Thinkbox Study Finds Second Screen Activity Boosts TV Viewing

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Second screen activity works symbiotically with TV viewing, a U.K. marketer has found, providing fuel for social interactions while maintaining and even growing TV audiences.

Thinkbox, the U.K.'s marketing body for commercial broadcasters, has reiterated research conducted 14 months ago that shows the extent to which the internet and social media are used by viewers in and around TV content.

Its study, conducted with analysts Decipher, revealed that 60 percent of people claim to concurrently watch TV and go online at least 2 to 3 times a week, with one in three people (37 percent) claiming to do so every day. Moreover, 52 percent claim to have shopped online while watching live television, and 44 percent have used social networks while watching TV.

"We've seen nothing to contradict this, indeed behaviour is likely to be more embedded," says Lindsey Clay, Thinkbox's managing director. "It is obvious that people want to watch TV programmes on the best screen in the home if they can, and 2012 will bring more opportunities to do that with the sale of connected TVs and more catch-up TV services.

"Alongside that, there is now a wide variety of personal screens to watch TV on, which make TV even more convenient; tablets are really delivering an excellent mobile TV experience."

Inspired by shows ranging from election debates to "Downtown Abbey," growing numbers of people are giving live reactions to shows via social media: uploading pastiches to YouTube, joining TV-related Facebook groups, and airing their views on Twitter.

Other figures include:

  • 37 percent have chatted online about TV programmes or advertising
  • One in five (19 percent) have shared TV content on a social network
  • 9 percent have joined a TV-related Facebook group

Among the more intriguing findings is that online activity around TV content generally occurs on a companion internet-enabled device rather than an internet-connected TV. Viewers wanted to use the TV for TV content; accompanying activity, like social media, is better suited to companion devices.

"TV is generally shared, but social networks are by nature more private and were deemed unsuitable for a shared TV screen," says Clay. "Most viewers prefer to use Facebook, for example, on a laptop or mobile.

"A fundamental truth about TV is that it is a social experience. Now you don't have to have someone in the room with you when you can have a ‘virtual sofa' connecting you to friends. Second screen interaction fulfills a need consumers have always had. It is a slightly new behaviour, but not a new need, and net-enabled mobile devices are a brilliant means of fulfilling it."

Clay added: "Social media and TV are made for each other with benefits for both sides. TV fuels social media chat and in turn social media is driving people back to the broadcast stream."

One consequence of "two-screening" is that many viewers have a device in hand primed for response to TV ads.

"Importantly for advertisers, 52 percent claim to have shopped online while watching live TV," notes Clay. "TV is now a point of sale medium, with viewers able to act and transact on what they see on TV immediately via a companion device."

U.K. linear TV viewing figures for 2011 equaled the record high set in 2010, according to Thinkbox. The average viewer watched four hours, two minutes of linear TV a day in 2011 (28 hours, 14 minutes a week), new figures from the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB) show.

Commercial TV channels were responsible for maintaining the record viewing level, accounting for 64 percent of all linear TV viewing, an increase of 1.3 percent points on 2010. For the younger 16- to 34-year-old audience this rises to 72 percent.

Thinkbox predicts that total linear TV viewing levels will now stabilise after a sustained period of record growth.

"New technology often ends up superseding and killing the older version, but the death of the broadcast schedule is widely of the mark," says Clay. "Just as catch-up TV services increase viewing to live linear TV channels [because they help more viewers to avoid ‘missing out'], so social media are making live TV essential. TV creates the biggest conversations and to be part of them you need to watch live."

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