TV Viewers Distracted By Other Video Screens

The battle for consumer attention isn’t getting easier. TV is still as popular as ever, but rather than tuning out commercials to grab a snack or run to the restroom, viewers are craning their necks downward – at another screen – and often do so while watching the show on the set. About 48% of prime-time TV viewers are double-timing the tube with other screens, whether using social media, checking email or shopping online, according to a study of 55,000 Internet users worldwide conducted by global research firm TNS.

This growing habit of “screen stacking” dovetails with the proliferation of devices and online video viewing. Internet users own about four digital devices, and increasingly want to watch video whenever it is convenient for them. Those twin trends are driving the use of a new form of multitasking as consumers watch TV and watch other screens at the same time.

Insights like this are vital for marketers, as they shed light on emerging behavior that brands should consider when aiming to reach the distracted viewer. “Advertisers must continue to adapt to our changing viewing habits. Online devices are offering more ways to access TV and video content, meaning that brands will need to adopt a more integrated online approach in order to engage consumers,” TNS said.

The study also found that 25% of viewers around the world watch programming on a computer, laptop, table or mobile phone each day, underscoring the rapid boost in digital video consumption. Those numbers are even higher in mainland China, Singapore and Hong Kong. Even so, TNS reports that 75% of respondents still watch the TV set every day.

4 comments about "TV Viewers Distracted By Other Video Screens".
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  1. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, July 24, 2014 at 10:41 a.m.

    Here's the question that's not yet being asked: to what degree is this better or worse than the highly documented 50 year reality of consumer distraction while the TV is on? Just because the distractions change doesn't make them worse. They might be. But so far the tech hype machine has thrown out stats like this to imply truth but which lack serious consumer insight.

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, July 24, 2014 at 11:46 a.m.

    Televisual images were never a distraction until recently. This is a huge challenge to the 50-year history of ambush advertising in commercial breaks. My iPad tuned to YouTube or Netflix gives me something fun to watch when NBC's America's Got Talent goes to a live break. Making a sandwich or playing with the dog is not nearly as cognitively distracting as ANOTHER video.

  3. dorothy higgins from Mediabrands WW, July 24, 2014 at 3:13 p.m.

    I think this has the potential to drastically change the way we plan TV now in terms of expected outcomes for GRP levels. All of the heralded studies on effectiveness and awareness for TV and the principles of Recency are based upon attention norms from the 90s. I have to believe that we need to buy more conventional GRPs as well as streaming video GRPs now to achieve the same efficacy levels from the pre-second screen days. Until an effort is made to understand messaging resonance and decay now versus then, we are all just proffering our opinions as points of view.

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 24, 2014 at 3:27 p.m.

    The idea that primetime TV viewers are watching other screens 48% of the time while their TV sets are on is really a stretch. How engaged could viewers of a one-hour drama actually be if they didn't look at the TV screen for 28 out of the 60 minutes while the show was on? For that matter, how engaged would half hour sitcom viewers be if they diverted their eyes to another screen for 14 of the 30 minutes?The answer is----not very. And what about commercial recall? How can it be that TV ad recall levels aren't plummeting if viewers are diverting their eyes half of the time----and, one might think, to an even greater extent, during commercials? What the study actually must have asked was something like this, "Do you watch another screen while also watching primetime TV?" When 48% said "yes" that does not mean that they devoted 48% of their TV viewing time to some other screen. A more likely average minute figure for simultaneous multitasking of this nature is probably around 2-3%.

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