by Neil Maycock, Snell Second-Screen Apps Can they really add value to the broadcast product? A s today's consumers watch television, many of them are engaging with media through multiple devices at once. In fact, some studies indicate that as much as 50 percent of television viewers are regularly online as they watch. They are posting and tweeting on social networking sites, checking movie and actor facts on sites such as IMDB, and even visiting the broadcaster's website. This strong trend in multi-screen media consumption offers broadcasters a new commercial opportunity ­ but only if those broadcasters have the tools to enrich the online experience and make it even more relevant to the broadcast product being watched. With ad revenues under pressure and with online advertising and other outlets increase in popularity, broadcasters are in need of a way to sell targeted and relevant services for the online advertising and sales market. Attempting to take advantage of this new ad model, some broadcasters have written apps designed specifically for particular television shows. Others have leveraged new audio technologies and custom apps to identify what a person is watching and to provide relevant information. While these approaches tackled some key aspects of enriching the viewing experience with online content, they remained relatively crude in their design and efficacy. Constrained by dependence on preset schedules, many of these apps have been unable to adapt to live programming ­ including the most popular music, game, and entertainment programs in which live performances are so critical ­or to accommodate the dynamic insertion of commercial breaks. Such programming doesn't allow the broadcaster to build a playlist of rich and relevant information in advance. Unable to provide rich information on a scene-by-scene basis or to adapt smoothly to changes in the live broadcast schedule, early solutions for linking programming with online advertising were limited in the value they could bring to viewers and, as a result, to advertisers. It was virtually impossible to assure, for example, that the correct production information would be supplied in real-time with an ad separating two segments of a live program. This deficit in real-time flexibility has left broadcasters looking for >> 56 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE