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Olympics Are Coming-Out Party For Multi-Screen Viewing

Topic: Social Media | Author: Jeff Hasen | Date: July 24, 2012

london 2012 olympics multi screensBeyond the athletes who will become household names over the next few weeks, the London Olympics are the coming-out party for multi-screen viewing.

Yes, the shift to multi-device multi-tasking is real — in fact, it’s a trend we have observed for months that will have a profound impact on mobile marketing. Already the Pew Internet and American Life Project tells us that half of all adult mobile phone owners now reach to their mobile devices to enhance and enjoy their television-watching experiences.

The London Games will show what cutting-edge companies are capable of right now.

Just in time for the Olympics, entities including Twitter, ESPN, Facebook and Yahoo!, are taking the wraps off of comprehensive complementary initiatives to transform television viewing, making what used to be the passive activity into a completely interactive one.

Jeff Hasen Mobilized MarketingESPN gave me the inside track on their strategy, insights I documented in my new book Mobilized Marketing. Specifically, ESPN intends to create worldwide fan communities around events like the Olympics. It’s an exciting approach that brings together fans experiencing the games live in the stadiums with fans cheering on their sofas. Further, the social aspect of this encourages live viewing since the back-and-forth between fans in the community happens in real-time as events take place.

Is ESPN on to something here? Let’s look at what the numbers tell us.

The results highlighted below are based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from March 15 to April 3, 2012, among a sample of 2,254 adults, age 18 and older.


  • 38 percent of mobile phone owners used their phone to keep themselves occupied during commercials or breaks in something they were watching
  • 23 percent used their phone to exchange text messages with someone else who was watching the same program in a different location
  • 22 percent used their phone to check whether something they heard on television was true
  • 20 percent used their phone to visit a website that was mentioned on television
  • 11 percent used their phone to see what other people were saying online about a program they were watching, and 11 percent posted their own comments online about a program they were watching using their mobile phone
  • 6 percent used their phone to vote for a reality show contestant

Altogether, Pew reports that 52 percent of all mobile phone owners are “connected viewers”—meaning they use their phones while watching television for at least one of the activities listed above.

Aaron Smith, a co-author of the Pew report, sums it up best in an interview with  Mediapost. As he put it: “Thanks to the widespread adoption of mobile technologies, what was once a passive, one-way information flow is often now a social contact sport.”

But mobile social isn’t just fueling a new way to experience television.  The combination of social and mobile has also encouraged more sales. With devices typically no more than four feet away at all times, more people are open to impulse buys. It’s interesting that people who are responding to calls to action delivered by traditional media (TV) are actually driving additional business for advertisers and mobile marketers.

In fact, AllThingsD reports that eBay and PayPal mobile expect to each transact $10 billion in volume this year. That’s more than double 2011. In the words of eBay’s CEO John Donahoe, the jump represents a “staggering surge” in mobile commerce that did not exist just a few years ago.

How I See It: The shift is real and marketers who fail to realize that consumers are participating in experiences and events like the London Olympics (across multiple screens) will likely miss this year’s business goals. The proof is in the numbers — and in exclusive interviews I conducted with brands and companies gearing up to ride this wave. As ESPN told me: Consumers will punish brands who don’t have a rewarding mobile presence. It has passed the point of a “nice to have.”

AT&T charging confusion

In the U.S. AT&T has followed Verizon Wireless’ lead and announced shared data plans.

With new AT&T Mobile Share plans, available in late August, new and existing customers can share a single bucket of data across smartphones, tablets, and other compatible devices, plus get unlimited talk and text. According to the company, “AT&T Mobile Share plans make it easy for customers to manage their data, voice minutes and texting, without needing to keep track of multiple plans.”

With AT&T Mobile Share plans, customers start by choosing how much data they want each month, then choose up to 10 devices to attach to their shared plan, one of which must be a smartphone. Each plan includes tethering and unlimited domestic calls and texts for smartphones and basic or quick messaging phones. The larger the data bucket you choose, the less you pay per gigabyte and the less you pay for each smartphone added to the shared plan.

To help customers track their data usage, AT&T keeps users informed with courtesy alerts as they near their data allowance for the month. Also, customers can check their usage at anytime online, through the myAT&T mobile app, or by calling *DATA# from their mobile phone.

The move follows the June launch of Share Everything plans by Verizon, a charging scheme it said “will forever change the way customers purchase wireless services.”  Share Everything Plans, which are now available, include unlimited voice minutes, unlimited text, video and picture messaging and a single data allowance for up to 10 Verizon Wireless devices.  In addition, the Mobile Hotspot service on all the devices is included in the Share Everything Plans at no additional charge.

How I See It: The new pricing models may be a step in the right direction, but the tariffs are still a jungle. In my view, mobile operators are overselling the ease-of-use here, and I have read multiple reports from techies who can’t make sense of the plans. As I’ve said in my column here — and in my book Mobilized Marketing— keeping it simple is critical. Ladies and gentlemen of mobile, every day when you come to your desks, whiteboards and assembly lines, think of just two words: Easy peasy. Let’s rally around this children’s rhyme and make it our motto to stop the insanity of metered data plans, crazy distribution points and even crazier product line introductions. It has to be EASY — but this new model isn’t. Instead it demands mobile subscribers to count their “MBs” and “GBs.” In an age where connected is fast becoming our new ‘default state’ that’s like asking people to measure the air they breathe in cubic square feet.


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