Talk to the Hand: The Tablet Is Changing TV Viewing

To some it’s considered rude--but if you’re ever around teenagers eating dinner, riding in the car, or watching TV, you’ll know that multi-tasking on their device is a way of life.   For the rest of us, it’s indicator of what’s to come.  As tablet penetration grows (currently 11% in the US), the ability for each of us to be in our “own little world” will not simply change how we watch, but what we watch.

A recent Nielsen study (October 2011), found that 70% of tablet owners simultaneously used their device while watching TV several times a week. 42% of owners did it daily.  Whether they’re surfing the Web, checking email, or shopping for deals, the consumer’s attention is divided. 

Networks are in a race to bridge the experiences and re-engage the viewer through transmedia storytelling. Look for a proliferation of Dual Screen apps that will act as dashboards for enhanced viewing. They’ll aggregate ancillary content, bonus footage, and social media feeds to offer likes, check-ins, comments, and even one touch voting (for reality competition series). 

Some will feature sound-to-sync technology, where the show’s audio “fingerprint” will trigger an experience at a precise moment in the storyline, regardless of when/where it’s being watched.  Last year, we saw the first rush to trial of these applications, with mixed success, but 2012 will see improved technology, providing real value to the viewer and advertiser.  The new CONAN app from Turner and AT&T is a good example.

The tablet will also contribute to viewers’ increasingly “shifty” behavior -- giving them the ability to time shift and place shift like never before.  Consumers want access to the best content any time, anywhere; services like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, HBO Go service that need. 

Content owners such as Time Warner and Disney have embraced the TV Everywhere philosophy, and consumers can gain often gain access with a simple authentication.   More networks will join the revolution.  Cable/Satellite/MVPD providers will also offer solutions, although some anchored to home Wi-Fi access only.

Like the cable industry before it, the tablet will help bring new programming services to the forefront.  Sitting side-by-side established content providers on a user’s tablet, companies such as VEVO and Machinima will see increased traffic from new portable users.  YouTube’s new original channels should benefit, too.

Advertisers will have more choices, but will need help deciphering who’s watching what, where, when… and also how. 

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