Fox: Second-screen apps are 'here to stay'

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Fox Networks has been experimenting with second-screen apps for more than a year, and the company's conclusion from its work in the space is that second-screen apps are not a passing trend.

"We're all convinced that second screen is here to stay," said Sherry Brennan, senior vice president of sales strategy and development for Fox Networks. "The question is, what do you do on second screens? What do consumers want there? That's what's evolving."

Fox has worked on a range of second-screen initiatives with the goal of more firmly tying TV viewers to the content they're watching. Fox's apps, which are primarily available on tablets and are offered through the "Fox Now" brand, generally provide information about a TV program, and in some cases can be synchronized with the program in order to provide context or details not available through the TV screen.

For example, the company late last year launched a "t-commerce" program that allowed viewers of the show "New Girl" to purchase items they see on the show.

"In the last year we've done a lot of experimenting with different concepts, like synched content," Brennan explained. "I don't think anybody knows, we certainly don't, what's going to work best in terms of synched content, but we're hopeful that it will increase audience engagement and appreciation."

Brennan added: "We're adjusting as we go along."

However, Brennan cautioned that the market for second-screen apps is still very young.

"Right now, the numbers are really small," she said. "They're like, if you get 4,000 checkins on GetGlue, or something, that's a lot. So the numbers are really way too small to really learn anything super meaningful at this point."

Interestingly, Fox appears to be investing in ways to grow the second-screen app market. The company earlier this year announced it would syndicate its second-screen content. The effort will be powered by Watchwith, and the companies that initially signed up to access the Fox content include Viggle, Dijit Media, NextGuide and ConnecTV.

Why so much interest in the market for second-screen apps? A Chitika study from last year found that tablet-based Web traffic rises 94 percent during prime time TV hours, meaning that TV broadcasters are concerned that they might lose TV viewers if they don't also offer tablet content.

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