NPD Group Survey Provides Insight on Current State of Multi-Screen Use

By Peter Bernstein April 10, 2013

We are all aware that the number of devices we have at home capable of communicating via the Internet is exploding.  We know this because like the typical college student, who in the U.S. today has six such devices, we not only have several, but increasingly multitask with them. After all, who hasn’t been watching TV while checking their e-mail on their PC, smartphone or tablet at the same time? 

That said, what content providers want us to do is make our TV watching much more engaging and immersive – i.e., if we see something, we should do something more, including ultimately buying something more, which is, at the end of the day, what this is all about.

The question that arises from multi-screen use and our multi-tasking habits that inquiring minds want to know is, “so where are we in terms of multi-screen interactions in terms of monetization?” The answer, according to new research from the NPD Group, is that we are those who wish to capture our attention and dollars have a way to go.

What NPD derived from its recent “Digital Video Outlook Second Screens Report,” based primarily on information from NPD’s survey of 3,387 NPD consumers who reported watching a TV show or movie in the previous week, is illuminating.

First, nearly all (88 percent) U.S. households own at least one device that can be used as a second screen. And 87 percent of U.S. entertainment consumers reported using at least one second screen device while watching TV.

In short, we’re multitasking and are splitting our attention between our televisions, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other second-screen devices.

For those seeking our attention, that’s a mixed bag. Historically what this has meant is that we are distracted from paying attention to advertising. What NPD found is that while multitasking is common, viewers are less willing to use their second-screen devices to interact directly with applications designed specifically for the TV programs they are watching. In fact, play-along games, check-in rewards, live voting, and other interactive features are highly effective for only a minority of second-screen viewers.

What we are doing while watching and multiasking

In analyzing  the results of their survey, NPD found that  over the past three months, PCs were the devices most used simultaneously with TV (60 percent), followed by smartphones (55 percent), and tablets (49 percent).


Source: The NPD Group

They also found that among TV viewers who use second-screen devices, only 47 percent have participated in second-screen activities.

“The most common TV-to-second-screen interaction was learning more about the TV program they were watching, and finding out about the actors in that program. Viggle, zeebox, and other apps designed to enhance second-screen engagement are not commonly used by consumers. Instead, of those TV watchers who engage in second-screen activities, most interact with their TV experience by visiting IMDb, Wikipedia, and social networks,” notes NPD.


Source: The NPD Group

 “Viewers are interested in searching to find further information about TV shows they are watching, but they are not using games and other immersive applications created as a component of the programming,” said Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of industry analysis at NPD. “This situation creates a potential diversion from advertising, and it will take a combined effort from content owners, advertisers, broadcasters, and others to present an aligned second-screen experience that will appeal to viewers.”

Shopping for a product seen in a TV commercial was the third most popular second-screen activity. In particular, laptop users and consumers between the ages of 35 and 49 were most likely to shop for products via their second-screen devices. “Converting viewers into impulse shoppers has big potential impact for advertisers, who can leverage second screens to further connect with consumers watching TV,” Crupnick said.

What the results show is that there still is a lot of work to be done in terms of TV content providers and the third-parties they are enticing to use their platform for getting user attention and consideration. The results are actually not surprising. The fact of the matter is that most of us appear to being using second and third screens to actually multitask – i.e., do two things that more likely than not are un-related, but by alternating between them, enable us to make efficient and or more enjoyable use of the one resource we cannot invent more of: time. 

What truly multi-screen (a number of windows open on one or more of our screens) gives us is the opportunity to augment our TV viewing with the activities cited in the second graphic. It is now up to the content providers to provide experiences that change our behavior and enable them to better close the deal(s).




Edited by Braden Becker
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