors.

“They are becoming more and more active in digital marketing with very creative and engaging campaigns, they expect to be able to leverage sport sponsorships with a similar toolkit,” he says.

Elsewhere, mobile companies and telcos are seeing their positioning and revenues threatened by the big guys (who in this neck of the woods go by the names Google and Apple), while Rights Holding Broadcasters are caught in the middle. “They still mostly operate broadcast and digital as separate tasks, they very often repurpose broadcast content on digital – possibly not the best case. They understand digital but they are still unsure what to do exactly, they are often driven by defensive objectives.”

Federations need to up their game too. “Their digital presence will be losing traction if they don’t start to focus less on their own website (comfort zone) and more on mobile and social,” says De Marchis. “It has been proven that the official event app can easily dominate the market by being top featured in app stores, but they need to nurture the ecosystem and dip their toes into the water.”

But then De Marchis reckons that everyone needs to ensure they are part of the conversation about the future of the industry over the coming years. “In general if I have to consolidate down to a single message it is: don’t get in love with your comfort zone. The pace of change is very high, and being adaptive is more important than having a long-term strategy.”

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