oscarappThe sycophantic slush of another Oscars ceremony is already a fading memory but there are some learnings from ABC’s two-screen, Backstage Pass coverage that are worth further reflection.

The 99 cent app for iPhone and iPad users gave users access to live streams from more than 25 cameras dotted around LA’s Kodak Theatre – TV gallery-type command in the palm of your hand – plus access to additional content.

ABC’s acknowledgement of the multi-tasking tendencies of TV audiences allowed people to flit away from mainstream coverage to the likes of the unruly paparazzi cam, another one focused on famous faces and one on fashion.

Alessandra Stanley writing in the New York Times said the extra feeds gave viewers “an all-too-vivid look at how the air leaves the theater and the night starts to drag.” Miaow!

She was talking about how the streams showed winners celebrating backstage while TV was left with losers “smiling tightly through their rancour and disappointment”.

Sounds to me like TV had the best of that carve-up, but it depends whether schadenfreude or success is your preferred measure of enjoyment in such things.

Stanley also queried whether advertisers would be happy about a network inviting viewers to spend commercial breaks watching backstage camera shots of stars.

Probably not, but the world of advertising, like journalism, is having to react to profound change and the Superbowl has shown that compelling ads can hold and engage audiences if they’re good enough.

Update: The Chrysler Born of Fire ad featuring Eminem that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago has been seen 8.8m times on YouTube.

The benefit of a fully integrated two-screen production is that it keeps viewers tuned in rather than turning off or going elsewhere when the televised action flags.

Having more options shows the audience you’re working harder to give them a better experience, and it doesn’t have to be confined to big set-piece event like the Oscars.

Imagine, for instance, being able to rate in real-time the performance of panellists on Question Time via a second screen, to see the results on the TV, distinguishable by location, and then to share them with friends.

Imagine watching Click and at each mention of a device or a technology getting a back-catalogue of reviews, features and stories on your second screen.

And imagine news packages being amplified with information – the assumed knowledge the audience is expected to bring – because there simply isn’t time to recap everything in a two-minute piece: What’s a Green Paper? How is inflation measured? What is the Monetary Policy Committee and how does it work?

Now it’s true that all the information is already available on the web if you’re prepared to search. But this is about tethering, about extending the leanback ease of television to make extra material available without effort.

In this same vein, there’s a much bigger body of work being undertaken by colleagues over at BBC R&D which is set out here by Stephen Jolly.

Do read it; it holds clues to the future of television.

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