Multitasking, Social TV takes hold on the second screen

Michelle Clancy | 05-12-2012

Measurement firm Nielsen finds that one-fifth of U.S. homes are now tablet owners, while half own smartphones, making for a ripe foundation for second-screen TV app adoption. And in fact, its research has found that multitasking has already taken hold.

According to the latest Nielsen Cross Platform Report, a full 85% of mobile owners use their tablet or smartphone while watching TV at least once per month, and 40% do so daily. On a more granular level, 41% use a tablet while watching TV, while 39% use a smartphone and watch at the same time. Demographics-wise, tablets have a far lower penetration among those under 35, likely relating to the higher price points. When it comes to gender, more than 40% of women use smartphones daily while watching TV, compared to under 40% for men. Men and women are equally as likely to use their tablets for multitasking however.

As previous studies have pointed out, the numbers don't mean that users are necessarily doing anything TV-related as they multitask. E-mail is actually the most popular activity, with more than 50% of users checking e-mail in from of the tube.

That said, the numbers are growing when it comes to using second screens for deeper TV engagement: 36% of those aged 35 to 54 years old and 44% of those aged 55 to 64 are looking up programming and related information while watching TV. Sports are big too: almost a third of viewers aged 35 to 64 also use tablets to check sports scores while watching games.

Nielsen is also following social media uptake. While the older demographic (55-64) tends towards web surfing on tablets while watching TV, unsurprisingly, younger viewers are more social TV friendly. About 44% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 50% of 25- to 34-year-olds use smartphones for social networking while watching TV.

Older folk are beginning to get in on the act however: in separate research on social media use and television, Nielsen found that consumers of all ages continue to spend more time on social networks than on any other category of sites—roughly 20% of their total time online via personal computer (PC), and 30% of total time online via mobile. In fact, consumers' time spent with social media on mobile apps and the mobile web has increased 63% in 2012, compared to the same period last year. In all, total time spent on social media in the U.S. across PCs and mobile devices increased 37% to 121 billion minutes in July 2012, compared to 88 billion in July 2011.