Networks are testing all kinds of things to determine what works best to take advantage of viewers increasingly using mobile devices while watching TV. Of course, their dream is for multi-screeners to tune into their content on both platforms at once, perhaps allowing them to charge a premium to a marketer running ads in sync on both.
Multi-screening, or companion viewing, is just taking flight -- so networks do have the benefit of time, right?
An argument can be made that in 2013, it is mission critical for digital departments at networks to move well beyond experimentation. Research is flying all over the place showing how much companion viewing is actually going on.
Still, the challenge is twofold. Finding companion content that works best on a smartphone or tablet may actually be easier for a network than finding a way to get people checking email or using Facebook to instead shift over to a second-screen doorway.
Over time, networks might find that tablets offer a much bigger opportunity to grab audiences online while watching than smartphones. Pretty simple: the screen is bigger, with a crisper picture. And the rate with which people are using them is soaring. And it's likely to get a major boost again after all those presents under the tree in a few weeks.
Nielsen offers some extraordinary statistics, saying that while smartphone penetration is over 50%, tablets are moving there fast. In just two years, nearly 20% of U.S. homes have acquired a tablet.
Very compelling to networks and the advertisers they court: Nielsen says tablet owners tend to be more affluent, albeit older. But not necessarily too old for advertisers enamored with the 18-to-49 demo.
Nielsen says 36% of people ages 35 to 54 use tablets while watching TV (44% of those ages 55 to 64 do) “in order to dive deeper into programming.”
ESPN looks to be a major beneficiary. Its Watch ESPN app is tailor made for tablets. But even if viewers aren’t watching live streams, Nielsen says a large percentage of tablet-ers have a hankering for checking scores.
There’s little doubt that programmers need to find a way to make tablets a bright spot for them -- quickly.