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28% Watch Their Phones While They're Watching TV, Finds Facebook

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Many people aren't really watching TV when they watch TV. They're watching their phones, instead. According to a global study conducted by Facebook and market research company Eye Square, 28% of TV time is actually spent staring at a phone. And that's when a show or movie is on; during ads 55% of time is spent staring at a phone.

BlogI heard these stats yesterday at the Advertising Research Foundation's Audience X Science conference, where Facebook and Eye Square shared their findings. They conducted eye-tracking and device-tracking studies in six counties, so they knew exactly where people were looking.

Get this: People often watch videos on their phones while they're also watching shows on TV. YouTube was the fifth most popular phone use overall during TV viewing time.

In the U.S., the top phone diversions were Facebook, web browsing, Instagram, texting, and emailing. I should mention that the study group was made up of adult Facebook members, so Facebook no doubt ranked higher that it would have for the general population.

For those who believe they're multitasking while watching both screens, the presenters shot that down: "There's a lot of sensory information coming into your brains at all times, and you can only focus on a little bit of it at once. You need to filter a lot of it out. So, attention is selective," said Stephen Gray, a consumer researcher at Facebook. "When we talk about multitasking we don't mean that you're dividing your attention between one thing and another. You can't do that. We mean to say that you're switching your attention back and forth from one thing to another, and people can really only focus on one thing at a time."

The message for conference attendees was that marketers should invest in mobile ads, especially on social platforms, since that's where people often put their attention. But the message to me was that a lot of people are wasting their time watching shows they're not really into. If you find yourself looking at your phone 28% of the time when a show is on, maybe you should be doing something else.

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