How Much Are Viewers Engaging the 2nd Screen?

How much are viewers engaging in the 2nd screen? And when they do, are they engaging in activity which is related to the first screen or is it tangential or entirely unrelated to it? It’s a pretty serious question to which networks and advertisers would love to know the answer. Steve Smith, editor/writer of MoBlog, poses the question, so I’ll hand the mic to him:

According to the latest Nielsen survey of device users, 76% of second-screeners using a tablet and 63% of those using a smartphone are just looking up information online, while 68% (tablet) and 55% (phone) are surfing the Web and 53% (tablet) 52% (phone) are on social network sites or apps. In general, it is safe to assume that people use personal devices in personal ways, even when in the presence of the great and powerful TV. Perhaps there are studies somewhere down the line that can surface this presumption of mine, but I think there is something to the idea that second-screen activity is compelling in part because it is not TV.

Thanks, Steve. Well put. ipad-mini-tv1Television is, by its very nature, a passive experience. Yet the TIME spent watching TV has never been an entirely non-active time period. If I recall my television history classes correctly, in the early years of TV, networks recognized and exploited the fact that television was used/viewing behavior different by the genders. The ‘woman of the house’ did housework while watching soap operas. The “man of the house” traditionally watched TV as his sole activity. (I’m watching football, GO AWAY!) Today, the WSJ reported that Americans apparently watch 2 hours, 50 min of TV a day, though I sincerely doubt that time is spent stationary and passive. More viewers are multi-tasking (with less perceived or real gender specificity). Some may engage in behavior which is tangential to the present program. Others may want to dive further into what they’re watching. Whether that means catching up with friends via social network, answering email, or engaging in those traditionally second screen activities (web research on actors, plots, more info on the show, etc.), they’re not just watching TV. They ARE doing more. Yet as Steve points out, “…[the] second-screen activity is compelling in part because it is not TV“. With a second screen app, viewers CAN make it a more personalized experience which moves that their speed, addresses their specific questions and allows them a more individualized experience. That may end up being the hardest challenge: Every viewer may want something different. Some may want program-specific apps, others may find that network-wide apps, such as the one that Channel 4 in the UK has launched, to be much more useful. Any truly successful second screen app will need to do much more than simply provide an additional ad channel for program viewers. Second screen app publishers who hope to capitalize on the technology must accommodate that not-completely-understood desire of viewers to create a common yet individual experience. That won’t be easy, but it’ll certainly be interesting.