How Hannibal created a Second Screen for a Thriller TV series

Hannibal is a thriller TV series that revolves around a psychological cat and mouse games between a FBI criminal profiler and Hannibal Lecter. The series is based on the famous thriller novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. The Hannibal application provides a second screen that can be used to complement the viewing of the series on AXN’s (pay TV) channels. The application uses audio recognition (ACR) to know which episode is being watched and provides additional content in the form of trivia, images and additional videos for that episode. Users can find more information about the characters, their relationship in the series and exclusive behind the scenes footage. The application also works for recorded versions of the show and can therefore be used when the show is watched on OTT or VOD services. Eric Berger, SPT executive vice-president digital networks, explains:


Hannibal is bursting with additional material and storylines that enrich the viewer experience through this app and which, thanks to the technology now available, we can synchronise live to any schedule, anytime. Eric Berger SPT executive vice-president digital networks

The Hannibal app provides images and short clips before, during and after an episode that can be shared on social media. By promoting the #AXNHannibal hashtag the application supported the social buzz around the series, increasing awareness and possibly tune-in for the show. Recent research by Nielsen shows that and increase in social buzz can even impact VOD viewing.

In Asia Hannibal premiered in the Philippines but the app has been made available in multiple local languages and has been launched in Latin America, Spain, Portugal and pan Asia.

Below screenshots from the Hannibal Second Screen app on iPad:


Companion app for drama series

The Hannibal second screen app is one of the few second screen apps that  tried to create a companion application for a drama series. Besides the acclaimed Walking Dead Companion App there have only been a few apps for drama series that got attention. By localizing the app for different languages they have been able to deploy the app in a large number of territories without requiring huge investments for bespoke solutions in each region. Distribution rights and broadcast windows can prevent an application from ‘traveling’ with a series which increases the risk for producers to invest in an companion app. Taking a transmedia approach and making the app part of the story by extending it to the second screen creates relevance for the app. This requires to create unique content for the application from an early stage of production so it will become part of the series instead of a ‘nice to have’ add-on.

Sponsorship package

The application was part of a sponsorship deal with Samsung in Asia. This allowed Samsung to have their brand present on all channels and screens that were used for the promotion of the series (TV, Digital, Mobile) and served as a showcase for their ability to create an immersive experience with their Smart TV’s and mobile devices. Combining a second screen application as part of a larger sponsorship deal allows broadcaster to charge a premium that goes beyond GRP’s and reach. The value of second screen is more difficult to valuate resulting in ‘dark matter’ that can be monetised is by reaching a highly engaged, loyal and often young group of viewers. Samsung, as the exclusive sponsor, was present in the app in the form of ads on most pages in the app and in stream content.

Sponsorship deck for Hannibal Second Screen app:


The reception of the application was mixed with ratings between 2.5/5 in Brazil up to 4/5 in Malaysia. The app was featured in many countries in the Entertainment section of the Appstore but reviews ranged from positive “Lotsa good stuff. Makes watching the program a lot more fun. Love it!!” and “Really helps you to understand the show better!” to negative “Supposedly it is connected by the sound of the chapter on television, but it never does!! Sad!! Expecting something great“. According to the website Cream the app achieved around 30.000 downloads in South East Asia and Taiwan. If these download numbers are correct they seem very low for such a large market. The Hannibal second screen app is said to have achieved US$3.6 million worth of media coverage in the region.

Creating a compelling multiscreen experience around a drama series can be challenging. The genre requires viewers to pay close attention to the story and in contrast to sports, news and live shows, more and more viewers are watching their favorite series delayed or on-demand. More successful cases for drama series include transmedia storytelling that extends the story before and after airing on other (digital) channels, or taking a social TV approach engaging fans to interact with their show, the characters and actors, and generating user generated content.

In our next blog we take a look at the best second screen cases from Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and India. Want to receive all the updates? Sign up for our newsletter below or follow ComingNext.TV on Twitter.


Pictures from SugarSmile and Cream.

Receive the latest updates in your mailbox!

Sign up