2-screen was an event in London last week looking at whether and how TV viewing is increasing because of the internet. Here are some 2-screen notes for those who couldn't make it, by our interactive creative director Andy Cameron.
One liner? We're going to see more live TV with simultaneous back channel for conversation and gaming via online and mobile devices... and starling.tv is about to launch a dedicated platform to provide this service - and own this space.
Here's the blow-by-blow version.
Cathy Rogers from RDF TV set up the theme - how to think about 2-screen media consumption - with an anecdote. Watching the Brits this year on telly, bored with an overlong and slow live award ceremony and about to switch off, she started following #brits on twitter - and was immediately captivated by a fast, witty and irreverent conversation which transformed a boring programme on one screen into a much more engaging 2-screen experience.
Next up Matt Locke, head of cross platform at Channel 4 who talked about 'attention shapes': the different ways in which consumers deploy their attention. 2008 according to Mat was the year of peak attention (like peak oil) - from 2008 on, attention has been getting scarcer as viewers become more careful about giving their attention and more careful about the way they 'curate' their viewing time. Broadcasters can no longer define the attention shapes - they have to work with attention shapes coming from social media and gaming. TV is good at live, synchronous attention shapes - it's better at this than web, so we're seeing TV becoming more live, more about what it's good at.
He talked about shows like The Million Pound Drop where the live TV then generated a second audience playing along online, and Seven Days where the trick is to leave holes in the narrative for the online audience to help fill in - to give them a reason to complement and complete the story. Seven Days is rough and ready - bad TV but good 2-screen TV and has already had peaks of online engagement higher than Big Brother - because there's something for the audience to do online.
He referenced Telly Wonk's 'Lost' binge - another type of attention shape - where Telly Wonk watched all 6 seasons of Lost for the first time the week before the final show aired (and after all that, hated the ending!).
Comparing patterns of Google search - searches for the 1066 programme peak and fall back when the programme is over, searches for the 1066 game peak and keep peaking. Games are a gift that keeps on giving!
People play games in small chunks of time, unlike the way they watch telly. Broadcasters no longer define the way people allocate their attention - they can't define the shapes anymore. It can be anything from a 12 hour binge of an HBO series to a 3 minute quickie with Farmville.
Started with prior 2-screen experiences - old skool multiplayer games Pacman and Zelda on the Game Boy Advance. Talked about how we should see 2-screens as nothing more than different/multiple ways to get to our stuff. Like Matt Locke she stressed that it's about attention, not tech. Anecdote about watching X-Factor - utter shit she reckoned, skin-crawlingly bad, slow, repetitive, dumb - until she realised it was designed for people who were talking to each other as they watched it - whether on the sofa or via facebook. So it's not 2-screens, it's divided attention, and the question is - how do we design for divided attention? Partial answer - we design one, consistent, coherent thing and enable different access points into it.
Next: Tim Morgan from Picklive and Utku Can from Mint Digital. They debated the relative merits of PickLive vs LivePitch - a live football online gambling game vs a live football stats visualiser.
PickLive is a real time Fantasy Football that you play during the game, generally against your mates. LivePitch is an animated chalk board that reveals patterns of movement and play during the game.
Both are based on the same data set - made by a team of people spotting the game by watching it on Sky and logging events into a database as they happen. This data then gets sent out to both PickLive and LivePitch in near real time.
Tim is a proper footy fan and likes the active real time gambling action on PickLive. Utku is more nerdy and appreciates the beauty of the data visualisation as the game progresses.
PickLive active, LivePitch passive - different types (shapes) of attention.
Where's the value for the viewer? Both visualisations offer a different way to read the game and both bring out patterns which might not otherwise be noticed. Tim used the example of Uruguay and Forlan - the massive role Forlan plays in raising Uruguay's game is clear when you watch a game on LivePitch.
Where's the value for the designers/sponsors? You've got to pay to play PickLive, whereas LivePitch is free. Disclosure: W+K London (that's us) has been involved in trying to find a way to monetise LivePitch as an iPad app, but so far the economics haven't worked out. Suggestions on a postcard...
Other issues - both are live, appointment-to-view experiences. Right now there are only a few games spotted per week. Tim's vision - that everything on TV will have its realtime online complement - probably a game, but also different ways to view the data like LivePitch and different forms of back channel for viewers to talk to each other.
Kevin Slavin, cofounder area/code - a New York-based company specialising in social games, often built on Facebook. Opened with Parking Wars, a Facebook game based on the US reality TV programme (about traffic wardens in Philadelphia). Broke down the attention stats - the game had 1.4 million users, the programme 1.04 million viewers, but the game got 5.7 million hours of attention vs the programme's 2.5 million hours of attention.
Backchannel for MTV's The Hills - 2008. Competitive chat, trash talking not on the sofa but across the world (twitter before twitter got massive).
Referenced the NY Times Super Bowl Twitter map - the Guardian did something similar with the World Cup - showing tweets in real time during the live games. Lot of data, overwhelming numbers.
Question - why do people watch Lost together? Why do they want to be in the same room? And is the same room sometimes Twitter?
Why did people use to drive cars to a big car park with a movie screen to watch movies... together?
Insight - no geolocated venue is as big as TV.
TV is the paradigmatic synchronous experience. How does it work - how does it keep us in sync, together? One answer is 'laughter from nowhere' - the fake laughter track.
Kevin showed excerpts from Scooby Doo and Friends - with and without the laughter track. The funny part was the laughter. Without the laughter it wasn't funny. Especially Friends. Without the laughter track it was like something from Samuel Beckett.
"The laugh track convinces us not that Shaggy is real, but that we are real".
"It's not the show that makes the laughter work, it's the laughter that makes the show work."
He gave a quick outline of the history of laughter track technology - Charley Douglas and the original Laugh Box - he would go round the TV studios playing it for $100 a pop, making the sound as Kevin put it, of 'dead people laughing'.
Referenced Clotaire Rapailles' theory of the reptilian brain - the most primitive and instinctual part of the brain - oft mentioned by advertising experts as the part of the brain advertising has to engage. Kevin disagreed - it's not about the reptilian brain, it's about the limbic brain - the part of the brain to do with empathy and community - our social sense.
It's all about limbic resonance.
It's the crowd - it's being in the crowd - that releases storytelling magic.
The laughter track is the limbic proxy - it's what makes you feel connected to the crowd.
The laughter track is dead now - like the people whose laughter it reproduced. 1950 - 2010 RIP. It's been displaced by connected TV. But... it's not the TV that's connected, it's the people watching TV who are connected.
Right now the tools to connect masses of people aren't very good. 80 million people watched the superbowl. The NY Times superbowl tweet map is pretty meaningless - it's hard to make sense of so many connections at the same time. Same for Eurovision - most of the comments are in languages you probably won't understand. It's all too unstructured. When you're getting 4000 tweets per minute, there's nothing you can do to make sense of it.
Starling.tv - Kevin's new venture. Called starling because the central metaphor is that of flocking. (Flocking behaviour is much loved by programmers as it generates complex behaviour from a small number of simple rules - it's a self-organising structure).
Some have called it the Foursquare of TV. That's like calling it the Nike of furniture - it doesn't mean anything!
Why does Foursquare work? Why is it better than all the other location based systems - loopt, socialight, brightkite? Because it gives meaning to the fact of being there - you're not just checking in, you're checking in to become MAYOR! It's not just presence, it's engagement.
So what is starling.tv? Kevin didn't actually give us much detail. The concept is 'Talk in TV' - facilitating and structuring TV based conversations. He talked about his admiration for myspace - the way it is/was so messy - and yet incredibly personal and idiosyncratic. Starling is working with Xfactor and ESPN and I think he said Glee and Family Guy too. Starling's co-owners are Fremantle Media.
There's a great piece on Contagious about Starling here.
On the Starling.TV home page there's this lovely quote, which is where I'm going to end.
"It's the end of the laughtrack", says Slavin. "From here on in, the laughter is genuine.. and that laughter is going to come from everywhere."