Rise of Second-Screen Viewers

Watching TV while tweeting looks like a trend more than a fad, opening up avenues for interactive, multi-channel marketing outreach.Have you watched a teenager "watch" TV while texting or tweeting on his or her smartphone? Have you seen an adult doing the same thing while watching a movie on a tablet?

Second-screen watchers are becoming a more pervasive pattern, according to The Nielsen Company, a global leader in multinational media research and best known for its TV ratings.

In a story reported by The Associated Press, Nielsen shared data showing one in three Americans used Twitter last June while watching TV. And that, the company adds, was before the Olympics when ménage å tweets spiked even higher.

Twitter may have emerged as the second screen of choice for TV viewers.

But there is more going on than tweeting. Forty-one percent of tablet owners and 38 percent of smartphone users, Nielsen told AP, use these devices at least once a day while watching television. While those numbers haven't risen sharply, what has changed is how much longer people are watching two screens "at once."

The Nielsen study found 35 percent of tablet owners looked up information online while watching TV. A quarter of tablet owners went online to research coupons or advertised deals they saw on TV.

Nielsen reports that second-screen viewing is more pervasive outside the United States. It says 63 percent of people in the Middle East and 52 percent of Latin Americans watch TV while engaged in social media.

Emergence of second-screen viewing opens up fascinating avenues for greater integration of message and communication channels, not to mention interactivity. A TV ad can whet a potential consumer's appetite, then direct them to an online site for more detailed information, engagement and a purchase.

Marketing communicators already are turning their attention to the potential of mobile devices. They need to pivot quickly to embrace a wider notion of two screens (or more) informing viewer content seamlessly and simultaneously.