Tablet Use as TV Companion Grows, Study Finds

Tablets and TVs go hand in hand, but in ways that may surprise marketers and networks. 

Tablet owners are twice as likely as smartphone owners to watch full episodes of TV shows and they spend 50% more time viewing during an average session — 36 minutes on tablets compared to 24 minutes on smartphones, according to a just-released study from research firm GfK Media comparing tablet and smartphone usage.

The GfK findings underscore what’s quickly emerging as as important use for tablets — the connection to TV. Not only are consumers turning to tablets to watch TV episodes, they’re also using tablets to engage in social media and make purchases while watching TV programs. Many brands are paying close attention to how these twin trends play out and intersect with each other.

About 58% of smartphone and half of tablet owners use their mobile devices while watching TV.  But they also watch TV on their mobile devices too -- about two-thirds of viewers say both the smartphone and the tablet are good enough for watching shows.

“Tablets clearly are becoming a co-viewing companion for their users,” said Dave Tice, senior VP of GfK Media. “Other research from GfK Media, MultiMedia Mentor, showed earlier this year that almost half of minutes spent on a tablet are simultaneous with TV viewing. But while there is a lot of potential to drive TV-related use, right now people are telling us it’s just not that common that they would use a tablet to access information about a program they are viewing or an ad they have just seen. In terms of just being a viewing device, we may see tablets replace the function of smaller portable sets that people had in their kitchen or elsewhere – especially as TV Everywhere-types of service become more widely available that offer ‘live’ viewing of networks while in the home.”

Tablet users say they are more likely to turn to TV apps for viewing shows, while smartphone users tend to rely on the TV apps for social media, schedules or the occasional clip, the GfK report said. Most mobile users don’t use TV apps frequently while watching a show though. Interestingly, only 12% of smartphone owners have used an app from their multichannel service provider and they use it primarily to set the DVR.

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