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Smartphones and tablets driving interactive TV viewing

business Updated: Mar 19, 2013 11:13 IST
TV show


Consumers are increasingly turning to their smartphones and tablets to govern their choice of TV show and, with the development of a number of new app functions, are actually using their mobile devices as remote controls for their TV sets.

Much has been written in recent months about the growing ‘second screen' phenomenon, where TV viewers simultaneously watch a film or series while also plugged into social media such as Facebook and Twitter via a mobile device, or even turn to that device to immerse themselves further in their favorite shows.

According to Nielsen, the trend has become so widespread in the US that it's becoming the norm. With over 50 percent of US homes owning a smartphone and 20 percent owning a tablet, screen multitasking is becoming typical behavior. Thanks to the constant connectivity that they offer, users are increasingly turning to their mobile devices to enrich their TV viewing experience with 85 percent of tablet and smartphone owners claiming to use their device while watching TV at least once a month, while 40 percent admit to doing it daily (which breaks down as 41% of tablet owners and 39% of smartphone owners).

Enriching the viewing experience with show-related info

Now, the latest research from Parks Associates reveals that tablet and smartphone owners are turning to their devices for interactive TV guide information too. Over one third (36%) of smartphone owners and 35 percent of tablet owners search for product/service information on the device while watching TV. Over one-third also regularly use apps to search for show-related information or check listings while in front of the TV. According to Parks Associates, searching for show-related information while watching TV is fast becoming the most popular activity for US tablet owners. "With second-screen offerings for TV shows like Breaking Bad and Glee, companies are catching up to current habits of viewers, who are already interacting with their mobile devices while watching TV," said Heather Way, senior research analyst, Parks Associates.

Mobile device as TV tool

Likewise, at 30 percent, using a smartphone as a TV remote control is the third most popular second-screen activity, behind searches and requests for products and services and checking TV listings. There are already a number of apps available for both the iPhone and Android smartphones that turn users' devices into TV remote controls, however, many of them, such as the Re Universal Remote Control, although free as apps, also require a paid-for plug in accessory that fits either to the smartphone or tablet or to the television. Owners of Google TV set-top boxes or smart TVs powered by Google's platform can download a free remote control app from the Google Play store. Second screeners looking for even more control can try the ArkMC DLNA UPnP Media Center. Available for Android devices, it lets users stream content from their phone or computer on their games console or TV. Likewise, TV companies that also build smartphones and tablets -- LG , Sony, Samsung, and Panasonic, offer apps that give users control over all devices made by that company.

The second-screen phenomenon is one that is being driven by younger TV viewers, to whom multitasking across different digital devices is normal behavior. "Over 25% of millennials (aged 18-30) with a smartphone engage in second-screen activity at least weekly while watching TV. Further, almost 20% of these millennials access pay-TV programs via their service provider on their smartphone, a rate 1.6 times higher than the general smartphone population. For many of these viewers, mobile is not the 'second screen' but just as important, or more so, than the TV screen," outlines Parks Associates.