Second Screen Engagement Can and Does Succeed Beyond Live TV

Colin HornettiPowow are a Los Angeles-based interactive media company specialising in second screen and participation TV. The company was conceived four years ago on a surf beach in Sydney, Australia, when Gavin Douglas, iPowow’s Chief Commercial Officer, met CTO Peter Tippet and asked him if he could make graphics move on TV by using his smart phone. Ten days later the first iPowow prototype was built, and  today the company’s clients include ESPN, Fox Sports, USA Network, A&E, Lifetime and Reelz Channel. Here Colin Hornett, Executive Producer at iPowow, explains what Ipowow bring to the market, how to get the best out of the second screen, and how broadcasters are monetising participation TV.

The second screen technology space is notorious for being exceptionally competitive. What makes iPowow stand out from the crowd?

Most importantly, we ensure the user experience is the best it can be. We make sure the barriers to entry are as low as possible, the platform is simple to use and always looks slick. Couple that with the fact that our platform is the fastest and most robust of its kind on the planet, and you get a full 360 experience as a user that is in sync with your TV, where you know you are part of the story. Quite simply, playing with our platform is fun and fans dig it, which is reinforced by our engagement numbers being so strong compared to industry averages.

Where are we at in terms of achieving scale on the second screen? What is likely to fuel the growth of participation TV in the future?

We don’t look at it in terms of scale. Our platform can comfortably handle 1million votes per second straight out of the box. Our focus is always on storytelling and what fits. We thought live events would be our biggest successes, but with shows like Modern Family and Project Runway, we have seen incredible numbers that we couldn’t imagine previously. Again, it always comes back to story. When used properly, our platform can enhance your story and broadcast, which in turn will lead to strong engagement and even increase ratings.

In terms of growth, appointment viewing continues to decline with better VOD experiences and providers. Networks, broadcasters and content creators have to ask themselves, “What about my show makes people want to show up and watch it at the time I want them to watch it?”.  We believe, and the stats support us, that baking our platform into the story and providing a unique fan experience, whether fans can control the outcome, get rewarded for participating, or just simply participate because it’s fun, gives fans a reason to show up and watch.

Is participation TV always dependent on the content being live or is the industry working on ways to make it more accessible?

When we started on this journey we thought live was unquestionably the clear winner for participation TV. However, the experiences on Modern Family and Project Runway, have proved otherwise. Again, it all comes back to the story, and for recorded programs the producers already know the outcome and can create questions that capitalize on the sentiment of the moment, which creates incredible fan engagement.

How are your clients monetising their apps and services?

iPowow is completely white label, when we build our clients a platform we give them creative control as to the look and feel of the design. Not only do clients have the opportunity to put a sponsor on the voting device in the users hand, but iPowow also creates a new media property on TV that is baked into the show as a dynamic experience.

This novel property generates incredible engagement, making it highly valuable during the broadcast itself. Some clients have brought in sponsors to own the entire experience including the look, name and on-air call to action, which engrains them in the fabric of the show and provides an organic, seamless experience for the user. Other clients have involved sponsors for a week, a month or a single show with a logo or verbal mention. Then some other clients have had single questions sponsored. Regardless of the approach, the platform is the client’s to monetise as they please.

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