As soon as the habit of tablet use during TV prime time first emerged two years ago, marketers and TV programmers have wondered and debated whether this was a plus or a minus. Was TV a competing screen in the living room that dilutes the experience? Or was it a direct-response vehicle for both content and advertising on that “first screen?” Gfk MRI weighs in with research leaning to the latter rather than the former.
TV watching is by far the most popular activity done in tandem with tablet use, the company finds. Of 1,382 tablet owners surveyed, 63% used the device while the TV was on in the last week. Interestingly, the tablet owners divided almost in thirds when recording their own level of attentiveness across the three screens. More than a third (36%) said their primary focus was on the tablet, while 28% said it was on the TV. But another 36% said they felt their attention was “equally focused” on both screens at once.
The distraction issue is not entirely settled. Arguably, magazines, newspaper and living room conversation have always been distractions during prime time, so the tablet is really just joining other familiar behaviors. But clearly, more than a third acknowledge the deeply engaging nature of the “second screen” even when a much larger one is present.
When it comes to TV-related activities, however, the social TV programmers have some reason to take heart. Among two-screeners, 34% said they used the tablet to post comments regarding the show they are watching. A quarter of them went to the show’s site, app or fan site. More than a fifth (21%) sought information related to the show.
The good news for advertisers is that whatever the overall distraction factor is involved with second screening, they likely are getting a benefit from the practice. Gfk finds 28% of two-screeners used the tablet to look up more information about an advertised product during the show.
And unlike some other smartphone research that tends to find episodic look-ups during a TV viewing session, the tablet use is often persistent. Gfk saw 41% of owners using the tablet device throughout their TV viewing time. If that is the case, then tablet tapping and swiping is becoming something akin to a ritual behavior. For a good number of tablet users, the TV goes on and grabbing the tablet is a reflex. That means that the living room is reliably target-able as a two-screen experience.
The more that I talk to executives across the marketing, media and retails spectrum about their mobile, the more I see the interdependence of the screens. Some are seeing people juggle the mobile, tablet, desktop Web and TV experiences in fascinating ways that no one anticipated. Understanding these evolving multi-screen behaviors is the next big challenge. For those of you in L.A. on October 23, by the way, we are going head-on into the topic of video content especially as people consume and interact with it across displays. OMMA Video on Devices will be looking at the latest research on the moving target of media usage as well as the ways in which content, marketing and monetization strategies have to adjust as user move from screen to screen.