The ubiquity of the Internet and the normalization of device-based connectivity in all aspects of American life have been chipping away at the old presumption that younger demos were the most feverishly connected. Did you ever try to distract a 35- to-45-year-old mom from a heated game of head-to-head online hearts? Good luck.
You can put aside most received notions of age, gender and Internet use when it comes to tablets. According to Nielsen’s latest data drop from its State of the Media survey, the demographics of tablet use while watching TV are remarkably even. Overall, Nielsen finds that 69% of tablet owners are using their device with the TV on at least several times a week, with 45% working the two screens at once every day.
Email checking generally on tablets during TV time (61%) is the prevalent activity, but for the 35- to-54-year-old and 55+ segments it spikes to 65%. Sports score lookups (34% of all tablet owners) were also popular, with 44% of males and only 24% of females checking on games.
Nielsen’s stats suggest that the connection between tablet activity and the content on the TV screen is encouraging for programmers and advertisers. They found 22% of tablet users looking up coupons or deals they had seen on TV, with the highest amount of that activity (29%) occurring among the 18-34 segment.
The good news for advertisers is that 27% of tablet owners say they have looked up product information for an ad they saw on TV. Indeed, that behavior is higher (27%-29%) among the 13-54 range, falling off only among 55+ users (22%). Women are slightly more likely to do product look-ups than men (28% vs. 25%).
The prospects for tandem programming seem bright as well, with 37% saying they had looked up information related to the TV program they were watching. In fact, the second-screen experience was engaged evenly across demographics, with all of the age demos and both genders within four or five percentage points of one another. It seems that as of now at least TV programmer can count on more than a third of their target audience with tablets being willing to make the TV-to-tablet connection.
Finally, the energy around so-called “social TV” may not be undeserved. Aside from email checks, accessing the social network (47%) is almost a majority activity among dual-screen users. And here is where the demographic differences do still show. While 62% of the 13-17 segment check their social nets with the TV on, that drops dramatically to 50% of 18- to-34-year-olds and 47% of 35- to-54-year-olds. If TV networks and marketers want to reach audiences on the second screen during prime time, the social networks may be the most direct route.
Perhaps even more dramatically than we saw the smartphone disrupt the retail space last year, tablets and smartphones will fundamentally alter the way we think about the TV experience this year. The rapid adoption of mobile technology is something we have become accustomed to seeing in recent years. What is especially impressive about the tablet/TV combination is just how rapidly the tablet device has settled into a kind of ritualistic use during prime time.
For most tablet owners, prime time is tablet time. This is important because it opens up for programmers and advertisers the expectation of a live and interested audience on this second screen with the same kind of regularity that traditionally they expect from a prime-time audience.
While obviously the tablet is an interactive and highly personalized experience, it seems to me there must be opportunities to think about something like “appointment content” on this device in a way you can’t on smartphones or even the Web. Whether as a complement to the main TV screen or simply as a portable TV itself, this may be the interactive TV (ITV) everyone has been pursuing for decades.
The full Nielsen breakdown of tablet and TV tandem activity is in its new report.