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Two Screens at Once: Watching the Oscars with My Mobile

Long known as the “fourth screen”, more mobile devices are earning a seat on the couch, changing TV’s passive experience into an active one.

I’ll be watching the Oscars this weekend with my tablet in hand, toggling between the official Oscars® App and a Twitter feed. I fully expect that what people tweet about any bad jokes, wardrobe malfunctions, technical difficulties, boring speeches or undeserved awards will actually be much more entertaining than the televised event.

The concept that the mobile device is the “fourth screen”—after movie, TV, and PC screens—is officially out of date. Mobile is at least the third screen, or in a tie for second with TV because more often, we’re watching TV with our mobiles in hand. A Pew Research report from last year revealed some 52 percent of adults in the US, including 76 percent of those 18-34, do exactly that.

We can keep track of two screens at once. And companies are starting to exploit that.

If you’re watching TV, you can use Shazam for TV to get extra content. When you “shazam” a linked theme tune or a snippet of dialog, you get details about the music in the show, info about the cast, trivia, celebrity gossip and other things. There are also Facebook and Twitter integrations that make it easy to share and comment on whatever you’re watching.

On the Nintendo Wii U controller, there’s a big 854-by-480-pixel, 6.2-inch touchscreen in the middle that’s linked to the TV screen, but can show information about what you are watching and let you share that with friends. Microsoft’s Xbox SmartGlass allows you to connect your (iOS / Androis/ Windows) phone or tablet right to your console to interact with the Xbox itself, or things you’re watching on TV. You can use your connected mobile as a remote control, or as an extra channel. If you’re watching a movie, say, you can get information about the cast and crew, or find other related movies.

TV has tried this before. In the UK, we have the “push the red button” feature on our remotes for interactive services. The problem with these services is that they pull you out of the programme you‘re watching, which is disruptive. It also doesn’t help that the interactive services tend to be sluggish. These new mobile-centric solutions avoid all these downfalls.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying mobile is an add-on. It’s a channel in itself, but it is proving to be an interesting way of changing TV’s passive experience into an active, social one.