InteraCta is one of the start-ups at the LUMS Centre for Entrepreneurship working on mobile apps. As Pakistanis, along with the rest of humanity, spend more and more time with their phones, the arena of mobile phone apps is growing stronger and more widespread in terms of its applications.
The team behind InteraCta is currently toying with the idea of integrating mobile phone use with television, radio and internet service providers’ broadcasts. In terms of visualizing it in your head, going with TV broadcasts is probably the best idea. The examples floating around are that of being able to instantly accessing recipes during cooking shows or participating in TV game shows alongside live studio audiences.
It’s not a new idea, TV shows/channels use several ways to engage viewers on a 2nd screen – via their own websites or social media presence, or through a telephone or text service that allows them to interact with viewers and provide them with extra information. The key difference here is that InteraCta is proposing a 2nd screen solution in the form of a smartphone app which has its maximum utility during the airing of the show. Let’s explore that:
Several 2nd-screen campaigns have been run in recent times – some via social media, and some through the channel’s own mobile apps. I remember seeing television ads for the TV Show Hannibal’s app on AXN. Users were encouraged to use this “2nd screen app” while the show was on: the app would sync up with the show by picking up the sounds and then provide additional information such as “episode specific facts, production notes and trivia as you watch.” When I saw those ads, I thought about what it would take for me to download this app and then use it while the show was playing, or what show would it have to be for me to go to such lengths? And I couldn’t really find an answer to either question, what would you do?
A usual way to assess a business idea is to see if there is enough ‘pain’ with the customers that your solution is relieving. The existence of this pain would then justify expenditure of time and money on the solution being offered. In this case, the customers in question are broadcasters and the viewers.
In the context of a 2nd screen solution, the pain point is that people are using their devices even when watching television or listening to the radio. The attempt therefore is to expand the television shows’ horizons to the phone/tablet. In my opinion, the success of this idea is not just in making the app provide a platform for interaction, but really putting the thinking caps on and designing material that hits home with viewers and fans. This just might mean using the app to give out prizes if that is what catches viewers’ attention or something else that does.
Ideally, unless the TV show is designed to rely on interactions with the audience, broadcasters wouldn’t want viewers to look away from the TV screen, to their distracting phones. But it is today’s reality and offering smart solutions to the problem that can help viewers, broadcasters and advertisers is definitely a great way to go.
The smart phone app won’t be without its direct competitors. The direct competition is just by all the other apps on your phone, texting, social media, email etc. For broadcasters, the simplest one that comes to mind is the option of sending text messages to a certain phone number or just calling in – this has been the way that audiences have been successfully voicing their opinions for the longest time. For others, it’s Twitter or Facebook that keeps them in touch with their listeners/viewers. For additional information etc, viewers are usually encouraged to visit the show’s website or social media page. This makes more sense because it “adds” to the face-time between the broadcasters and the viewers, rather than cannibalizing the time they already have.
While it may be tempting to try launching on a large scale with various types of broadcasts or to go with the first person who likes your idea – what InteraCta needs to do is go for the strongest card first. It’s a new concept, especially for the local market, and it is important that the first attempt makes a significant mark with the general population. The idea here would be to pick a show that would benefit the most from this additional feature, where both broadcasters and viewers will have something to gain from using a smart phone app as a portal of interaction. This might be a talk show, a game show or a drama – we’ll leave that judgment to InteraCta’s team and the professionals in the media industry that they are contacting. Looking forward to seeing how this space pans out.