Beamly, the erstwhile 2nd screen TV pioneer, has agreed to be purchased by the global beauty products manufacturer and marketer Coty. Is this an indication that second screening is dead? Far from it.
Beamly was founded as Zeebox in 2011 by Anthony Rose, formerly head of the BBC’s iPlayer effort. The idea behind Zeebox was to provide a platform to encourage engagement with TV programs. The app was designed to be used before, during, and after a live show broadcast, bringing together social interaction, show information and synchronized content to create an enhanced experience.
On the face of it, Zeebox seemed like a very good idea. There was data showing people were watching TV with a smartphone in hand or PC on lap, and that they were chatting with friends over social media and looking up things on the web. After initial success in the UK market, Zeebox launched in the US with the backing of Comcast and NBCU.
However, there were early signs of trouble ahead. In the 2013 nScreenMedia report on Second Screen Apps for TV, we found that just 30% of people that downloaded the Zeebox app converted to monthly users. Worse still, though all of the Zeebox downloaders watched TV every day, virtually none of them (just 3%) used the app daily.
Consequently, Zeebox struggled to generate revenue early on, forcing the company to refocus around its core users, women under 35 years old. The new name, Beamly, was thought to be more appealing to that demographic. The company also moved further and further away from live engagement, opting instead to promote conversations around, rather than during, the show. Ultimately, Beamly became more of a creative marketing agency than a second screen app, helping its clients (including Coty) to develop socially shareable content to engage consumers.
Is the failure of Zeebox/Beamly to achieve success as a second screen TV app an indication that consumers aren’t interested in second screen activity while watching television? Far from it. Recently, iab did find that the most popular second screen activities were unrelated to what was on TV. For example, 71% browse the Internet and 58% read and post on social nets about topics unrelated to the show on TV while watching. However, iab also found that 49% of TV viewers search for information on show cast members and 37% search for reviews of products they see in ads while watching.
What does the failure of Beamly as a 2nd screen app TV teach us? For the answer we need to refer back to the 2013 Second Screen App Report, which said:
This leads to the overall conclusion that there is no “market” for second screen apps, at least not as they exist today. “Market” in this context means the distinct aggregation of sizable revenues, derived from actual usage and usage monetization.”
In short, there is not enough differentiated functionality in standalone second screen TV apps to justify a consumer downloading and using them. The value of this content and functionality is best realized in the apps consumers are already using: social media sites like Facebook and in TV content provider apps like Showtime Anytime.
Why it matters
Beamly’s sale to global cosmetics giant Coty could be interpreted as a failure for second screen TV functionality and content.
That would be a mistake.
Beamly’s sale merely reinforces that the value of second screen TV functionality and content is best realized through apps consumers are already using.