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Companion TV Apps: Viewers Excited, Then Bored, By Red Bee Media and Civolution’s Walking Dead App

by David Mercer | Mar 13, 2012

Red Bee Media created quite a stir recently when it launched a multiscreen TV app using Civolution’s audio recognition technology to accompany FX UK’s new series of “The Walking Dead”. According to Bill Patrizio, Red Bee Media CEO, the app would deliver a “new dimension in engagement that fuels excitement, deepens experiences and extends consumers’ enjoyment”. My colleague, Caroline Park, conducted an ethnographic study of this second screen app with iPhone and iPad users and reported her results in Multi-Screen TV Experiences: Observing Users of The Walking Dead Co-Viewing Application.

The good news from our research is that “The Walking Dead” fans were excited at the prospect of using the app and interacting with the show. One of the most popular features of this synchonised app was its ability to remind iPad or iPhone users when the TV show was about to start and that the content synchronisation would begin. Developers and service providers should be encouraged that such a basic feature has relatively high value.

However, in general our users felt the app became boring within 10 minutes of the show starting. There was not enough interaction to keep viewers engaged with the app while most of the show was being broadcast. By this time most of our participants had put down their tablet or smartphone and were watching the TV show as a traditional “single screen” experience.

We also found that some users experienced technical problems with audio synchronisation. Viewers were told to raise the volume on the TV in order to improve audio synchronisation, to the extent that one viewer complained of being deafened by the noise. Not surprisingly, when connection is lost between multiscreen devices during a live broadcast, the risk of viewer dissatisfaction becomes very high!

More detailed research, conclusions and recommendations are available to clients of our Digital Home Observatory service.

David Mercer

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