How Distracted TV Viewers Behave

A survey reveals that most TV viewers surf online while watching TV and many people do other activities as well.

The invention of the DVR system presented a hurdle for television advertisers, as they worried their valued audience would fast-forward through their messages. 

While those concerns may have merit, a recent Adweek/Harris Poll shows that regardless of the ability to use a DVR system, Americans may not be giving their undivided attention to their TV screens. 

According to the survey, while watching TV most Americans also surf the Internet (56%) and many do other activities like read a book, magazine or newspaper (44%), go on a social networking site (40%) or text on their mobile phone (37%).

These are some of the findings of a recent Adweek/ Harris Poll survey of 2,309 U.S. adults surveyed online between May 24 and 26, 2011 by Harris Interactive. The findings were released today, June 15.

Meanwhile, leading tech companies are trying to integrate peripheral consumer activities into the TV itself. Motorola Mobility, for example, is placing greater control into consumers’ hands to personalize their TV viewing across multiple devices anywhere in the home with the launch of its Medios Xperience platform. 

As part of the Medios multi-screen service management software suite, the cloud-based applications platform allows service providers to merge video content with social networking, games and web-based content and delivers greater interaction capabilities with broadcast television and video-on-demand (VOD) services. (Read: Motorola Cloud Platform to Create Social TV)

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Additional findings from the Adweek/ Harris Poll survey include:

  • Three in ten say they shop online while watching TV (29%);
  • Few say they read a book on an eReader device while watching TV (7%) although over two in five admit to reading a traditional book, magazine or newspaper (44%) while watching TV;
  • Similarly small numbers surf the Internet on a tablet computer while watching TV although a majority do so on a regular computer (56%) and 18% do so on their mobile phone;
  • Three in ten Americans say they do something else while watching TV (30%) and only 14% say they do not do any other activity while they watch TV.

Looking at how various groups experience television, younger adults are more likely than those older to surf the Internet on a computer or mobile phone, go on a social networking site, text on their mobile phone and shop online. 

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While watching TV older adults are slightly more likely than those younger to read a book, magazine or newspaper, and much more likely to do nothing else. 

Women are more likely than men to do each of the activities listed while watching TV, with the exception of surfing the Internet on a mobile phone (20% vs. 16%) or on a tablet computer (8% vs. 6%) which men do at slightly higher rates. 

Those who have graduated from college are also more likely than those who have not attended any college to do each of the activities listed while watching TV.

Photo courtesy: Motorola Mobility

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Rakesh Raman