Using a second screen while watching TV is now the norm for most consumers, whether it be a laptop, smartphone or tablet.

Gone are the days of sitting glued to the screen for an entire episode of EastEnders or tolerating ad breaks, nowadays viewers have other options if the action on-screen is a tad dull.

Our recent report, The Multi-Screen Marketer, shows that 52% of respondents that own a television and computer are likely to be using another device while watching TV. This rises to 60% among smartphone owners.

The Olympics is the perfect opportunity for brands to grab viewers’ attention with second screen apps as people will be hungry for updates and stats from other events while watching the live action on TV.

The BBC and Guardian have both tried to take advantage of this opportunity with dedicated Olympics apps, but as you will see one of them made a far better job of it than the other...


While the BBC obviously has an unassailable advantage over other media companies as it owns the rights to the Olympics, it has still created a great, user-friendly app for Android and iPhone.

And cramming all that content into a single app isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do, as NBC’s disastrous handling of its Olympic coverage in the US demonstrates.

The homepage displays three large icons that link to live coverage as well as the headline news from the day’s events.


Lower down the page you can view links to other Olympic and Team GB news stories, as well as the medal table and further video content.

But while the content is all interesting and relevant, you do have to do quite a bit of scrolling. It may have been better to host the content in separate tabs for video and news.

Also, for me the BBC has always seemed to be a bit too proud of its trailers. This app hosts the Olympic ad on the homepage, which seems an odd decision as screen space is tight on mobile.


The schedule and results tab is extremely useful as it is surprisingly difficult to find a clear Olympic timetable online. It lists the times, live scores and results for every event taking place on a daily basis.

Each page also links to live video section, which hosts the 23 live feeds that the BBC offers each day. For those who don’t want to watch the live stream there are also text updates from across the various events.

The final option in the top of the screen is a dropdown menu that links to a huge amount of information on each different sport, athlete and country at the Games.

Users can also get details of the BBC’s TV coverage, access the medal table and get news and updates about Team GB. It is a huge amount of information to cram into a single app and is the perfect accompaniment for the Beeb’s live coverage. 

However that doesn’t mask the fact that the main reason for downloading the app is to access the live feeds.

The Guardian

While the Guardian obviously doesn’t have access to the same content as the BBC, it has produced a second screen app for desktop and tablet that it claims “offers a completely different way to soak up the Olympics”.

It appears to be aimed at the fact that this is the first ‘social Olympics’ and acts as a central hub for all the Guardian’s sport-related tweets, as well as updates from more than 100 other experts.

The app also pulls in the latest photos and results in a swipeable interface that is essentially a Twitter feed shown horizontally.

Unfortunately the end result is quite underwhelming as anyone who uses Twitter could easily follow these people anyway.

You can’t interact with the app other than clicking on the links that the various tweeters post and you can’t search for or access specific information that might be of interest; it’s simply a rolling stream of updates from the day’s events.

So while the Guardian should be applauded for realising the opportunity exists and creating a second screen app, the execution is fairly basic.

David Moth

Published 31 July, 2012 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (1)

James Perrin

James Perrin, Digital Communications Specialist at Feefo

Nice analysis David. Personally I really like the BBC App, it's packed full of information and I actually find it far more user friendly than the BBC's Olympic page on their website.

I love the idea of utilising Digital Marketing tools (such as Apps) as a way of interacting with more traditional media, especially television. It makes the whole experience more worthwhile. This is definitely the future, as I read somewhere before, it's the 4 screen content strategy: TV, Mobile, Tablet, Laptop.

about 6 years ago

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