An IHS Screen Digest conference on The Future of Digital Media Distribution raised as many questions as answers about the role of multiple screens in a network connected world. For some, the tablet is the solution to the problems of television interaction. Alan Wolk of Kit Digital summed up his analysis in an entertaining presentation on seven things you need to know about second screen interaction. Some of the points were presented, in the style of the quiz show Jeopardy, as clues to questions that everyone in the industry should ask.

Q: What is the one thing we often don’t do when the television is on?
A: Watch it.
In many cases we may be reading, talking on the telephone, or answering email while the television is on. Second screen interactions only matter when watching television is our primary focus.

Q: What is the first thing we do when we pick up the remote?
A: Find something to watch.
Programme discovery is the most important part of the second screen experience. Viewers need an app that lets them change the channel. Most apps do not support this, although some will, like Zeebox.

Q: Who cares what all their social media contacts are saying about Britain’s Got Talent?
A: No one.
Our social graphs are random and rarely consist of people whose opinions we care about. The Twitter audience is rarely reflective of the mass audience. More important is to know what other relevant groups and critics think.

Q: This growing habit increases the value of discovery while decreasing the likelihood of chatter.
A: Time shifting.
When the answer to ‘What’s On?’ is everything, with so much choice available on demand, discovery rather than content becomes king. Real-time social conversation is less relevant to time-shifted viewing.

Q: This four-letter word gives second screen apps sex appeal.
A: Data.
It’s the data, not the chatter (which rhymes in America). Information about what individuals are actually watching is very valuable and can ultimately lead to better viewing experiences.

Q: Without this, predictive technology becomes just another parlour trick.
A: Interaction.
Television viewing is just too random for a pure suggestion engine. It depends upon mood as much as what people have previously watched. Viewers need to make some choices, such as genre, to narrow the selection process.

Q: What’s the most frustrating aspect of today’s television experience?
A: The interface.
The television user interface and traditional grid guide is no longer adequate and has become a multidimensional puzzle like Rubik’s Cube. Someone will come along with something simpler that will shake up the entire industry, just as Apple did with the iPhone and iPad.

Alan Wolk is the global lead analyst for Kit Digital, a leading video management software and services company, and writes a blog on the convergence of the internet and television. Kit Digital sponsored The Future of Digital Media Distribution conference in London, for which informitv was a media partner.