eBay Predicts Two-Screen World

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - It's increasingly becoming a two-screen world.

eBay ( EBAY), which launched an app earlier this month that allows users to purchase items they see on their favorite television shows, is predicting the demise of Internet Protocol televisions (IPTV).

"Consumers are not interested in apps on TV," said Steve Yankovich, head of eBay's mobile division. "Many of those who have IPTVs are not even connecting them to the Internet. We are hearing from manufacturers and MSOs multiple system operators that people don't want to use their TVs like they use their computers."

Instead, they are turning to their smartphones or tablets to multitask as they tune in to their favorite programs.

According to a survey conducted by Yahoo! and Nielson, 86% of the people who own smartphones are engaged with them while watching television, and 25% of those are doing something related to what they are watching.

ChannelAdvisor, an e-commerce consulting firm, notes a strong spike in click rates during prime-time television, as consumers are simultaneously consuming multiple media.

eBay is looking to take advantage of these digital multitaskers with its "Watch with eBay" app that allows users to see products based upon the show they are watching. After downloading the app, users enter their zip code, select their MSO and input which channel they are watching.

The app works with TV guide data to serve up products from eBay's store relevant to what the user is watching.

For future versions of the app, Yankovich says it is working on forging partnerships with cable providers, studios and networks to access meta data associated with each time frame for a program. This would allow users to purchase the t-shirt the Situation is wearing on the Jersey Shore.

The app taps into a massive group of people who are not normally shopping during this window of time and turns television watching into a possible transaction.

What is being pegged as TV commerce or couch commerce could be the future of both the retail and media sectors, and could represent a major opportunity for advertisers.

But the two-screen experience will gone beyond commerce, Yankovich says, to include social elements, like companion apps to prime-time series.

This trend will be accelerated by the roll out of televisions with Blutooth and Wi-fi capabilities, Yankovich says, allowing users to connect their televisions to their smartphone or tablet.

"It has become less about connecting the TV to the Internet and more about connecting it you -- the users' preferred device."

- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

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