The iTV Doctor Reviews: Second-Screen Apps at the Oscars

Dear Readers:

As promised, this week's column is a review of second-screen (iPhone) apps that complemented the February 26th Academy Awards broadcast on ABC. We'll be looking at Shazam, Miso, Viggle and ABC's in-house iPhone experience. The overall domestic Oscar audience was pegged at 38 million viewers, significantly less than the 44 million viewers for the Grammys, and only about a third of the Super Bowl audience.

SHAZAM: The folks at Shazam tell me they are prepping for a major announcement, and their efforts are currently directed at "creating a fantastic experience around that." But what Shazam did at the Oscars is the kind of thing we were all dreaming that Canoe would eventually enable in a single-screen environment: persuading viewers to request a free sample of a new product.

About 100 minutes into the program, ABC ran a commercial for Tide Pods, a new, pre-packaged, all-in-one laundry detergent. The spot showed a small (I wish it was larger) tag: "Shazam for more." Clicking the Shazam icon on my iPhone took me to a Shazam app with a free sample offer. Of course, since Shazam is not integrated with the operator, I had to type in all my information. That was a pain in the neck, but the important part is that it appeared on a national broadcast, and it worked. Here's what it looked like ("official" Shazam screen shots):

Overall Shazam Grade: B



VIGGLE: With a combination of voting, polling and viewer contests, the Viggle folks took maximum advantage of the Academy Awards opportunities.

As we've previously noted, Viggle rewards their users with points that can be redeemed for everything from $5 retail gift cards (from Starbucks, Papa John's, Fandango and more), all the way up to an Amazon Kindle. A few days before the Oscars telecast, Viggle announced a limited-time offer of a free movie ticket (up to $13 value) for 8,000 points--a significant value compared to the $5 Fandango card for 7,500 points.

During the Oscars, viewers could win up to 10,000 points by correctly predicting the winners in the various award categories, answering trivia questions, and rating the movies. Viewers actually had the opportunity to earn enough points for the free movie ticket, although Viggle president and COO Chris Stephenson told me that they couldn't link the movie ticket promo to the Oscars without getting permission from ABC and the Academy, and they simply didn't have enough time.

And it turns out, time is something they had more of than expected. They were staffed up to work with the Daytona 500 the same day as the Oscars, but with the Daytona 500 rain postponement, they had a bit of excess live production capacity. So they got to play with live television for viewer interactivity, and I know some of my readers think of that as either a dream job or a nightmare, or both.

One thing that really struck me was the trivia (for points, mind you) about the television commercials. Understand these were not even commercials that Viggle sold; these were ABC's spots. But taking their experience at the Super Bowl (where the Adriana Lima commercial for the Kia Optima was the most popular Viggle experience), they decided to ask viewers trivia questions about spots that aired in the previous commercial breaks.

Yeah, that means they were asking viewers to interact with a JC Penney spot when a Coke spot was on the air--we still gotta work that out. Nonetheless, I think the advertising trivia bit was brilliant--and for those viewers who were counting their points, they probably paid more attention to ALL the spots, because they didn't know which ones they would be asked about.

All in all, a terrific mix of content and commercials. Here are some screen shots (from my iPhone):

Overall Viggle Grade: A

MISO: We also took a look at the "SideShow" app from Miso, sponsored by Hyundai. It was a solid mix of Web-based content, a few IMDb references, and a poll or two--very similar to their work with the Grammys, but with more content. But on the small screen of the iPhone, without the ability to expand the type and graphics, and locked into the vertical format, it was not as engaging nor as satisfying as the Viggle environment. Miso tried to do more, and ended up with less.

Overall Miso Grade: C+



ABC: At the behest of Albert Cheng (EVP and chief product officer, digital media, Disney/ABC Television Group), we spent time with the "official" 84th Academy Awards iPhone app. It is a Powerhouse (with a capital "P") of content. Perhaps better suited to the iPad, it is chock-full of photos, videos, interviews and the kinds of things we might watch on an interactive TV set if we had one glued to the side of our primary set.

A phenomenal effort, with emphasis on effort. I wonder how the results compared, per 100 users, to the work that Viggle did for probably one one-hundredth the cost.

Here's a screen shot, featuring Albert Cheng himself (in the center of the frame).

Overall ABC Academy Awards Grade: A-

North America