(This post was originally posted on Irdeto’s TV Everywhere blog)
In the first phase of our TV Everywhere enablers mini-series, I discussed Companion TV with second screen expert, Jeroen Elfferich, CEO & co-founder at Ex Machina and how smartphones and tablets are changing the way we create, and enjoy TV. He shared some great insight into how show formats are evolving to embrace our multi-screen lifestyle and how for the first time, the Internet is being harnessed to compliment TV, not to cannibalize it! He also admitted that he spends more time playing games on his iPad then he would have ever imagined!
Who/What is Ex Machina Games? Jeroen Elfferich: We are an online interactivity platform that creates meaningful experiences between TV shows and their audiences, using second screen companion devices such as smartphones and tablets. We work for TV shows, broadcasters, production houses, TV operators and online Internet companies and take interactivity and information distribution to the next level making it social, fun, massive, loyal and sticky.
What problem do you solve? Jeroen Elfferich: Increasingly, people are multi-tasking while watching TV (According to Devious Media 80% of 13-24 year-olds use two or more devices simultaneously while watching TV). Ex Machina gives meaning to what people do on their companion devices while they are watching a TV show e.g. rating contestants in a talent show, or providing feedback during a political debate. We are helping media companies and advertisers make more efficient use of their marketing budgets and time by keeping viewers engaged and providing valuable feedback and contribution. (NOTE: During last weekend’s Super Bowl, eight in 10 “couch consultants” commissioned for a survey by CTV Advertising, said they derived value from the second-screen content experiences. There was also a widespread acceptance and deeper engagement found for ads that rewarded their viewers with specific incentives)
What role do companion devices have to play with the way we watch TV? Jeroen Elfferich: In the future? Everything. For the first time, companion devices are enabling the Internet to compliment TV viewing vs. cannibalizing it. The uptake is so rapid that it is driving innovation and creativity around formats and enabling media companies to have direct dialog with their audiences and build profiles as never before. Companion devices are game changers.
So, what about Connected TVs? Jeroen Elfferich: We need to remember that audiences want an accessible experience regardless of brand of device. The Connected TV market is still fragmented and the addressable market is not as big as other device types. Also, since people only buy a TV every five to six years, their capabilities and processing power can never match that of personal devices which are regularly replaced and upgraded. It ‘s also a matter of concept – it’s better to offer a cleaner and easier experience on a companion device than over-laying features and content on a TV screen. The debate of how to create an integrated, consistent experience across devices is a big one and there is the school of thought that by shifting the intelligence onto the cloud or a home network to support audio sync and network based interaction, operators can finally reach that holy “UX” grail across all devices. For now, however, the companion devices are leading the way, showing us the potential and building a market for multi-screen TV.
What do games have to do with TV? Jeroen Elfferich: Take the traditional concept of a board game, one with personal aspects such as “RISK”, you can now use the main large-screen TV as game board – and players can use their own, personal devices (smart phone, tablet or laptop) as a ‘digital deck of cards’. Add connectivity and social networks and the other players don’t necessarily have to be in the room or country with you. Gaming, or perhaps more accurately interactive entertainment, is mainstream and the communities around the popular Zynga games for instance, are spending as much time together online as are the hard-core MMO PC gamers… if not more so. Create similar, engaging and game-play experiences around TV and you have the perfect format.
So what can TV companies do to integrate gaming into their shows? Jeroen Elfferich. We are witnessing a gradual shift among production companies to create TV formats that drive second screen interaction… but it takes time! In 2007 we presented, with a Dutch production house, a new kind TV format, a quiz game that had no studio contestants and was designed as a multiplayer game viewers who could play along live using a mobile app or laptop. We showed this at MIPTV that year and while broadcasters loved the innovation on display, no one would buy! For somewhat cautious studio execs, a game show where there is no studio audience was just too far-fetched for them at the time. Thankfully, Fremantle saw the potential, came up with the made-for-second-screen format Intuition and last autumn we launched a pilot of 10 shows with RTL and we are very happy with the results. When aired at 1 pm, 10% of viewers picked up their smart phone or tablet and joined the game. Free to play, the game tests viewers’ gut instincts with picture-based questions on people and places. Everyone who takes part in the show wins prize vouchers and the number of vouchers won is determined by the audience’s average score.
What are you currently working on? Jeroen Elfferich: A lot of things, it seems like we’re starting three new projects every week. To mention a few, we are working on Intuition spinoffs with Fremantle; working with a US start up on creating more interactivity around TV commercials via second screen interactivity and testing automated second screen experiences and gaming around music videos with MTV in various European countries which is very exciting. Creating a much more efficient way to produce shows, the concept enables MTV viewers to participate around music videos with their friends, score points and win prizes.
What has been your greatest success to date? Jeroen Elfferich: We ran over 100 shows last year alone and our platform has never failed us… and we usually see tens of thousands of people engaged at the same time! In the last season of The Voice of Holland, for example, our PlayToTV server platform handled over half a million second screen users and over10 million plays of the popular ThuisCoach game.
How do you imagine we will be watching TV in five years time? Jeroen Elfferich: To a large extent the same way as we are today, gathered, with the family around the living room TV. However, this will primarily be for watching and participating in live events that are more communicable such as reality programs, news events and sports. And of course everyone will be using at least two screens, connecting with the TV content as much as they are with family and friends. TV series and movies meanwhile will continue to shift to on demand on any device.
What games do you play? Jeroen Elfferich: I don’t play games as much as I would like to (or used to) and if I do, I try to find games with I can play with my kids. New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Wii is a great, collaborative game and the iPad is a fantastic games device with a good line up of old school board games as well as new experiences designed for touch… it just works!
Ex Machina is a key Irdeto partner, providing second screen TV engagement within Irdeto’s multi-screen user-experiences and reference applications for tablets, smartphones, Connected TVs and other iOS and Android devices.