Do you use a smartphone or tablet and watch TV?
I occasionally do. My wife does every day, multiple times, either using her Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket or Amazon Kindle. "In the US, 88 percent of tablet owners and 86 percent of smartphone owners said they used their device while watching TV at least once during a 30-day period", Nielsen says today. That's me. "For 45 percent of tablet tapping Americans, using their device while watching TV was a daily event". That's my better half. What about you?
I do tend to use my smartphone more often than a tablet while watching TV, that's to Shazam music -- something I frequently do everywhere. I was a deejay in an earlier life and compulsively search for good music. I'm not alone. Shazam audio QR codes appeared in Super Bowl ads for Best Buy, Pepsi and Toyota, among others. I see more QR codes in ads and TV shows every day. They're everywhere, and in some surprising places.
Nielsen's findings make sense of an increasing trend I see during prime-time programming: Interactive, companion smartphone and tablet apps. Second-screen they're often called, and emphasis often is social networking and sharing. "The Walking Dead" comes to mind. If I recall, viewers could track the number of people killed in real time, but the season's over and I didn't use the app. Last month, The Peel app extended its mobile apps second-screen in a pilot program with "American Idol". Suddenly, the live finalist broadcasts are interactive and social.
"It seems there are always a few controversial moments on American Idol, whether it is an overly harsh judge or the beloved contestant who is unexpectedly voted off", Peel CEO Greg Lindley says. "We are looking forward to being able to share our community's predictions and passion".
There is no shortage of second-screen apps. Among those for dedicated shows: "Bones"; "Celebrity Apprentice"; "New Girl"; MTVWatchWith, which covers the network's prime-time lineup; and NBC Live, which likewise is for prime-time programming; among many others.
Networks are getting more involved. For example, Fox has taken a small equity stake in ACTV8.me, which produces the "New Girl" app.
I'm surprised to see how far this second-screen thing goes. In late November eBay broke a feature from its iOS app as standalone for iPad: Watch with eBay. "You can browse and buy items related to the TV shows you’re watching", according to the auction site (This is where my jaw drops).
Definitely TV watching is increasingly social. Whether Facebook, Twitter, other social networks or broadly-dedicated second-screen apps like IntoNow, Miso or Zeebox (for UK audiences). How often do you see hashtags displayed during prime-time broadcasts, for example? I see them every day.
I wonder about these second-screen apps. "The most frequent tablet or smartphone activity across all countries while also watching TV was checking email, either during a commercial break or during the show", Nielsen says. I must confess, on the rare occasions I use a tablet while watching TV it's to manage email, which is faster by touch than mouse (well for me).
"Device owners also seem to engage with content related to the TV as well, either by looking up information related to the show or looking for deals and general information on products advertised on TV", according to Nielsen.
The closest I ever came to social watching: Dave Barry's live blogging commentaries of Fox series "24". Barry is a riot. But that was all before Facebook and Twitter added a different social element to TV watching -- or second-screen apps. But after writing this post, I might just start doing so.
Not that I need more reasons to sit in front of the boob tube. Do you?