Simmons’ Tourney Plans Show Importance of Second Screen

ESPN and Bill Simmons will offer live streaming commentary for March Madness games.

(from Sports Business Daily, March 25, 2013) For the past year, networks have been trying to respond to consumers increase in using smartphones and tablets as a companion to watching television. Networks have termed these companions “second screens.” ESPN responded last week by releasing their plan to have one of its biggest stars, Bill Simmons, offer live commentary on the NCAA tournament via YouTube.

ESPN is uniquely challenging the networks that hold the TV rights to that game action by scheduling some of the live commentary to occur during game action. ESPN is essentially looking to control a segment of the conversation. If successful, the door to challenge programming rights would be wide open.

The plan emphasizes how television networks are beginning to view the second screen. This idea was one of the most dominant themes earlier this month at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas.

Jason Kint, Senior Vice President and General Manager of, chimed in on this change by stating, “You still have the big screen—nobody’s messing with the big screen—but now you have that second option.”

Up until last week, networks have only programmed the second screen for avid fans. Now networks are realizing the potential success that second screens could provide as a companion to television and are trying to draw in more casual viewers.

The idea of utilizing a second screen is not just limited to TV networks. For three days before SXSW, the NFL hosted its Digital Media Summit in Austin. Every NFL team sent representatives to learn about the best ways to program and advertise on digital media. Even though those in attendance didn’t refer to digital programming as the second screen, it is a hint that others are trying to figure out more engaging ways to connect with fans.

The NFL’S General Manager of Club Sites, George Scott, stated, “The popularity of digital sports has never been greater, and with the space offering such deep engagement it’s an appealing place for innovation.”