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Truth about ‘two-screen’ ITV

Mar 24, 2003  •  Post A Comment

GoldPocket Interactive, a Los Angeles-based company, launched a new technology last week, billed as a new form of interactive TV, that will enable TV viewers to use their cellphones to participate in polls and games.
GoldPocket and other “two-screen” companies say millions of people will interact with their favorite shows by using non-TV devices such as cellphones, PCs and handhelds. The concept is that the TV viewer will go online after being prompted by a message on screen.
Scott Newnam, GoldPocket’s president and CEO, says there’s a “huge opportunity” for two-screen ITV because there are 40 million households in the United States that keep a TV and PC in the same room.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is utter nonsense.
Two-screen ITV is the latest example of the tech industry doing something because it can-not because consumers want it. Other than geeks who live in their parents’ basements and college students drunk out of their minds, people will not run to their PCs and cellphones to interact with a TV show. I don’t care if the PC is in the same room or not. When the average TV viewer sits, that’s it. If he’s going to leave the couch, it will be to run to the kitchen for a beer and a sandwich.
Studies show that most viewers aren’t interested in interacting with their televisions even if they don’t have to leave the couch. Why would they want to interact if they have to get up?
If the two-screen industry doesn’t accept this, it is doomed to fail. However, if that’s true, why are so many TV networks offering two-screen interactive programs? And why is GoldPocket getting so much business?
Holy Grail?
GoldPocket has produced more than 4,000 hours of interactive programming for the networks, much of it the two-screen variety. The Game Show Network is arguably the leading two-screen proponent, offering 84 hours of interactive shows. For instance, GSN’s Family Feud interactive program enables viewers to log on to guess how many times host Richard Dawson will kiss female contestants during each show.
GSN and other networks have little to lose in developing two-screen programs. The cost is relatively small; in many cases, it’s a simple addition to the network’s existing Web site. And the benefit is measurable. Even if less than 1 percent of total viewers go online to play a game, the network has increased its overall viewer loyalty and retention. Plus, it allows the network to offer advertisers an added value.
“We’ve seen a tremendous outpouring of interest for our ITV programming, which has had significant effects on viewer retention, community, advertising sales and distribution,” says John P. Roberts, GSN’s senior VP for interactive and online entertainment.
For GoldPocket, the two-screen program pays the bills while the company waits for more cable and satellite operators to launch one-screen ITV-where viewers can interact with shows on their televisions without going online. (GoldPocket is also anxious to launch interactive applications on oversized “Touch Screens,” which are now used by many home theater enthusiasts.)
But GoldPocket and others shouldn’t try to fool anyone. Two-screen ITV will never be more than a niche service.
Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredic tions.com. He can be reached at Swann@TVPredictions.com.