The box, the tube, the telly, the television. Are any of us sure the set is set to evolve?

The television is one of those unifying pleasures and most people are already happy with the experience of watching it.

Additionally, advertisers still think of television as the big hitting ad medium, rightly or wrongly. 

So, if it’s not broken, why fix it? Or is that the kind of reasoning that stymies innovation?

I think it’s fairly obvious that although we can choose to think of television as a constant, it has changed significantly since it went digital. FreeView in the UK, TiVo, Sky+, on-demand services like iPlayer and Netflix, Apple TV and Chromecast, the impact of Twitter and social TV, Roku, there have been many developments.

But what’s next? Here I’ve tried to sum up some of the innovations for advertisers and viewers I’ve seen in the last few months. See what you think..

Dynamic second screen ads

Social TV has been a big success. 40% of tweets at UK peak time are referencing television.

BSkyB recently revealed it’ll be showing ‘instant replays’ of football games via Twitter, to capitalise on this second screening.

However, how you use social to interact with your TV campaign, or simply to piggyback on others’ should be done with caution.

Dynamic second screen ads are still a big unknown.

I say that because there’s big interest, some great tech out there and the obvious success of ‘social TV’ (tweeting whilst watching), and yet there’s still the feeling that serving second screen pre-roll ads be wanted by advertisers but not by viewers.

However, the companies pioneering second screen ads would rightfully counter that ads is the wrong word to use.

What we’re really talking about here is tailored content (ok, sometimes sponsored content), served to your tablet when appropriate, during a TV show.

This tech is being pioneered by Innovid and Cisco as follows.

Cisco’s cloud based Contexta system allows broadcasters or third-party app providers to deliver content to the second screen based on keywords that are spoken in TV shows on the TV or ‘first screen’.

Innovid is handling the second screen ad serving and gave an example at CES of how it works with Cisco.

If Jon Stewart is talking about an iPad or tablet, Contexta sends that info to Innovid’s ad servers which will present an Apple ad.

The clever bit is that Cisco’s system analyses sound, so anything on TV can be captured and tied to second screen content.

The tablet example sums up nicely my initial point. Being careful what to serve will be important for adoption of this technology by the user.


I haven’t figured out how best to spell ‘t-commerce’ yet. Perhaps we’ll know it’s mainstream once the hypen is dropped?

H&M has jumped in at Super Bowl 2014 to allow viewers the chance to purchase the featured products via a Samsung Smart TV.

This is interesting but I wonder if it clashes with second screen technology. If TVs can push commerce to tablets, as described above, this may be a more effective way to sell, considering the rise of tablet commerce.

Curved screens

I’ve sort of thrown this in here as a joke. I don’t see what the fuss is about.

They cost £7,000 upwards, too.

Connected home

This one I can see taking off as part of the internet of things.

Essentially the idea is that devices for audio and video become sort of like dumb terminals, which is essentially what they are already. Your personal device will ensure that wherever you are, the speakers or screens will enable your media.

Could this eventually kill the Smart TV? 


Google thinks it has already won.

Gradually, generations begin to associate televisions with awkwardly sharing a room with their parents and having to agree what to watch. TVs are big and non-mobile.

The developing world will be moving to YouTube in ever increasing numbers as countries such as India expand via cheaper devices such as the Aakash.

The growth of the YouTube-made star shows that TV networks are not needed any longer. All it takes is YouTube and a manager to force the next commercialised music starlet on to the tween market.

The stats are stark and of course, more niche audiences can be catered for, without fear of annoying a primetime audience.

Just check out the stats for channel views and you’ll see number one is Machinima, for gamers, with nearly 5bn views.

Here’s a handy infographic looking at the rise of YouTube.

(Click to enlarge)

Ben Davis

Published 30 January, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)



Stop calling it the second screen :)

over 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff


Sorry Ven, I have to disagree!

When one is watching TV, especially when it's pretty crap TV or light entertainment or sport, the tablet or smartphone is indeed very often a second screen.

As to what it's being used for, yes that's harder to define. But that's why Zeebox isn't as good a solution as having a TV that prompts third party app content serving.

The Zeebox app is open and you're notionally meant to be chatting to others, voting etc. It's all too active.

We want to occasionally do that, but mostly we're consumers. Big idiot couch potatoes. And the opportunity for the second screen is about increasing that consumption, appropriately, with stuff we'll opt for, and secreting in some ads, too.

I think it can be done.

As for using a tablet as the main screen to consume content, sure it happens with iPlayer, Netflix etc and probably to a great degree. But that's cool - it's not about trying to define tablets as distractions from other media, it's just about trying to maximise the screen estate for content/advertisers - as you point out.

Simply, a lot of the time, tablets will be used whilst the TV is on. Second screening should be kept as a verb.

Lastly, these second screen techs don't devalue Twitter. They're about serving extra content, that's it really. From any third party app.

Personally, I'm up for moving to the apple forests of Kazakhstan, eating off the land and paying for accommodation with labour. Wanna come?

over 4 years ago

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