Second screens popular but not always companion TV apps, study says

A new study from the NPD Group reveals that nearly all U.S. households own at least one device that can be used as a second screen while watching TV.

It’s not surprising that 87% of consumers are splitting their attention between the TV and their laptops, smartphones and tablet computers. Here’s the kicker: Although such distracted viewing is common, fewer people are using these second screens to interact with the applications designed specifically for the TV programs they’re watching.

Television networks and firms such as Viggle and Zeebox have invested energy in offering applications designed to enhance the viewing experience through play-along games, voting, rewards for checking in and other interactive features. The hope is such second-screen applications will hold the viewer’s attention, even when their eyes wander off to their portable device.

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Although these so-called “companion” applications are popular with some viewers, they don’t resonate with most consumers, according to NPD’s new “Digital Video Outlook Second Screens Report.”


Some 47% of viewers have used their portable devices to learn more about the TV shows or movies they’re watching, or the actors appearing on screen. But they are turning to established sources, including IMDb, Wikipedia and social networks, for such information, NPD found.

“For the most part, we’re sitting there fiddling with these devices and if something catches our attention we’re off to do our own thing,” said Russ Crupnick, NPD’s senior vice president of industry analysis. “I think that viewers ... want to create their own experiences around the show.”

Crupnick said there are notable exceptions, such as televised competitions like Fox’s “American Idol,” where viewer participation is integral to the experience.

Shopping for a product seen on TV emerges as the third most popular use for the second screen. Consumers ages 35 to 49 who are watching TV with their laptops nearby were the most likely to shop for products, according to NPD’s research.

NPD’s “Digital Video Outlook Second Screens Report’s” findings were based on a survey of 3,387 consumers who reported watching a television show or movie in the previous week.


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