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Multiscreening Distracts TV Viewing in the UK

Email, shopping and social media dominate TV time

UK TV viewers are not as focused as they once were on the gogglebox, according to new research from BT (British Telecom), which suggested almost eight in 10 (78%) now perform other activities while watching the tube.

Wide adoption of tablets and smartphones means UK consumers can easily distract themselves by doing other things while the TV—apparently the primary activity—is on. Forty-seven percent of respondents checked email, 37% shopped and 36% used social media. Multiscreening is very much a common activity in the UK now, and those with a smart device or laptop are more likely to veer toward a second screen during ad breaks.

While the proliferation of smartphones and tablets has undoubtedly spurred viewers to multitask during TV time, July 2013 polling by Deloitte found that the preferred device to use while watching TV was neither the smartphone nor the tablet, but the laptop.

Of UK internet users with a laptop, 91% multiscreened with such a device at least weekly while watching TV. For those with tablets, this dropped to 89%, and smartphone users came in at 83%. Perhaps the fascination with smart mobile devices ignores the fact that laptops fulfill users’ needs to use social media and the other activities pinpointed by BT at least as well—and some might say better than—tablets or smartphones.

Viewer behavior is certainly more fragmented, and this trend is likely to continue.

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