Beyond television: the 'second screen' may be tomorrow's primary screen

An impending second 'golden age' of television may be coming to a laptop or tablet near you.

There is a second "golden age" of television on the horizon, but it probably won't be on the set on the wall or table in your living room. Instead, more content is coming to that "second screen" -- the laptop or tablet nearby.

That's the view of University of Pennsylvania Wharton professors Daniel Raff, Kevin Werbach, Eric Bradlow, and Lawrence Hrebiniak, who each have been taking note of the successes of online-only programs in recent months. As quoted in a special report in Knowledge@Wharton, there was general agreement that more quality programming content is working its way to online services, versus traditional networks.

Online providers, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon.com and YouTube are getting into the TV programming business, and bring with them the power of data analytics that create new opportunities "to define their audience and target programming to viewers’ likes and dislikes more closely than ever before."

Netflix's streaming of the award-winning House of Cards series staring Kevin Spacey illustrates this new direction for the former video distributor. As Werbach put it: Netflix's outbidding HBO “shows that Netflix is now in the same league as a more traditional distribution channel for high-end TV shows.”

The force multiplier in this transition is a combination of content and engaged subscribers, according to Hrebiniak:

"Content and distribution go together like love and marriage. 'You can’t have one without the other,' he says. Netflix and Amazon have built-in distribution much like cable providers and can easily push original content through those networks. Creating their own content means the companies become less dependent on other content producers, who can command lucrative licensing agreements because distributors know that audiences are attracted by proven hits."

There are still a lot of uncertainties within the budding business model that marries the Internet to television, however. The "second-screen" phenomenon means engaging consumers on many levels and through many channels. They may see an ad on TV, for example, and comment via Twitter. However, GigaOm's Mathew Ingram points out that various disruptive forces within the television space -- time-shifting, downloading, streaming and fragmentation of the overall market -- may make it difficult to determine the value of a second screen within that context.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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