Mobile Screens May Dilute TV Engagement, Kill Ad Attention

TVadsAccording to ethnographic research by Strategy Analytics on a small focus group of multiscreen users, the viewers studied were significantly distracted from the first screen by their mobile phones and tablets.

The study of behaviors finds that among the people engaged on that second screen, they were particularly inattentive to the TV during commercial breaks. The Strategy Analytics Digital Home Observatory did in-depth ethnographic studies of a dozen multiscreen viewers in typical TV situations.

The findings -- although preliminary and observational rather than quantitative on a limited sample -- suggest that the level of user distraction by the second screen varies across content types. For instance, the researchers found that high-impact TV scenes did succeed in pulling the user’s attention to the TV and away from devices.

But the ad spots tend to be a cue for users to focus on the device. This supports observations Yahoo made around mobile search behaviors earlier this year. The company found that 55% of daily mobile Internet use occurred in the home, and as much as 86% of people with mobile phones used them in front of a TV. During the Oscars telecast this year, Yahoo Mobile saw its traffic and engagement rise 12% during commercial breaks.

According to the report “Multi-Screen User Behaviors in the Home,” mobile use in the living room may have a substantial effect on the ways in which users experience television. Reflecting on the study of users, Strategy Analytics Senior Analyst and study author Caroline Park says: “Multiscreen users very rarely concentrate solely on a television show in its entirety, and while this presents challenges to the TV industry, it also offers new opportunities for viewer engagement.”

A number of mobile offerings are trying to recapture distracted users with apps that actually focus the viewer on the show. Social networking apps like GetGlue and Yahoo’s recently acquired IntoNow attempt to weave exchanges among fans on the mobile platform back into the TV screen experience.

Several cable and network providers are crafting apps that enhance the on-screen experience with chats, as well as supplementary material. BravoTV, ABC and others have experimented with this second screening approach. Usually, these efforts are attempts to extend the experience of the first screen onto the second. But given Strategy Analytics’ preliminary findings, TV programmers may consider second-screen efforts as necessary platforms to retrieve and focus users.

The small sampling from the U.S. and UK during August is far from definitive and more directional for future research. As Park says, programmers will need to explore when and how the user focus shifts from different kinds of programming to devices if they hope to retain the user’s attention --especially during ad breaks.

Interestingly, there is also a TV effect on mobile tastes. Park finds that users liked casual mobile games where the game play fit neatly into ad breaks. They wanted games that could be stopped quickly and easily when the show came on.

4 comments about "Mobile Screens May Dilute TV Engagement, Kill Ad Attention".
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  1. Evan Petty from Snowman Productions, LLC, October 21, 2011 at 1:32 p.m.

    This study is further evidence of what should by now be obvious to everyone. That is, that the audience in general does not want to watch traditional ads, and will do whatever they can to avoid them. (Duh)

    In the old days, people would use the commercial breaks to hit the bathroom or get something from the kitchen, Now they check twitter on their tablet (or whatever else they want to do on it). This shouldn't come as a shock.

    I have written extensively on the Future of Advertising lately at:

  2. Gabriel Greenberg from RGM Group, October 21, 2011 at 3:23 p.m.

    Coming off of a panel on multi-screen engagement at JD Power last week, I have to say that this articles title is misleading. All of the other research in market today. seems to indicate that the break is indeed a cue for the user to take a break and use their tablet or the web, but the research also indicates that the users are in fact searching on content seen in the TV ad break and that this behavior reinforces the power of TV and multi-screen engagement. I agree with Caroline - this behavior presents a great challenge to marketers to bring more consistent messaging and marketing across the four screens.

  3. David Markowitz from SecondScreen Networks, October 21, 2011 at 4:20 p.m.

    Tieing in to what Gabriel says ("searching on content seen in the TV ad break"), there's an opportunity for TV advertisers to deliver digital advertising across the second screen devices (tablets, smartphones, laptops) that's sync'd to the running TV spot.

    As attention does get diverted to the portable device, advertisers not only get a 'second chance' to reach the viewers they're paying to reach, but a more effective engagement vehicle and a way to close the loop with their advertising message.


  4. Kevin Horne from Verizon, October 30, 2011 at 8:33 p.m.

    "in the old days people would use the commercial breaks to go to the bathroom"

    so when do they go to the bathroom nowadays,,,?

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