May 5th, 2014 by Sarah Sluis

Like so many new things, I remember the second screen originally being discussed with fear. Viewers would turn to their cell phones or laptops during television commercials, reducing the impact of advertising. Today, 80 percent of smartphone and tablet users report using their device while watching

'Game of Thrones'

‘Game of Thrones’

their television, according to Nielsen. This behavior shift has been anything but destructive, instead creating a landscape that is ripe for opportunists. Both on the traditional and new media side, people have jumped in and created second screen experience to mutually beneficial ends.

Today, the New York Times discusses how advertisers are using television programming to promote their own brands. On Twitter, brands can come up with their own take on trending topics, like Game of Thrones (#GoT or #GameofThrones for those that want to search). Popular examples include a donut purveyor, Tim Horton, creating dragon-egg shaped donuts and Clorox making a pun on Game of Thrones‘ House of Lannister (which rhymes with canister, which holds bleach, which brings you back to Clorox—you’ve got to hand it to the creative social media mangers).

Reading this article, though, I couldn’t help but wonder—what does HBO get out of other brands piggybacking on their popular show? They do get more people pointing to the show, recommending it and making it part of the zeitgeist, which is invaluable. But there’s no way for them to monetize all the brands that are associating themselves with Game of Thrones. Do second screens mean giving up some of these tie-in revenue streams?

While shows may welcome those kind of advertiser tie-ins, if not profit from them, it’s interesting to see how shows are creating second screen experiences they do have complete control over. Hashtags and polls regularly show up on everything from the trashiest of reality television to the most respected of news networks. I have fond memories of watching presidential coverage on my laptop on CNN, with a Facebook feed on the right-hand side (that now appears to be defunct).  Now, the focus is on allowing the screens to be separate, creating a smaller groups of those that opt in on their second device. HBO has additional content on its web portal, HBO GO, and I can scan social media and site recaps for even more hits of my favorite programming. Any show can create its own set of double touches across platfroms.

As the advertisers congregating on Twitter attest, second screens have proved not to be a disaster, but a boon for television shows and the brands and users encircling them. What’s most interesting is that they speak to one of the most interesting paradoxes of our time. In an age where attention is limited, it’s easier to go deeper than ever before into the niches that fascinate us.

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