Double Take: 40% of Smartphone, Tablet Owners Use Device, Watch TV

It seems about time we stopped labeling the mobile device a “third screen.” During the time of day when it may matter most to marketers, both the smartphone and the tablet have become a tandem experience during prime time. According to the latest figures from Nielsen, 40% of smartphone owners and 42% of tablet owner are using their respective devices while watching TV on a daily basis.

The figures are even more significant when you figure in frequent use, where another 24% of smartphone owners and 28% of tablet owners say they have this second screen on in front of the TV several times a week. 

This is not to say that these tandem viewers are synchronizing the two displays. In fact, Nielsen’s figures for what people do on the second screen suggest we use mobile more as a way to stay tapped into our interests unrelated to TV.

For instance, 60% of those who are working both platforms at once are checking email during the programs, and 59% are checking email during TV commercials. About 45% are using devices to surf for information that is unrelated to the content they are watching. Again, there seems to be little difference in second screening when programs or commercials are on.

That raises an interesting point: What does mobile use during prime time tells us about the level of attention audiences give to the first screen? The notion that viewers are rapt with concentration during prime time seems quaint in an age of multiple screens. 

For most of the most common second-screen activities, gender does not make much of a difference until social networks are addressed. Then, 47% to 48% of women working both screens go to social media on their devices, compared to only 35% to 36% of men. However, 44% of men check sports scores.

Perhaps the most interesting metric among people watching TV and device displays is the relatively low incidence of direct overlap between the content of the two screens. Only 29% of this group is looking up content related to a program, and even fewer (19%) are looking up products they see in ads.

Clearly, the opportunity/challenge for marketers attached to the TV medium is working to synchronize or create greater continuity across these screens.

At the October 25 OMMA Mobile show in San Francisco, a panel specifically on “Getting in Sync With Second Screening: Audiences Create Their Own Interactive TV” will convene at 4:30. Executives from CBS Mobile, BET, Yahoo’s IntoNow, GetGlue and R/GA will be exploring the possibilities for mobile working as “an interactive sidecar” to prime time.

1 comment about "Double Take: 40% of Smartphone, Tablet Owners Use Device, Watch TV".
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  1. David Markowitz from SecondScreen Networks, October 14, 2011 at 2:46 p.m.

    It's good to hear that a good-sized portion of the 'second screen' audience is used their device to seek both program and content info.

    We’re building a business around the growing use of of a ‘second screen’ device during TV viewing. As user experiences improve (social TV apps and EPGs for example), we believe such use will grow further.

    By being able to deliver digital content, or digital ads, synchronized in real-time to the program content or TV ads being shown, respectively, more viewers will be easily able to get more info about a show or an advertised product, literally in the palm of their hands. And by doing the synchronization on the server side, no client side listening or any user action’s required at all.

    As such solution proliferate, we expect a much larger share of the viewing audience to use their device to supplement what they're watching on the big screen.

    David Markowitz
    SecondScreen Networks
    @The2ndScreen (

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