Joe Evea, commercial director at Digital Cinema Media, considers whether the big screen and second screen can co-exist peacefully and profitably.

My most recent memory of Amsterdam is hazy, almost dreamlike and involves me being dressed in a fisherman’s hat, an apron and a pair of clogs, riding a ‘beer bike’ around town with 11 other, similarly attired men.

So, it was with a degree of trepidation that I boarded the early flight to Schipol, en-route to speak at the IBC conference in Amsterdam. I took part in a panel on ‘Big Screen and Second Screen – can they co-exist peacefully and profitably’, looking at the role of mobile in the cinema experience. It is a topic which understandably comes with some strong opinions.

Julian Pinn was the panel host; a 20 year veteran at Dolby, he is an expert in all things sound and vision who has recently started his own consultancy firm. The other panel members were: Mike Hope Milne, Enterprise Director at Pearl and Dean; Jane Weedon, VP business Development at Shazam; and Keith Scarratt, Partnership Director at Yummi Media, our partners on the mobile cinema app Cinime.

The crux of the session centred around the role of mobile in cinema which, given that people have been shot and killed over its use in the auditorium, had the potential to be a lively debate. In reality though, it was agreed fairly early on that mobile use in and around the cinema is becoming increasingly unavoidable. With smartphone penetration now as high as 60% of the average 3.3 million weekly cinemagoers (source: Rentrak), it’s less about banning mobile phones and more about controlling the use of them.

Shazam started the presentation and there are certainly some impressive stats around the music recognition service. With over 500m users worldwide and 13-14m joining each month, there is no doubt that Shazam has scale. It also has impressive revenue projections, as much as 7% of all ‘Shazammed’ tracks are subsequently purchased by the user – nice work if you can get it.

It makes sense that Shazam are using their tech’ to enter new markets especially as brands such as SoundHound are elbowing in on their core USP. They are clearly having some such success linking sound recognition to television shows across the US and are making significant in-roads at various shopping outlets and live events. Cinema then is a natural market for Shazam to investigate and we saw a good campaign for Jaguar which they have tested with Pearl and Dean. The tech’ requires a wifi connection  and enables advertisers to extend their campaign from the big screen to the small screen, giving cinemagoers something tangible to take away with them.

Like Shazam, our own app Cinime can be used to extend an advertiser’s message beyond the big screen. Our presentation focused on Cinime’s role in enhancing the cinema visit for all cinemagoers. We touched on the importance of having a white label solution, made for the cinema industry by the cinema industry. An example of how cinema industry insight has helped is that Cinime requires no internet connection, which helps when most auditoriums have less connectivity than the Devon countryside.

We then looked at the role mobile can play for three mutually-beneficial partners. The first are the exhibitors, who can use mobile to establish a consistent piece of interactive entertainment within the pre-show, that can ultimately be used to get customers to the cinema early, drive customer loyalty, promote ticket sales and up-sell concessions.

The second are brands, who again can use it to create bespoke, interactive content, like our campaign with BMW. Brands can establish a conversation with their audience across multiple touch points and add a layer of accountability to their cinema campaigns. Finally, there are the distributors, who can use mobile to drive ticket sales, promote exclusive film content and extend already lucrative brand partnerships.

We showcased an example of a campaign we recently created for Transformers in partnership with Paramount Pictures. It included a specially commissioned ad featuring actor Mark Wahlberg and footage from the film that was only available through the app. People who had downloaded Cinime could also enter a competition to win a holiday to Texas. 

We concluded by agreeing that mobile certainly has a role to play in the cinema experience. To keep quality high, it needs to be controlled and each execution must put the customer at its heart. It is clearly early days for both Cinime and Shazam,  but focussing on the cinema industry certainly has a great deal of potential to create a series of new revenue streams, while at the same time helping to evolve and improve the existing foyer and pre-show experience for cinemagoers.

After the event we had a couple of cold beers over a fish and chip supper by one of Amsterdam’s many canals. It wasn’t quite clogs and a beer bike, but it seemed to work all the same….

Joe Evea is commercial director at Digital Cinema Media