K7 Media

K7 Media

Exclusive Interview: Tom McDonnell, Monterosa

Originally working for the BBC on early interactive projects in the pre-broadband era, Tom McDonnell went on to co-found second screen specialist Monterosa in 2003.

The company was the first in the UK to deliver a real-time interactive element, with its eviction predictor app for The Apprentice, and has since worked on apps for The X Factor and Million Pound Drop. Now Monterosa is using its flexible collaborative development platform, LViS, to create the interactive element of NBC’s upcoming Million Second Quiz.

What is LViS and how did it come about?

LViS is the product of a decade of work in this space, a bit of a labour of love for us. Million Pound Drop showed what could be done if you thought of interactivity early enough to get it into the TV show, and don’t just slap it on. We started building LViS to make that quicker and easier. It’s had a dramatic effect on what we and other people can do. It takes the heartache out of [interactivity] by giving producers a tool they can log into and control things themselves.

Million Pound Drop showed what could be done if you thought of interactivity early enough.

What’s the secret to audience engagement in a second screen experience?

It’s the people who are watching the show most attentively who respond to the call to action and pick their phone up. It’s a mistake to imagine that it’s the most distracted viewer who is playing. It’s actually the ones who love the show the most. They’re watching the show. You want to spend as little time as possible fiddling around with your phone answering, and then be looking at the result.

Perception of complexity is the real issue. If it seems like it’s going to be complex then it creates a dissonance I think.

Will we see acceptance of second screen use from the wider audience, or is it a niche?

Light gaming in the home has always been around from board games to social gaming. I’m really excited to see someone stitch together a TV game show, a sort of virtual board game, the play-anytime version of it you can do on your phone, the version you can play on Xbox Live.

In the future every game show will have some sort of interaction with it.

The big screen, the small screen, how that all merges together into something that becomes the normal Saturday night family entertainment, instead of just being a TV show. You’ll see in the future when the costs come down, as they are doing, every game show will have some sort of interaction with it.

Million Second Quiz is a large live event. Can a deep interactive element work on traditional game shows?

Live and interactivity work very well together. It creates an event, it prevents people from PVRing, they watch more ads. There’s a lot of sense in it, but it’s pricey. The barrier to ongoing live TV is cost, but there’s a psychological angle as well. I think TV is going to fragment further into stuff that is worth watching broadcast and stuff that isn’t. It has to be event based. I saw that with Test the Nation, which we worked on. It was five times a year and it lasted five or six years or more, because it was special when it came back. When you look at something as a daily event it becomes less of an event.