TV and Tablet: Forging a Formidable Tag Team

One of the many buzzwords proliferating the marketing industry these days is “second screen.” Second-screen adoption is the term used to describe the consumer trend of using a smartphone or tablet while watching TV. With a third of U.S. consumers owning a tablet and more than 50 percent owning a smartphone, it’s not surprising that TV viewing habits have changed drastically and quickly.

According to Nielsen, 85 percent of mobile device owners use their tablet or smartphone while watching TV at least once per month, and 40 percent do so daily. Breaking that apart, 41 percent use a tablet while watching TV daily, and 39 percent use a smartphone. Think about your own TV viewing habits, and those numbers may actually seem low. How many of us haven’t played that killer 99-point word in Words With Friends or checked email during a TV commercial or during a TV show itself?

Let’s consider what this behavior means for television advertisers.

Even before tablets and smartphones easily distracted us, DVRs made it easy to skip advertising altogether. This is obviously not good news for television advertisers who are spending big bucks to attract viewers. So what can advertisers do?

Well, they may want to look at how one media company is seamlessly integrating the TV and tablet experience. Surprisingly, this media company isn’t responsible for creating legendary characters like Mickey and Goofy, but instead bigger-than-life superstars like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Undertaker.

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the company synonymous with burly men in tights hitting each other with steel chairs, has flawlessly integrated the television and tablet experience. WWE has effectively enhanced the viewing experience of its flagship television program, Monday Night Raw, bringing second-screen adoption to main event status.

Love it or hate it, professional wrestling has consistently been one of the top-rated programs on cable television. Millions tune in to see the scripted battles unfold every Monday night. But even Vince McMahon’s wrestling empire hasn’t been immune to grappling with ways to keep viewers engaged. WWE’s fans aren’t only socially active (WWE fully embraces Twitter and routinely broadcast fans’ live tweets during the program), they also tend to be early adopters of new technology.

Therefore, WWE put a tremendous amount of effort into building an app that can be used simultaneously during the Monday Night Raw television program. Just as it pioneered the business model of pay-per-view in the early 80s, the WWE has created an immersive, interactive viewing experience that should serve as the blueprint for how other media companies master the second-screen opportunity

Even if you’ve only tuned in for 15 minutes of the WWE’s three-hour program, chances are you know about the WWE app. The company promotes it every few minutes and even cuts to live shots of the wrestlers interacting with the app. If you’re a fan, you’re sure to have your tablet or smartphone nearby, as the WWE routinely asks fans to vote on everything from the stipulation for its main event (e.g., tables match or lumberjack match?) to which wrestlers should be wrestling. In a world completely predetermined, it’s hard not to think the voting is rigged as well, but it’s still a smart tactic for keeping viewers actively engaged.

What’s more, when the program cuts to a commercial break, the action doesn’t stop. Viewers are urged to log in to the app to see what they’re missing. I do wonder how advertisers feel about their targeted audience being told to completely ignore their ads, but you have to admire the WWE’s commitment to engagement. There is, however, an opportunity here for WWE and its advertisers: the viewers directed to ignore their TV screens should be seeing those advertisers’ messages on the WWE app.

So if a fan engages with the WWE app and misses a TV commercial for a new video game, that video game company doesn’t miss out because it’s the sponsor of that particular app segment. The app is where advertisers ought to be directing their ad budgets, because that’s where the audience is engaging during the traditional commercial break.

WWE has clearly demonstrated that there’s a significant opportunity for traditional TV advertisers to extend their message to the second screen. Soon other television shows and sporting events will follow suit; it’s time for advertisers to get in the game. If done right, TV and tablets can form a formidable tag team that will change the way we consume media.

Michael Goldberg is the senior director of marketing and communications at Martini Media. Michael can be reached at