The Multi-Screen Complex

it seems a million years ago when the discussion of multi-plexes meant only a multiple screen movie theater complex where you watched a movie and bought popcorn. But now multi-screen viewing doesn’t mean choice of screens but how many screens you can view and/or use at the same time. The multiscreen complex is now in our living room or at our desk or simply in our hands.

The shift, of course, has been brought on by mobile personal tech, the smart phone and tablet and the thing that is in between. It’s not unusual for me to be in our family room with the big screen TV on, with more than one laptop in the same room streaming video, along with someone Snapchatting about what they are watching and tweets flying about the big event being broadcast, say the Olympics Opening or The Academy Awards. The tablet may be the research point for more information about the actors or athletes.

Our home is not alone…

This year’s televised Oscars proved a Tweetable event with the now-famous selfie of Ellen and her high-wattage friends crashing the microblog service to become the most retweeted photo to date. Twitter data showed it garnered 2.4 million retweets in the first 12 hours. It didn’t stop after that either. (Yes, I, too, hit RT).

Now that television producers and online video sites know viewing habits are changing dramatically, they are shifting toward a multi-screen experience and with that experience comes new and creative advertising opportunities.

So how are the multi-screens used:
Twitter is the second screen of scheduled big events like The Oscars–t’s the immediate what’s happening now social communicator. Facebook is used in real time but differently. Micro communities on personal pages or branded Facebook pages create a space for a tighter universe that the twitterverse does.
Snapchat is fast, like Twitter­–but it is for reactions not for long threads of conversation. Other apps are solely playing in the TV space like Viggle where you check into the show you are watching and get points and rewards from advertisers.

All of this works for scheduled events – making live TV, like Saturday Night Live, network morning programs, awards shows and sports perfect opportunities to fully engage with their viewers and get to know them better. Imagine 50 years ago when The Beatles premiered on The Ed Sullivan Show. How would Twitter have coped?

Viewing by appointment can also be a social moment (even if it’s not a live broadcast). The finale of How I Met Your Mother was viewed by over 13 million and the Twitterverse lit up with criticism of how it ended–enough so that one of the executive producers took to Twitter to try to extinguish the fire. The final tweet from Craig Thomas.

@HimymCraig Seriously – no matter what you thought of tonight, THANK YOU…you were with us. We love you.

PBS’ Downton Abbey stole Sunday night ratings, securing a blockbuster hit for PBS. The old-style network drove live Twitter parties to increase fan interactions–a first for the staid Masterpiece audience, which somehow became modernized as viewers were immersed in the turn of the last century. They sent out memorable memes of characters and their quotes. Fans hung out together in costume-clad at-home parties, Skye parties or Google Hangouts link friends who are fans everywhere to be able to view together without being in the same room, Snapchatting with others who couldn’t join them.

Tumblr plays in the social conversations with its millions of blogs serving as the electronic water cooler after the fact but still based on scheduled events.  Tumblrs devoted to shows and stars satiate fandom with ongoing conversations.

Imagine what would have happened during the final episode of MASH or The Mary Tyler Moore Show if social media existed.

So is live social interaction and multi-screen viewing reenergizing appointment viewing just as we thought TV-everywhere would diminish the command of the electronic hearth?  Can social media save the television lineup? Twitter hopes so but will Twitter be alone or just one of many arrows being aimed at the bigger screen from little screens around the room?

What do you think?

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