TV Viewers Keep Their Focus on the First Screen

January 24, 2014

This article is included in these additional categories:

Mobile Phone | Social TV & Multi-Screening | Television

TiVo-TV-Viewers-and-Multitasking-Jan2014There’s been plenty of chatter about the imminent death of TV (a theory not supported by data presented here and here), and some have argued that even if people are watching TV, they’re not really paying attention to it, what with the prevalence of multitasking behavior. There’s arguably some truth to that, but new survey data from TiVo suggests that viewers themselves believe they’re primarily paying attention to the box. And that’s not the first piece of research to suggest that’s the case.

According to TiVo’s survey results, while most respondents (a mix of TiVo subscribers, non-subscribers and social media users) reported having multitasked at some point while watching TV, 76% said their primary focus is actually on the TV. What’s more, close to half of the TiVo users surveyed (and slightly more than one-third of non-TiVo users) indicated that their attention is only on TV and nothing else. As for mobile devices drawing viewers away? While most viewers who have ever multitasked while watching TV used a smartphone to do so, only about 1 in 4 respondents said they use a smartphone every time or almost every time they watch TV.

The TiVo survey results support research released in 2012 by the IAB. Though 2012 admittedly seems like an age ago in the evolution of mobile devices, that research found that even while multitasking, TV viewers generally reserved the greatest share of their attention for the bigger screen. Also of note: a separate IAB study released at the same time indicated that multi-screen users were better able to recall advertisers, a finding attributed to people with their second devices during commercial breaks being less likely to channel surf or skip the commercial break, leaving them aware, at some level, of the brands on the screen. (For reference, more recent research suggests that people using mobile devices while watching TV spend about one-third of TV ad viewing time looking at their mobile phone or tablet.)

The new TiVo study also contains some other interesting results:

  • Survey respondents were less likely to use the internet to find content related to their favorite shows while watching the programs (27%) than during the week following the program (32%);
  • A majority of respondents prefer to discuss TV with people that they know rather than “internet strangers,” while social media users also prefer to use social networks rather than open internet forums to discuss TV;
  • Among TiVo users, 68% have noticed hashtags on TV and 63% of those dislike them, consistent with other research showing that viewers aren’t enamored with TV hashtags; and
  • 1 in 4 respondents overall claimed to avoid the internet until they’ve watched certain TV episodes so as to avoid spoilers, with this finding also consistent with other research.

About the Data: TiVo conducted the online survey of 1,660 households from October 16 – November 7, 2013. Of the participants, 40 percent were TiVo subscribers, 48 percent non-subscribers and 12 percent were recruited from social media sites. All survey participants were over the age of 18 and watched at least seven hours of TV per week. The composition of the survey was consistent with the U.S. in terms of household income and age range.

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