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Second Screen Activity Takes Center Stage at Film Finance Forum East

When it comes to second-screen activity around television programs, execs think it’s just a matter of time before advertisers warm up to its potential as a marketing platform.

Digital Kitchen co-founder and president Don McNeill said it’s inevitable that advertisers and television networks alike will come to embrace viewer distraction and place content on mobile devices and tablets which will in turn create to social-media chatter and other digital cross-talk centered around the TV programs.

McNeill joined Ogilvy Entertainment director/exec producer Jamie Schutz and Smithsonian digital exec Joseph Giraldi to speak about the topic on a panel focused on television at Tuesday’s Film Finance Forum East presented by Winston Baker in association with Variety in New York.

The biggest problem with harnessing the money-making potential of second screen activity is that too many constituencies are not in alignment in terms of priorities.

“The (talent) wants to get paid and the consumers don’t want to pay for (second screen content),” McNeill said. “So no one is paying anything additional for it. At the end of the day, if you link it to the consumer, they need to be the ones to align the point of view. I do think brands will pay for those things if you do it right. We are like four or five months away.”

But getting big name brands like Coca-Cola to invest and believe in second screen media might take more time.

“A lot of these brands are very, very strategic and conservative,” Schutz said. “I sit with them all the time and pitch them on new ideas and sometimes we win and a lot of the time we lose. But I think we are getting there slowly. It’s definitely going to take some more time.”

McNeill considers the second screen an “incredible opportunity” to get feedback from viewers.

Schutz added that Ellen DeGeneres’ recent “selfie” (pictured) taken during the Oscar telecast with a host of superstars will help marketers warm up to the second screen experience.

“I love how the walls are breaking down between the audience and the performers,” Schutz said. “You would have never seen (what happened at the Oscars with DeGeneres) breaking the fourth wall 10 years ago. I think people want that.”

But on a later television panel, Bruce Tuchman, AMC/Sundance Channel Global Networks prexy, expressed doubt.

While he admitted that social media helped people all over the world appreciate and spread the word about “Breaking Bad,” he said he wasn’t sure how influential the second screen actually is — yet.

“When I’m negotiating carriage deals, probably 98% of the time is spent on all of these new media rights,” Tuchman said. “But in most international markets 2% of people’s time is spent even think about that in terms of consumers. It’s not everywhere. Some markets – Korea, maybe the U.K. – but in most markets its still a minor aspect. But I have no doubt it’s going to become a bigger aspect.”

Indomitable Entertainment’s Jon Ferro said he was surprised how long it’s taking some companies in particular to see the value in co-viewing.

“I was at a luncheon with the international head of Hulu and I asked him how he was approaching second screen? He said, ‘We’re not. We don’t do second screen.’ And I thought, you should be at the forefront of that experience because you can integrate it into the viewing experience so seamlessly but it was not in his train of thought,” Ferro said.

Tuchman said he wasn’t that surprised.

“I think we are going to see a change and I think it is going to be seismic, but with a younger generation,” he said.

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