Pew: Most TV-Watchers Use Phones for Interactivity
Majority of cellphone users supplement, distract from, share TV experience via mobile devices
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/17/2012 10:00:00 AM
That is according to a new study from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, which found that half of all adult cellphone owners are "connected viewers," employing their phones to supplement their TV viewing, or what Pew calls "engagement, diversion or interaction." That "connected viewer" figure jumps to 81% for users 18-24, but is strong across the board, with 72% of adults 25-34 connected viewers and 60% of those 35-44. Percentages drop below 50% from there, with only 16% seniors 65-plus phoning it in.
The study, conducted March 15-April 3 among 2,254 adults 18-plus, found that users tapped into their phones for a variety of reasons during TV-watching, including over a third (38%) who used them during commercial breaks to "keep themselves occupied." According to study co-author Aaron Smith, the study did not drill down to find out what they were doing during the commercial breaks, so it is possible they could have been reacting to or following up something they saw in an ad, he said, rather than ignoring the ad altogether.
According to the study, 23% used their phones to text someone who is watching the same show; 22% used the phone to visit a website mentioned on TV (either in the programming or ads); 11% surfed the Web to see what others were saying online about the show -- the same percentage said they posted their own online comments about it -- and 6% said they sometimes used the phone to vote for a reality show contestant.
"Television audiences are actively primed to participate," said co-author/research intern Jan Lauren Boyles, "and these connected viewers are using mobile devices to debate, learn, and engage with programming and each other."
Connected viewers skew upscale and urban, with households earning $50,000 or more, more likely to be turning their TV viewing interactive via their phones, and urban (54%) and suburban (52%) more likely than rural to be turning their viewing experience into a social one, though with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points, the gap is not much beyond that margin.
According to the study, African-Americans (59%) are more likely than Latinos (54%) or whites (50%) to surf the Web for comments on a show they are watching or text watchers in other locations.
I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that the vast majority of people using their cell phones during commercials are in fact ignoring the commercials entirely. I am going to base this on past history and personal experience.
When the remote control was introduced into the television viewing ecosystem, people's behavior changed. Rather than getting up to raid the refrigerator during the commercial breaks, they could from the comfort of their chair, mute the sound or change the channel to watch something else while the commercials were on. The danger here of course was that the viewer might get so engaged in the program that they switched over to view during the commercial break, that when they switched back to the original program (probably during the commercial break on the secondary program they switch too) they have missed a part of the orignal program. Also, the comemrcial television stations aren't completely lost and even now, it is not uncommon to find almost every channel in commercial break at the same time. No value to channel hopping to avoid the commercial so back to raiding the refrigerator to get away from the commercials.
Enter the smart phone (and tablets and laptops) and suddenly during the commercials the viewer can stay in the comfort of their chair but now rather than watch the commercials, they can chat with their friends, play on-line games, read e-mails, browse the web, etc, and still be aware of the television and rejoin the program they were watching when it comes back.
Now certainly since they are still in the room they will occassionally see something in a commercial that interests them. I mean occassionally they would walk away from the open refrigerator when they heard something in an advertisement in the old days.
So while I am sure many people may be chatting back and forth about the program they are watching, I doubt that much of the interactivity is related to the commercials unless we count disinterest as interaction.
William Hayes - 7/18/2012 12:01:44 PM EDT
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