The use of second screens such as smartphones, tablets and laptops while watching TV affords unique opportunities and challenges to content creators, broadcasters and advertisers looking to market products more effectively and to higher value customers.
Traditional TV is on the decline, particularly amongst younger audiences. In the UK, Ofcom estimates TV watching for the 16-24 age group fell from 169 minutes per day in 2010 to 148 minutes in 2013. This was a much higher drop than in other age groups. On-demand video streaming services such as Netflix, which launched in the UK in 2012 and grew to more than 4 million UK subscribers in 2014, have played and continue to play a role in this.
The use of second screens such as smartphones, tablets and laptops offers opportunities to enhance the viewing experience, particularly for this younger demographic. Broadcasters and content creators can develop apps to deliver synchronised contextual content such as facts and gossip, and facilitate interaction through voting and social networks during sports, reality and game shows. Netherlands-based LookLive.com which launched in late 2014, identifies what characters are wearing during popular shows and provides links to websites for buying the actual clothes or similar versions.
Image: Example shopping links from LookLive.com
A recent Ofcom survey in the UK looked at complementary activities to TV watching . Overall, 24% of respondents go online to find out more about the programme while they are watching it at least once a month. Based on this survey data, we have developed an interactive visualisation showing which population segments are most actively engaged with second screens.
> Click to interact on mobile: Share of UK viewers who go online to find out about the programme while they are watching it at least once a month
Younger audiences are more likely to use second screens while watching TV, so they may be more attractive targets for content creators, broadcasters and advertisers looking to develop second screen experiences.
However second screens can also present challenges as the audience’s attention may not be wholly focused on the TV and be diverted to online and other connected device activities which may have little relevance to the programme being watched. 62% of UK viewers use the phone or go online to do something non-programme related while watching TV. Based on the Ofcom data, we have also compared UK viewers which often use second screens for programme-related activities compared to those who do not.
Are Second Screen Viewers Different?
As shown, UK viewers who use second screens for programme-related activities at least once a month are significantly more likely to do other activities which may distract them from TV watching, so use of a second screen may not indicate deeper engagement. A recent study also suggested that viewers who use second screens while watching TV recall fewer promoted brands, compared to those who are wholly focused on TV watching . Content creators, broadcasters and advertisers therefore will need to bear ‘second screen’ behaviour in mind when developing new and more effective ways to engage with consumers.
 Ofcom Technology Tracker, UK Survey, 2014
 Jensen, Walsh, Cobbs, Turner, (2015) “The effects of second screen use on sponsor brand awareness: a dual coding theory perspective”, Journal of Consumer Marketing