Is the second screen killing TV?

The website ‘Marketing Charts’ reported the results of a study conducted by the Council for Research Excellence on TV viewing habits in the US. The interesting angle picked up by Marketing Charts is the extent to which viewers multitask with another screen while watching television – so, for instance, whether you check your e-mails while you are watching TV (showing low engagement with the programme) or, instead, you tweet about the programme (showing high engagement). This is a rather interesting question given the debate about whether the ongoing technological and social changes are breathing new life into television or killing it.

Details of the study can be found here and make a very interesting reading into why and how people watch television on a traditional TV set vs. a computer, a tablet or a smartphone. I, for one, want to study this report into some detail and may come back to it on a later post. But for the moment, I would like to focus on the high level findings about screen multitasking.


The majority of viewers use a second screen while watching TV. This is most likely when watching TV on a computer and least likely when using a smartphone. Unfortunately the study does not provide explanations on why this happens. Though I am guessing that if you are watching TV on your mobile it is because you are on the move, anyway, in which case you may not have access to another device, anyway.

2nd screen

In terms of how viewers were using the second screen, the findings are that viewers watching the programme on a traditional TV set are the ones that are most likely to engage in a non-related second screen activity. I.e., viewers watching on a TV set are the ones most likely to be disengaged from the TV programme.

While smartphone users are the least likely to use a second screen while watching TV on their devices, when they do so, they are the most likely to do something related to the programme. My interpretation is that viewers watching TV on their smartphones are the most engaged in the programme, even when multitasking with a second screen.

2nd screen activity

So, whether the second screen (and third and fourth) is killing TV viewing depends on which screen you are using. An interesting follow up question, to help understand the different levels of engagement, would be what types of programmes viewers watch on the various platforms studied.

What are your thoughts on the findings from study? 

3 thoughts on “Is the second screen killing TV?

  1. Hmm, it really depends on what I’m watching. Live events (world cup football, Olympics) will mostly be about engaging more. And anything that I find interesting and would like to talk about while watching. Great entertainment. Sometimes I find myself looking something up. Like a soundtrack if I hear a nice tune, but can’t quite make out what it is. Or something about an actor. And then there are times that I use a second screen to do something completely different. Those times I should actually switch off the main screen.


      1. Quite likely. When I use ‘other’ screens than the tv, it’s about what I choose to watch at that moment, in stead of choosing from what’s available. So the attention span and interest is quite different. I think I’m a good candidate for on-demand, but that’s a whole different discussion.


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