'Second screen,' user experience central, say panelists at Variety summit

The successful inroads made by apps and the prospects for future growth were spotlighted Thursday as developers and entrepreneurs gathered at the Sofitel Hotel in L.A. for Variety’s Entertainment App confab.

At the event, encompassing seven main panels and several more aimed at developers, execs and experts noted the central role consumers play in pushing innovation as an adjunct to and expansion of traditional media.

Stats supporting the case for apps were presented during the “I Want My App TV” and the “New TV Viewing Party” panels, with Scott Maddux, senior VP of product development at Nielsen, noting that 70% of tablet and smart phone owners use their device while watching TV.

Colin Helms, VP of MTV Digital Media, said the network will roll out “super spots” with some of its partners in January, whereby when TV viewers see an ad for a feature film, their mobile device will instantly allow them to find locations to see that movie.

Helms emphasized the importance of monetizing apps for a demo so immersed in the second screen.

“Our consumers, they’re tweens and twentysomething. They didn’t know how to watch something with just one screen,” he said. “They’ll get bored.”

During the “Movie Apps and Social Networks” panel, the need to understand consumers’ use and interests came up again as the key to designing successful, user-friendly applications.

Ed Lang of Panelfly — a platform offering a digital comic experience — said that when he partnered with a company to design an app aimed at 6-year-olds, he and his team had to rethink their user experience to focus on the target user rather than create “geeked out” features. He said accounting for user needs and aptitude are essential to consider in development.

“I have to make sure my mother-in-law can use our app before we can launch anything,” joked Lang.

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