Competing research seems to abound when it comes to the world of the second screen. While media multitasking grows, we also have the narrower world of second-screen activity related to TV. TV social media executives will show you that real-time connection with shows – and even not so real-time connection -- has major impact, often for really engaged fans of, let’s say, "Hawaii Five-0" or "Psych" voting on an episode ending. Or perhaps contestant voting on "American Idol."
But many more people using social media may be doing other stuff not connected with the TV show they’re also watching, or the advertiser attached to that show.
Even the more-aligned TV/social media efforts can be confusing. In connection with a study that showed few viewers were using second-screen TV apps, an NPD Group executive said recently that “this situation creates a potential diversion from advertising."
Another study, from Accenture, showed overall multitasking is growing, in part because of the rise of tablets. But is that always good news? More than three-quarters of respondents, 77%, said they are using devices while watching TV, according to Accenture. But only 14% said they were using those device apps related to TV.
If you are a TV network, distributor or show producer, you want to take note of this activity. If an advertiser gets the benefit of a tablet/smartphone user who immediately seeks information on a particular product -- as a direct result of advertising exposure connected with a show -- that is obvious good news.
But maybe other stuff was missed. Like, did those viewers catch who exactly pushed that woman off the subway platform in the ending of that recent episode of "Elementary"?
The trouble is that networks want viewers to pay attention to a lot of stuff, which piles on to their multitasking tendencies. There's the show itself to pay attention to; on-screen promo "bugs" during the show; traditional on-air commercials promoting a network or station’s shows; and, if viewers not too busy fast-forwarding, some mainstream commercials to consume.
Yes, for sure, second-screen activity -- related to TV -- is growing. And many examples exist where social media providers have brought success to networks and producers. But it is still a small subset. Multitasking can also mean multi-tedium, multi-confusion -- and sometimes, just gazing into space.