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TV Watchers Use Digital Devices to Multitask Online

Smartphones are the preferred device for viewers discussing television ads

June 7, 2012

The growing ubiquity of smartphones, tablets and other connected digital devices has given rise to a new category of user—the multitasker. These users have incorporated newer digital devices into existing habits, particularly when it comes to watching TV.

A May 2012 report authored by the IAB and Ipsos MediaCT, which drew on data from three surveys of US consumers, found that internet-enabled devices were not displacing other media-related activities, but adding to them. According to the Ipsos MediaCT LMX survey, the average amount of time that respondents spent engaging with media each day climbed to 9.6 hours in 2011, from 9 hours in 2009. Time spent online or on a computer jumped to 3.1 hours from 2.5 hours over the same period. But the amount of time respondents spent watching TV held steady, at 3.4 hours. eMarketer estimates that US adults spent an average of about 11.5 hours per day consuming media content in 2011.

Daily Time Spent on Select Media Activities by US Internet Users, 2008-2011 (hours)

Part of the increase in online activity by consumers is no doubt occurring when they are watching television. In the IAB and Ipsos MediaCT HearWatchSay survey of “media-savvy” consumers, almost two-thirds of respondents said they had used another device the last time they watched live TV. And overall, those using a digital device to discuss or otherwise interact with a TV show preferred their smartphones to either tablets or computers.

Devices US Internet Users Use While Watching Live TV vs. DVR, April 2012 (% of respondents)

Those on smartphones were also significantly more likely to use their device, as opposed to either tablets or PCs, to discuss television ads. Smartphone users preferred to talk about ads via texts, emails and IMs. Tablet users were partial to using social networks to converse about ads with friends, while those on PCs most often used social networks to gab with online communities.

Ways that US Internet Users Talk Online About the TV Ads They Are Watching, by Simultaneous Device Used*, April 2012 (% of respondents)

While the attention spans of multitaskers are certainly stretched thin, their viewing habits also provide brands the opportunity to form a deeper relationship with their audience by engaging them across multiple platforms.

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Check out today’s other articles, “Mobile, Social Boost Online Gaming Populations” and “Facebook Users in Japan Report High Engagement.”


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