Four in ten use Social TV apps

October 24, 2012 21.49 Europe/London By Broadband TV News Correspondent

38% of US adult broadband users currently participate in “social TV” activity at least a couple of times per year, according to new research from The Diffusion Group.

Social TV viewing is defined as the simultaneous use of mobile technology (i.e., smartphones or tablets) to communicate and interact with currently viewed TV content or with others regarding said content.

According to Michael Greeson, director of research and author of the new report, the widespread diffusion of broadband Internet services combined with rapid innovation in mobile technology has led to a convergence between what were previously distinct experiences: watching TV versus using a “computing” device.

“As TDG predicted when the iPad was first introduced, in short order dual-device behavior would emerge, and that is precisely what is now taking place.”

Aside from changing the essence of one’s “personal TV experience,” Greeson noted that social TV is subtly working its way into long-standing business models, in particular those relating to advertising, subscription services, and on-demand applications.

“The real-time interaction of consumers with the TV program itself, not to mention other viewers, provides broadcasters with the opportunity to identify and market to finely filtered consumer segments with highly curated offerings.”

Such motives are in part behind Comcast’s recent investment in Zeebox, which has introduced new customized second-screen experiences for more than 150 of NBC’s programs. Time Warner, though not an investor in Zeebox, is expected to do the same for key HBO properties.

Other key findings of TDG’s new report include: 38% of adult broadband users are by TDG’s definition Social TV Users (STUs), engaging in such behavior at least a couple of times a year.

Smartphones are the most popular device for social TV engagement, twice as popular as tablets (used by 87% and 42% of STUs respectively). Only 13% of STUs use both smartphones and tablets for these activities. 56% of STUs are between the ages of 18 and 34.

Research identified two primary segments of Social TV Users: Talkers (those that only talk or chat about the programme they are viewing via instant messaging or social networks) and Engagers (those who not only talk but use so-called synching apps to interact directly with the TV show).

Talkers are disproportionately female with an average age of 37, while Engagers, are primarily male with an average age of 34. Engagers are three times more likely than Talkers to consider themselves early technology adopters. Engagers are significantly more likely than Talkers to make use of fee-based OTT services like Netflix.