Sasha Kamenetska | Contributor
March 21, 2013

APIs Creating a Second Screen Experience


With the Super Bowl/awards season now officially over, we can look back and assess how this year’s season compares with last years in terms of social engagement and second screen usage.  Not surprisingly, social media engagement grew for all the major events this year.   The Super Bowl drew 30 million mentions/comments in the social media space, while the Grammys and the Oscars drew 19 and 18 million, respectively. 

A lot of this engagement comes from Twitter and Facebook, but more and more, second-screen apps are the venue from which TV viewers engage with content and with each other.  Second screen apps have been around for a few years, but are now really taking off.  And that’s not surprising.  According to a Business Insider Intelligence report, 85% of tablet owners use their tablets while watching TV, and 85% of smartphone owners use their smartphones while watching TV at least once a month as of the end of 2012. 

The opportunities in this space are pretty big.  Just in advertising alone, the second screen app world can drive a lot of revenue, considering that TV ad spending was $18 billion in the third quarter of 2012 alone.  Although this market is fragmented, it is attracting many of the most influential users (high earners, young adults). 

In recent months, there have been a slew of acquisitions and new developments in the space.  Twitter, which is embedded in the second screen space already, last month announced the acquisition of Bluefin Labs, a social TV analytics company.  In December of 2012, Twitter also announced a partnership with Nielsen to create a new social TV rating.  In January, Zeebox, a second screen app, celebrated one million downloads in 3 months.  And the second screen is now coming to film as well, with App.

Media and entertainment companies need to take note.  As more and more apps are created to reach the expanding second screen audience, there will be growing demand for TV related data that is available in an easy to consume format (aka the API). 

Tribune Media Services (TMS), is taking advantage of this trend with its OnConnect API program.  Last week at SXSW, TMS showcased its APIs and its partnerships, which include Boxee, Zeebox and NextGuide, among others.  And in April, they will be sponsors at the TVnext Hack in Boston. 

With its API program, TMS is enabling a growing community of second screen apps, enhanced guides and the developers who create them.  Mike Fioritto, Product Manager at TMS, thinks of the API as “‘fuel’ for developers who are building out entertainment related apps and sites…Our data really supports a ‘what to watch, where to watch it’ use case”. 

By making its data available through APIs and charging for them, TMS is ensuring that it is opening itself up to new customers, new revenue and new innovation.  And TMS is creating new data connections with its APIs – mapping movies and TV shows to Twitter, Facebook, IMDB, Wikipedia and Rotten Tomatoes. 

APIs are the bridge that will allow traditional media companies to tap into this new consumer trend and benefit from a wealth of advertising revenue, media coverage and partnerships that are about to emerge in this space.