TV – as the second screen becomes the first screen the regulator comes a calling

Retro TV

 The growing realization that mobile devices are not so much the ‘second screen’ but actually the first has brought attempts at commercialization – and the regulator.

According to informitv, the UK Regulator has felt the need to publish a report into the ‘second screen’ phenomenon. Ofcom, said regulator, defines the second screen as “a class of connected devices or applications that are designed to be complementary to TV watching or radio listening by presenting content that is contextual and or synchronised to what is showing on the primary screen whether that is live or on-demand.”

Which is pretty much what the second screen is all about. In fact many companies are way ahead of the regulator (quelle surprise) and understand that the mobile device is the remote control. Companies such as Sony have referred to it as such for almost two years, Apple has been experimenting with its ‘flickable’ content and it is where customers are used to carrying out transactions.

Essentially it is a remote control with a screen and a purchasing mechanism in it.

Perhaps the fear for the regulator is that TV providers have not yet got what it takes to make a success of the ‘other’ screen. Apps for Antiques Roadshow (Kerching!) were downloaded by one percent of the audience. Even the X Factor (Simon Kerching Cowell presiding) only managed five percent of its rather ‘hipper’ audience. Maybe it is the fact that Facebook and Google are rather better at it that is making the regulator take notice.

And yet the report seems to be concerned mainly with ‘data’ that is synchronised between screens. Programme guides, for instance, is one area where there is a huge opportunity for innovation through personalisation (big data, analytics, location, recommendation – happy customer).

BillingViews has nothing against regulators. We are simply curious as to why they choose to write reports about issues such as the ‘other screen,’ which makes us believe that they think there may be something they are about to restrict or charge a license fee for.

Instead, we think that they should let new, fast moving markets form themselves and encourage innovation whenever they can. Otherwise, as in Brussels at the moment where major telecoms companies are in need of some love, they will end up trying to artificially keep a structure that is too innovative and fast moving to maintain.

Telecoms companies, TV companies, OTT players and device manufacturers should all be allowed to compete for the prize of being in control of the first screen. No, the other one.


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About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

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