Tablets Transforming TV

There has been a lot of activity lately on the second screen. We reported on the launch of zeebox in the US in late September and last week Netflix quietly added second screen support for PS3 users. The BBC also reported that September iPlayer requests for content from tablets tripled over the same month last year. The company reports that mobile platforms (predominantly smartphones and tablets) now account for 21% of content requests.

This week, in further evidence that the second screen continues to reshape the business of television, Microsoft announced the launch of Xbox SmartGlass. The company first demonstrated SmartGlass at E3 in LA earlier this year, understandably focusing on the gamer aspects of the initiative. In the announcement this week Microsoft showed how SmartGlass is much broader than just games, extending to media consumption and even browsing the web.

For example, a user can start watching a movie or show on a tablet and, when in front of their Xbox-enabled TV, push the video to the television. The tablet then automatically switches to second-screen mode displaying synced information about the movie currently on the TV. As well, a user can start a browsing session on the TV – Microsoft also launched Internet Explorer on Xbox this week – and switch it to the tablet or smartphone before heading out the door.

Content provider enthusiasm for the tablet is no act of fancy or whim. Consumers are fully engaged with their media on the platform. According to new research from TDG this week, 38% of US adult broadband users currently chat with friends or use sync-apps on their mobile device while watching television at least a couple times per year. Nearly 50% of 18-44 year olds watch video on their tablets on daily basis.

Clearly, the old maxim that content follows the eyeballs is as true today as it has ever been. But in this connected world we live in, the video doesn’t just migrate to the second screen: the video experience is changed by it.

If you think this behavior is restricted to the early tech adopters perhaps you should think again. I was at the excellent CEA Industry Forum in San Francisco last week. Steve Koenig and Shawn DuBravac – both of the CEA – reported in their presentation on the upcoming holiday season that the number 1 tech gift on consumer wish lists by far is the tablet. I, for one, have no doubt that once these holiday-hopefuls get their hands on a tablet they will embrace it as their personal media device just as readily as the early adopters have.