While television viewers are using other screens during their viewing hours, the ones that do it often are a far smaller percentage. TiVo recently put out their 2013 Social Media and Multitasking Survey which looked at what people are doing while watching television, specifically in regards to second screens which might distract them from the content on the TV. Spoiler: It's not, really.
The Methodology. TiVo conducted this online survey of 1,660 households from October 16 – November 7, 2013. Of the participants, 40 percent were TiVo subscribers, 48 percent non-subscribers and 12 percent were recruited from social media sites. All survey participants were over the age of 18 and watched at least seven hours of TV per week. The composition of the survey was consistent with the U.S. in terms of household income and age range.
Multitasking Means Split Attention
The vast majority of respondents in the survey had watched television and multitasked with a smartphone, laptop, tablet or spatula. A what? Yes, 48% have reported cooking while watching TV, but 69% have browsed the web and 23% have chatted online. Even then, 76% said the main focus while watching TV is the actual TV content. Impressive given some of the content on TV these days. I certainly hope those 48% who are cooking are also keeping a keen eye on the stove top as well. Nothing worse than a wasted meal just because an angsty teen vampire can't get a date to the prom. Now for the, not so, shocking revelation. Nearly half, 45%, of TiVo-owning respondents were all like, "what? I just watch TV. I don't need to stinkin' second screen." That number drops to 35% when looking at those that don't own TiVos. Apparently, owning a TiVo is good for the attention span. That totally makes sense though, right? If you own a TiVo and you're watching TV, you're doing it at your own pace meaning you've actually sat down to turn on the TiVo and catch up on something. If that's the case then it would logically follow that you'd be more interested in the content (and skipping the commercials). As I've stated multiple times, I pick up a book or my tablet when I watch live TV, which is quite rare. The one exception to this will be the Super Bowl where I will be live blogging about the differences in the commercials on TV versus on the free stream. That means I'll be reading during the game instead of the commercials.
Who Uses What When Watching?
If you were curious about who is using what for second screen content while watching TV content, we have got the answers for you from the TiVo survey. The most popular device, and the most ubiquitous one I might add, is the smartphone with 61% saying that's at hand when watching. A meager 6% said a portable gaming device. Laptops topped tablets by 12 points and desktops tripled down on portables.
But that's just have done and not always do. Those numbers are far lower with just a quarter usually using their smartphone during TV viewing. Tablets are more regularly used than laptops and the disparity between desktops and portable gaming systems grows from 3:1 to 6:1.
Who Does What When Watching
Searching the Internet for info is the number one second screen activity during viewing with 27% stating they did it. Most other activities are mid-single digits including reading recaps, Facebook posts, bonus online content, etc.
However, around the viewing numbers perk up a bit with the searching peaking at 32% and reading recaps or Facebook posts hitting the low 20s during the week of an episode. However, if you think you're going to capture the attention of viewer directly after the episode, it's unlikely as many of those numbers don't crawl past 5%.
The thing that's very interesting additional data is that over half of all respondents, whether they've got a TiVo or not, want to talk TV with people they know, not strangers. 61% of TiVo respondents said that, 55% of those without TiVo said that and 43% of social media users said that, as in they'll go to their personal social networks to discuss a show instead of out to an open forum online. That's pretty interesting stuff right there. A show that's trying to get people to interact in a forum on their site is probably not going to see a lot of interaction. However, a show that's encouraging others to Tweet, post on Facebook, etc could be seeing some decent results. However, hashtags could make or break a show's popularity with its audience. TiVo respondents are seeing hashtags with 68% saying they saw, but 63% said they don't like it. In fact, just 3% of respondents said they liked seeing hashtags during shows. #Yowza!
Specific Show Effects
Interestingly, people will actively avoid spoilers with 25% of respondents skipping the Internet before watching episodes where someone gets voted off or fired or cut from a show.
Meanwhile, complex entertainment, like Game of Thrones, requires almost the complete faculties of some of its viewers with 73% stating that it's so important and complex they can't possibly do anything else while they're watching. Not a big surprise, because there are no commercials on HBO.