Can you remember the last time you watched TV without snatching your phone out of your pocket to send an email, or just to scroll aimlessly through your newsfeed?
A report from the UK’s Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) suggests the idea that the TV is the center-piece of the living room is now out of date. Smartphones and tablets are beginning to take over the TV’s dominant position, the IAB asserts.
While 50% of UK adults say that the traditional TV set is the focal point of their living room, 70% said they were regularly glued to “connected devices” while watching TV. Among 16-to 34-year-olds this rose to 87%.
The IAB says that this is enough evidence to discard the widely-used term “second screening,” and replace it with the more accurate “switch-screening.”
“Second-screening is ingrained to such a degree that all screens are now equal, there’s no hierarchy, only fragmentation of attention — actually switch-screening is a much more accurate term,” Tim Elkington, the IAB’s chief strategy officer said in a press release. “Furthermore, entertainment is only a small part of the living room media activity. It’s now a multi-functional space where people jump between individual and group activities, be it shopping, social media, emails, work, or messaging.”
The IAB commissioned research agency Sparkler to carry out the “Real Living” study. It measured the living room habits of nearly 1,050 people through a mixture of surveys, passive filming, on-device tracking, daily diaries, and biometric data.
Of course, it’s unsurprising that an internet advertising trade body would trumpet internet-connected devices over another medium.
Matt Hill, research and planning director at Thinkbox, the UK’s TV marketing body, sent Business Insider this statement in response to the IAB’s claim that TV is no longer the dominant screen in the living room:
“We’ve always done other things while watching the TV and we always will. Using connected devices is just the latest activity, and we often use them with the TV to talk about what we’re watching or buy things we see in TV ads. On average we spend 38 minutes a day multi-screening, which equates to 18% of the time we spend watching TV. For 16-34s its higher at about a third of the time they spend watching TV. But no one is swapping the TV set for other screens — time spent with the TV set has increased in recent years. They may be swapping the ironing board or newspaper though.
“This research shows that, in a world filled with screens, the TV set continues to dominate for most of us. Very few living rooms’ furniture faces a mobile phone or tablet. But there is no need to get hung up on which is the most important screen in our lives or living rooms. We use different screens for different things in different places. We use all of them to watch TV. And, regardless of the screen, watching TV continues to dominate the media day for all age groups — but it won’t necessarily be done by itself, and it never has been.”
But aren’t we just using our phones during the ad breaks?
The IAB study also suggested that the assumption that we just pick up our phones once the TV commercial break rolls around is false. We check our emails just as often during TV programs as during ad breaks, and the likelihood of sending a text or instant message in the commercial break is only 1% higher than during programming, the study said.
This pie chart from the IAB shows what its study suggested we are actually doing while the ads are running. Note how the IAB suggests just 5% of viewers watch the ads in full (although that doesn’t mean they didn’t watch some of, or the majority of the ads):
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