Could TV’s ‘second screen’ be used for even more TV?

Now that it is understood TV viewers are using mobile devices whilst watching shows, many in digital media are using those mobiles to accompany television with alternative-format material, like contextual text information, social discussion, votes and games.

But what if the ideal accompaniment to live TV was… more live TV?

That is what one London outfit, Showcaster, is hoping. It is preparing to produce a live video show called #Yappfactor to air during this fall’s Saturday-night The X Factor (UK) – not on the show broadcaster ITV, but inside the Zeebox social TV sidekick application.

Also on Thursday, Zeebox announced Viacom is joining Comcast Cable and NBC Universal as US investors and promotion partners – signatures which were not complete in time for last week’s US app launch.

The X Factor stream will see comedian and radio host Jake Yapp offer “tongue-in-cheek” observations to UK Zeebox users’ sofas while they watch the show on the TV in front of them.

Although many viewers have become used to reading and participating in text-based discussion and to Googling for information relevant to the shows they are watching, the introduction of parallel video in addition to the principal live broadcast could prove overwhelming and disruptive, not least to fellow viewers in the same room – like a friend interrupting every song with an annoying sofa commentary.

Although consumer surveys this year have routinely shown that TV viewers are using smartphones, tablets and laptops whilst watching TV, the research does not always prove an appetite to further indulge their same TV viewing on those separate screens. Many viewers may be multi-tasking, distracting themselves from TV with email, Facebook and other tasks. Recent Deloitte research showed the second screen is most often used for social discussion of TV shows, not for finding additional information about them.

Showcaster has previously produced live web shows allied to popular TV shows, but these have mostly aired after the core show has broadcast on primary TV. However, the firm in March broadcast to the web live video of the cast of Skins watching their own show while it aired on Channel 4.

Regarding #Yappfactor, The Telegraph reckons all of this means: “ITV is under threat of losing advertising revenues from The X Factor to a parallel programme run by rivals who plan to hi-jack the talent show’s viewers.”

But that is over-egging this pudding. The #Yappfactor show is experimental for Showcaster and its insertion in to Zeebox experimental for both parties.

“#Yappfactor is a purely editorial exercise for us,” Zeebox product and content development chief Simon Miller – himself a film producer – tells paidContent. “It is nothing more than commentary from an independent comedian – an extension of the alternative Twitter commentary we’re already been running.

“We’re aiming to drive our users towards watching the (TV) show, as the commentary doesn’t make sense unless you watch The X Factor live.

“There is no monetisation on the page: no sponsors or advertising, so there is no question about ITV’s revenues being targeted.”

However, part of Zeebox’s business model is having Sky Media sell display-ad sponsorships in app slots against particular shows. This summer, it sold Zeebox slots to Samsung BP against BBC Olympics broadcasts, for example.