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The future of TV increasingly looks mobile

While mobile?s influence on traditional television has been felt for some time, the convergence of the two platforms started stepping into high-gear this year.

With a surge in digital viewing of TV programming and in the kinds of content available for such consumption, mobile is increasingly influencing when and where consumers watch their favorite programs. At the same time, mobile?s role in how viewers engage with their traditional TV sets is also growing, as evidenced by the launch of Google?s Chromecast and new offerings from Twitter for TV advertisers.

?The future of TV is starting to look very mobile,? said Eugene Youn, vice president of business development at Rhythm NewMedia, Mountain View, CA. ?At Rhythm, our partners are seeing mobile usage surpass online, especially among digital-first brands. This is a game-changer.

?With more and more consumers watching TV content on their personal devices, brands are presented with a huge opportunity to connect with consumers using this full-screen immersive mobile user experience,? he said.

?The future of TV is very intertwined with the future of mobile. Once brands can figure out how to sync messaging across the TV experience to the mobile experience, that's when things will start to get interesting.?

On-the-go viewing
HBO was one of the first networks to recognize how viewers habits are changing, resulting in the launch of the HBO GO app, which enables subscribers to watch its programming from a variety of devices.

Mobile users have also embraced services such as Hulu to access TV programming from their mobile devices.

One of the interesting trends this year is the growing availability of TV content directly from the networks on which consumers are used to watching them.

This year, ABC launched the first network app to make live content available to mobile users on a full-time basis, while CBS introduced an iPhone and iPad app that streams episodes of its primetime, daytime and late-night programming.

Additionally, public TV station Thirteen/WNET launched a free iPad app offering full episodes of popular programming such as American Masters, Nova and Antiques Roadshow.

?TV will continue to evolve,? said Steve Smith, partner, planning and insights at Firehouse, Dallas, TX. ?It will become more multi-platform.

?It makes sense ? there are more places to distribute content, more consumers interested in getting that content, and more money to be made from it,? he said. ?As trite as the word ?agnostic? has become, consumers are becoming more so. They are less concerned about where they get the entertainment they want.

?TV has no choice but to follow them."

Extending the experience
The other important way that mobile and TV are converging regards how smartphone and tablet users engage with their devices while watching programming on a traditional TV set.

The growth of Shazam and Viggle in the past couple of years also points to the strong interest consumers have in extending their traditional TV viewing experiences via mobile.

Increasingly, these second-screen experiences are taking place on social networks.

For example, America?s Got Talent viewers can tweet their vote and stars of various shows often tweet live as programming airs.

This convergence of mobile social and TV is driving results for programmers, with Nielsen reporting a spike in TV ratings can increase the volume of Tweets related to a show and a spike in Tweets can increase tune-in.

Nielsen and Twitter will start publishing a new "Nielsen Twitter TV Rating" this fall that measures the volume of Twitter conversation around programs.

The second-screen trend is opening up potential opportunities for TV advertisers to extend their reach beyond the TV screen onto mobile devices.

Mobile social TV
This is why Twitter has stepped up its efforts to attract business from TV advertisers this year.

Twitter earlier this year introduced TV ad targeting, enabling marketers to engage directly with people on Twitter who have been exposed to their ads on TV. 

Another new program, Twitter Amplify, enables media companies to deliver real-time in-Tweet video clips to drive the social conversation around a program.

Facebook has not been as aggressive to date in trying to cater to TV advertisers, but clearly has this market in mind and will reportedly launch video ads at some point this year. 

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg even said earlier this year that mobile is as important, if not more important, to marketers than television.

However, not everyone is convinced of the opportunity for marketers in leveraging social media to reach TV viewers.

?The mobile screen as a second screen while watching traditional television is often not a real brand advertising opportunity at all,? Rhythm?s Mr. Youn said. ?In this instance, consumers are using their second screen to take a break from TV video entertainment by engaging with social media, email or texts, often during TV commercial breaks.

?Some brands, like Toyota, have been successful at engaging consumers across screens with polls and other methods, but for the most part, the second screen as an opportunity for branding is likely a red herring that will pass,? he said.

Shifting budgets
Google?s Chromecast is another example of the growing role that mobile is playing in how consumers watch TV.

The $35 device attaches to a TV and enables users to stream Internet content to their TVs from a mobile device, which also acts as the remote.

While similar devices are already available, they are more expensive, which could help explain why Chromecast quickly sold out after its recent launch.

Despite these trends, marketers have not kept up. 

While many are shifting ad spend to mobile, it is often coming from their online budgets and not from their TV budgets, even though reports suggests consumers are watching more TV on computers and smartphones than on TV.

However, this could soon start to change.

?Budgets are shifting to mobile ? when it makes sense for the product and the action a brand wants a consumer to take,? Firehouse?s Mr. Smith said. ?In our experience, today, that shift is coming from online spending.

?But it makes sense that as mobile becomes a more integrated part of the TV viewing experience, TV dollars will start shifting as well,? he said.

?TV as a medium, though, still offers many unique attributes and advantages for advertisers. It will evolve, not be replaced, and anyone who talks gloom and doom is simply shouting, ?The sky is falling.??

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York