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The Smaller the Device, the Greater the Attention of the Mobile TV Viewer, Per New Study Findings

Latest Findings from Council for Research Excellence’s “TV Untethered” Study Help Inform Measurement Best-Practices

New York, NY(25 Jul 2013)

Mobile-TV viewers are more focused on TV content when viewed on their smartphones than on larger devices, according to new study findings.  

Viewers performed unrelated multi-tasking on other electronic devices during only 14% of the occasions on which they viewed TV programming on smartphones.  This compared to 27% for tablet viewing, 31% for computer (desktop and laptop) viewing and 34% of the television-set viewing occasions, according to study participants. 

At the same time, viewers watching a TV show on a smartphone also were more likely to engage in online activities related to that show – such as looking up show information, or posting about the show on social networks.   Such activity occurred during 21% of the television set viewing occasions, 27% for tablet viewing occasions, 31% for computer viewing occasions and 39% of the smartphone viewing occasions.

These findings come from additional analyses of the study conducted by Boston-based market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey for the Council for Research Excellence (CRE), a diverse group of senior-level research professionals from throughout the media and advertising industries dedicated to advancing the knowledge and practice of audience measurement methodology. 

The study, “TV Untethered,” was launched in November 2012 to understand if and how mobile media devices– tablets, mobile phones and laptops – impact overall television viewing behavior.  It encompassed nearly 6,000 participants and more than 393,000 TV viewing occasions, and included a quantitative phase, exploring video-user demographics, as well as a qualitative phase exploring users’ motivations and behaviors via in-home interviews in three markets – Atlanta, Phoenix and Kansas City. 

Other new findings:

  • Mobile TV viewers tend to be younger (mean age 35), higher income professionals with graduate degrees, and reflect more ethnic diversity than non-mobile-TV users;
  • The portion of overall TV-viewing devoted to mobile devices decreases for older mobile-TV users – 28% for users ages 15-to-24, 18% for ages 25-34; 12% for ages 35-49; and 8% for ages 50-64; 
  • Mobile TV viewers are often heavy overall TV viewers and are more likely than non-mobile-TV viewers to be TV show opinion leaders and to use social media to talk about TV.

The CRE previously disclosed study findings that 64% of smartphone-TV viewing occurs in the home – reflecting some simultaneous viewing with TV sets, which continue to dominate in-home viewing at 90%.  The top drivers of in-home mobile viewing cited by participants are content and device availability, family dynamics, device preference and inertia.  Mobile-TV viewers do most of their out-of-home smartphone-TV watching (23%) at work.  By contrast, only 14% of computer-based TV viewing occurs at work, with 8% for tablet viewing and 5% for TV-set viewing.  Convenience, portability and filling downtime are the top drivers of out-of-home smartphone viewing.

The study was overseen by the CRE’s Media Consumption & Engagement Committee, co-chaired by  Joanne Burns, Head of Research for 20th Television, Fox; and Laura Cowan, Research Director, LIN Media.

“This research suggests greater audience measurement needs to be directed at smartphone viewing,” Burns said.  “People are bringing devices from room to room, and out of the home, and on their commutes.  TV sets still rule in the home, even for the younger demographics -- but elsewhere, and even in the home for multi-taskers, smartphones are becoming an important device for viewing professional TV content.  It all goes to convenience and portability; more people are watching more TV – everywhere – and increasingly on smartphones.” 

“These insights to how people screen-shift TV content show new opportunity to reach a desirable audience, and emphasize the need to design future measurement to capture online and in-app viewing,” Cowan added.

The full report on the latest “TV Untethered” study findings can be found (under “New Research”) on the Media Consumption & Engagement Committee page at the CRE website. 

About the Council for Research Excellence

The Council for Research Excellence (CRE) is an independent research group created (in 2005) and funded by Nielsen.  The CRE is dedicated to advancing the knowledge and practice of audience measurement methodology and comprises senior-level industry researchers representing advertisers, agencies, broadcast networks, cable, syndicators, local stations, and industry associations.

CRE members represent advertising agencies, media-buying firms, media companies, advertisers and industry organizations including ABC, AMC Networks, CBS, Comcast, Cox, Discovery, Disney, GroupM, Horizon Media, Hulu LLC, Kimberly-Clark, LIN Media, Magna Global, the Media Rating Council, Media Storm, the National Association of Broadcasters, NBC Universal, News Corporation, Nielsen, Omnicom, Raycom Media, Scripps Networks Interactive, Starcom MediaVest, the Syndicated Network Television Association, TargetCast tcm, the Television Bureau of Advertising, Time Warner, Tribune Co., Twitter, Univision and Viacom.

For more information about the Council for Research Excellence, please visit: