Five Things You Need To Know About Multi-Screening

For TV, 2012 was the year we really started to understand the potential for companion screens: the smartphones and tablets and laptops that we have with us when watching TV. Of course people have always multi-tasked when watching TV; ‘multi-screening’, is simply the latest accompaniment.

And it’s on the increase. 50% of UK adults claim to have ever multi-screened, with 21% claiming to do so daily, according to IPA Touchpoints data. The industry’s thirst for knowledge about multi-screening is has led to a number of research studies in 2012 dedicated to it.

Thinkbox was responsible for perhaps the one that most accurately revealed exactly what is now happening in our living rooms. Forgive me for my blowing my own trumpet, but our study - Screen Life: the view from the sofa – won the Grand Prix at the Media Research Group Awards, so we’re not only very proud of it but, more importantly, our peers have seen value in its findings as well.

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to give you the five key things you need to know about multi-screening:

1 Multi-screening keeps viewers present for ad breaks

  • People in the sample were more likely to stay in the room or not change the channel during the ad break if they were multi-screening. Multi-screening viewers stayed in the room for 81% of ad breaks; viewers not multi-screening stayed in the room for 72%.

  • 31% of people in the UK (with access to TV and the internet) have chatted about TV programmes or ads on a second screen; this rises to 56% for 16-24s

  • 22% chatted via text; 18% via social media; 10% via mobile messenger services.


2 Multi-screening encourages more TV viewing

  • On average, when only one person was in the room and was multi-screening, 64% of their TV viewing sessions lasted for longer than 15 minutes. This compares to 47% when watching with no accompanying activity.

  • When two people were present, as expected, due to increased interaction the figures were lower. 41% of viewing sessions were for longer than 15 minutes when multi-screening compared to 37% when watching with no accompanying activity.


3 Multi-screening does not affect ad recognition

  • In a laboratory test where participants were invited to watch TV and/or use a laptop without being made aware they were to be tested on TV ad recognition, there was no significant difference in the level of ad recognition between people when multi-screening or only watching TV.


4 Multi-screening brings people closer to TV and its ads

  • Participants in the Screen Life research reported that multi-screening – like other new TV technologies, such as digital recorders – makes them feel closer to TV as it enables them to research what they watch, share with online friends and participate.


5 Multi-screening appears to encourage more shared and family TV viewing

  • Interviews with households that took part in Screen Life showed that partners and children are more likely to keep a TV viewer company if they can multi-screen – whereas previously they might have not stayed in the room.


We’ll be doing more research under the ‘Screen Life’ banner and I can only hope they are all as revealing – and reassuring for anyone working in TV advertising – as this one. Multi-screening is nothing but good news for TV, enabling people to chat, play, discover and even buy things as they watch.

In fact, as an extra sixth thing to know, Screen Life discovered that multi-screeners are actually more open, welcoming and positive about advertising than single-screeners. Multiple screens, multiple opportunities.

How the research was conducted

COG research, who undertook the study for Thinkbox, put CCTV in the living rooms of 23 multi-screening household in the and examined over 700 hours of TV viewing gathered from the footage.

This footage then underwent psycho-physiological analysis to examine actual programme and ad break attention.

This was coupled with self-reporting using COG’s award-winning digital ethnography technique; a laboratory test to examine ad recognition; and online research among 2,000 people with TV and online access. You can learn more about the research on the Thinkbox website.

Illustration by Dale Edwin Murray at YCN Talent Agency
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