Interactive TV

Lucy, one of our lovely Planners, attended Manchester Digital’s Emerging TV event last month, and kindly shared her findings with the team over lunch. This is a particularly interesting topic for us, as we are keen to explore how interactive TV can create added value by enhancing a user’s experience.

It was great to find out more about the various types of interactive TV, whilst also getting the opportunity to have a little internal debate over what constitutes a good experience.

First of all, we should start by defining what connected TV is:

“Connected TV is the term generally used by the television industry to describe a product or service that combines ‘traditional’ broadcast digital television with new services, applications and programming such as Catch-up TV and Video on Demand (VoD) delivered via broadband. It is also known as Smart TV or Hybrid TV”. (Digital TV Group)

Basically, it means that the TV is connected to the internet in some way, whether it’s via a games console, laptop or a smart TV.

There are different classifications for ‘second screening’, so here are a few examples used in the Emerging TV session:

Dual screening:The use of other screens (laptop, mobile, tablet, etc.) whilst watching TV to do something else unrelated, usually via an app or browser, i.e. the TV set is the first screen and another device is the second screen

For example: Watching the News whilst browsing Facebook on your mobile.

Synchronous activity: This is where the second screen is used in relation to a programme. At the moment, it is challenging for the TV industry to capture this information as the user is not directly interacting with the programme.

For example: Watching Mad Men, whilst tweeting about it.

Companion activity: Something that supports the TV programme, and enhances your TV viewing experience. Sometimes these Apps draw your eye away from the TV programme. The overall goal is something that actually compliments the TV viewing experience; something that triggers audience participation.

For example: Playing along online with The Million Pound Drop while watching it on TV.

The evolution of TV

There is no better place to start than at the beginning… Our TV journey began back in the old days of ‘simple TV’ — can you believe we only had three to five channels then? But even during these times, interactivity was part of the experience. For example, Winky Dink and You (1953-1957) encouraged children to draw on the ‘magic’ window that sat on the television screen, while Multi-Coloured Swap Shop (1976-1982) involved a high level of viewer interaction.

The audience was at the heart of both these shows, and, therefore, the viewing experience went beyond watching TV and resulted in high levels of engagement.

The future

Here at Code, we think that dual screening is here to stay. The broadcasting industry’s main challenge is thinking of ways to maintain audience engagement in a way that complements TV programmes.

Channel 4 recently promoted synchronous activity in a really engaging, effective way with their show The Plane Crash’.

The Plane Crash is a great example because it enhanced the viewing experience by making it personal — allowing viewers to ‘check-in’ to the flight on Facebook before the show. This prompted social interaction and subsequently boosted mentions at the right time, without distracting the audience from the programme itself.

Effectively, the show got people talking.

What does this mean to us?

There’s room for digital agencies to get involved with exciting projects like this, offering creative solutions that blend technology and human interaction to add value for the viewer and complement the programme.

In some cases it could be a matter of positioning. For example, the Dispatches App adds value and meets a need by offering viewers more information. However, the depth of information on the App could actually disrupt their viewing of the programme. In this case, it might be better to position the App as something for the audience to engage with after the programme, rather than during; this could be reinforced by messaging at the end of the programme, directing viewers to the App.

That summarises some of our thoughts on Interactive TV, and now we want to know what YOU think — get in touch via the comments section below to share your opinions.