The growing second screen trend is changing the way leaders of television networks and cable companies engage viewers and boost business.
The "second screen experience" is when a consumer watches television and—at the same time—uses a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Consumers might be checking email, browsing the Internet, working or playing a game. At times, they might be using the second screen as a distraction or a chance to multitask.
But consumers are also using second screens for tasks directly related to what they are watching.
Consumers look up information about the show and its actors. They use social media networks, such as Twitter or Facebook, to discuss plot twists or characters. They participate in choosing winners on contest shows, such as "The Voice."
According to a 2013 Nielsen survey, 76 percent of tablet owners look up general information while watching television; 68 percent are doing general Web services.
But almost half of tablet owners use a second screen to look up information about what they are watching, according to the survey.
And leaders with companies such as Comcast and networks such as AMC are capitalizing on the tech trend.
"There's no denying that people engage in social media more and more," Jim Weigert, local Comcast vice president and general manager, said, adding that the number of people with smartphones is on the rise.
"It's going to continue to grow," he also said. "It's just an evolution, and people want more flexibility. That's why we have so many mobile apps. That's why we engage in partnerships."
Officials with Comcast, NBCUniversal and Twitter recently announced a partnership aimed at connecting millions of Twitter users with television services directly from the social media platform.
The first step of the partnership was to create See It, which is a new platform that will allow Comcast Xfinity TV customers to instantly access television shows, movies and sports directly from a tweet. It debuts next month.
Leaders with television network AMC, which airs shows such as "The Walking Dead," have created an interactive mobile app called Story Sync to engage viewers.
Network officials came up with the idea after noticing high levels of interactions on live "watch-and-chats" on the AMC website and the frequent chatter on social media sites, CNN reported.
During the show, AMC also shows viewer interaction by sharing pictures or playlists related to the show. After the show, another talk show airs called "The Talking Dead," which keeps the conversation going.
NBC recently created an e-book for its series "Grimm," CBS has a social TV platform called CBS Connect, and MTV has a WatchWith app, also according to CNN.
And local resident and CBL marketing services manager Brian Lutz pointed out apps such as Get Glue, which rewards viewers who "check in" while watching shows.
Sometimes, actors or their assistants live tweet during the airing of episodes to add more value, he also said.
Erin Rankin, who works for local marketing agency The Johnson Group, said she's been watching television while using her phone ever since the rise of texting.
She does anything from checking work email and texting to browsing personal and professional social media accounts, she said. If she's watching a show she follows loyally, she uses social media to engage and comment with the show by using hashtags, for example.
And she said that advertisers can use the second screen phenomenon to their advantage.
"The main time that most of us divert our eyes from TV to second screen is during commercials," she said. "One of the best things advertisers can do is create socially interactive commercials that invite people to engage with the brand further on social media."
For example, she said, a commercial might leave the viewer with a cliffhanger and require consumers to check YouTube to see how it ends. Or officials might offer consumers a chance to win something or get an exclusive deal if they tweet using a certain hashtag.
"That capitalizes on the fact that viewers have device-in-hand, and it can help marketers measure the response from a given TV spot or campaign," Rankin said. "Another great way to leverage the second screen habit is to run bookend TV spots that give readers, for example, from the beginning of a show to the end of a show to complete a specific task on social media."
The October issue of Forbes Magazine has an article about the relationship between cable companies and Twitter that explores the mutually beneficial relationship of how officials are capitalizing on the second screen experience not only to engage and satisfy consumers, but to stay relevant and boost business.
Although doing well, Twitter needs to offset decreasing advertising prices by getting more users. And television executives want to keep viewers, who are turning more toward using the Internet for watching television, according to the article.
But it's not only leaders in the television industry who are leveraging the Internet to improve business.
Recently, CBL, which is the company that owns Hamilton Place and Northgate malls, worked with Food Network on Food Court Wars.
Area malls served as locations for the show, which is a contest between aspiring food entrepreneurs, according to the show's website.
CBL leaders used the #FoodCourtWars hashtag, which allowed them to track the conversations and sentiment about the show immediately when it aired, Lutz said. They could also keep the conversations going afterward by engaging via social media, he said.
"With advertising, identifying influencers and fostering relationships to create brand ambassadors is gold," he said via email. "That's our goal at CBL, and you'll find that to be the case with many other companies that utilize social media in that right way."
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