Study: Do Smart Phones Distract from TV? Yes and No

written by: Richard Kastelein

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Study: Do Smart Phones Distract from TV? Yes and No [1691] | Opinion - TV App Market

Ilya Vedrashko, head of R&D / Consumer Insights group at Hill Holliday, MIT Comparative Media Studies Graduate and co-founder of Convergence Culture Consortium has penned an interesting piece on a subject I have often written about - the impact of media stacking and second screen engagement on the lifeblood of TV today - the 30 second spot. In the USA Twitter statistics show that it spikes greatly during prime-time commercials - viewers are now providing real-time audience measurement - and that's just one inkling of evidence that the value chain and how TV is financed today is on shaky ground.


The amount of social activity surrounding prime-time TV has nearly tripled year over year, said Mark Ghuneim, CEO of social TV tracking service We spoke with him earlier this week at the Ad Age Social TV conference about Trendrr.TV's latest findings in social TV.

"It's explosive and happening naturally with consumers," he says in this video interview of the 194% growth in social buzz for TV shows year over year. "Social TV is the heart of smart TV."

Passive viewing, aka, people having their TV's on but not watching has always been, for the better part, a rather inestimable, hazy mystery, fully reliant on legacy audience measurement systems. However, with data trickling in now that actually can track second screen usage a picture is beginning to emerge. And it's not all good news.

Vedrashko's study, Smartphones Distract People Away from TV, Mobile Ads Help Bring Them Back, created a video player that showed two concurrent video streams to a group of 600 online survey respondents divided into three groups which showed stream in the “TV” window consisted of an Saturday Night Live TV Show skit broken up by a sequence of four trailers for upcoming movies, among them a trailer for Friends with Kids. The stream in the “mobile” window showed screenshots from a smartphone every 5- or 10-seconds. Among the screenshots was an ad for Friends and Kids. They then tested three simulated scenarios (see the illustrations at the end of his post):

  1. People watching TV without a phone in hand,
  2. People watching TV with a phone in hand, and
  3. People watching TV with a phone in hand and the phone displays an ad for Friends with Kids at the same time the trailer is on.

Each participant was shown a version of the video from one of the three scenarios and then asked them a series of questions testing what they remembered and how much they liked Friends with Kids.

What they found out:

Concurrent consumption of mobile and TV content strongly and negatively affected recall and preference rates of TV content. Respondents in the one-screen condition group exhibited on average 17% higher recall and 12% higher preference than the two-screen groups on average.

My immediate reaction is what about second screen experiences that go beyond creating a marriage between an ad on TV and ad on second screen? If people on number 1 above are watching TV on a mobile phone with an companion, or playalong SNL application on it which provided second screen engagement with the show on TV via the mobile device, it would likely affect the results for result number 3 above.

Smartphones today may distract people from TV, but that trend is going to radically change as more and more TV shows will come with second screen experiences that provide context, commerce, social engagement, search, game mechanics and much more. Examples? BAFTA award-winning Million Pound Drop in the UK. Intuïtie, a daytime gameshow in which the viewers were the contestants and viewers played for free using their laptop or smartphone out of The Netherlands.

Never mind second screen 'Social TV' products like zeebox, Shazam, Miso, Getglue and a slew of others that are breaking new ground in providing second screen engagement across all channels.

And in thoses scenarios, a trailer on the second screen will be construed as another commercial or even could be considered as intrusive as a web page popup if executed incorrectly.

The first conclusion:

TV advertisers will be looking for ways to compensate for the drop in TV ad effectiveness caused by TV-mobile multitasking either by dialing up frequency or by putting up two-screen roadblocks with the help of companies such as SecondScreen Networks."

A 'roadblock' does not sound like consumer-friendly proposition. In any way.

Secondly, ads that invite viewers to engage with a smartphone right away – shazam it! scan this QR code! – might be ruining it for the next ad in the pod.

I fully agree. It could be.

The whole premise here is how we can make all this work in the current framework. Which means keeping the thirty second spot on the big screen and trying to integrate the viewer into some kind of two screen branded experience. This may be a stepping stone to the future, but it's not the answer I think.

What is the future? Death of the 30-second spot with any content that is not live is inevitable. With the reduction of scarcity and abundance of offerings, consumers will have a lot more choices that don't include interrupted TV. And let's be honest..... who likes to be interrupted, for the most part, by poorly-made propaganda?

So then it comes down to those with the money (brands pump in over 200 billion dollars globally into those 30-second spots) looking at new ways to reach including branded content, product placement and making deals with those who will own the second screen of the future to tackle new ways of brand engagement.

Those who will own second screen are those who will provide multiplatform engagement at the show, channel, brand or cross-channel levels. But with second screen, real-time audience measurement (IP-driven with highly advanced analytics and metrics) it's not going to be as easy for brands and agencies to reach as the old 30-second spot of disrupting TV and it's fuzzy math in terms old-school pulse-taking like Nielson, BARB and GFK have been milking for decades.

Study: Do Smart Phones Distract from TV?

View more PowerPoints from Hill Holliday

My take on how it could play out - Orchestrated Media - and it does not event include interstitials.




About the Author

Richard Kastelein
Founder of The Hackfest, publisher of TV App Market and global expert on Media & TV innovation, Kastelein is an award winning publisher and futurist. He has guest lectured at MIT Media Lab, University of Cologne, sat on media convergence panel at 2nd EU Digital Assembly in Brussels, and worked with broadcasters such as the BBC, NPO, RTL (DE and NL), Eurosport, NBCU, C4, ITV, Seven Network and others on media convergence strategy - Social TV, OTT, DLNA and 2nd Screen etc.

He is a Fellow of the UK Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and UK Royal Television Society (RTS) member.

Kastelein has spoken (& speaking) on the future of media & TV in Amsterdam, Belfast, Berlin, Brussels, Brighton, Copenhagen, Cannes, Cologne, Curacao, Frankfurt, Hollywood, Hilversum, Geneva, Groningen (TEDx), Kuala Lumpur, London, Las Vegas, Leipzig, Madrid, Melbourne, NYC, Rio, Sheffield, San Francisco, San Jose, Sydney, Tallinn, Vienna, Zurich...

He's been on advisory boards of TEDx Istanbul, SMWF UK, Apps World, and judged & AIB awards, Social TV Awards Hollywood, TV Connect & IPTV Awards.

A versatilist & autodidact, his leadership ability, divergent and synthetic thinking skills evolved from sailing the world 24000 miles+ offshore in his 20′s on sailboats under 12m.

He spent 10 years in the Caribbean media & boating industry as a professional sailor before returning to Europe, to Holland.

A Creative Technologist and Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Metis) his career began in the Canadian Native Press and is now a columnist for The Association for International Broadcasting and writes for Wired, The Guardian & Virgin. His writings have been translated into Polish, German and French. 

One of Kastelein's TV formats was optioned by Sony Pictures Television in 2012. 

Currently involved in a number of startups including publishing TV App Market online, The Hackfest and Tripsearch TV. As CSO for Worldticketshop he helped build a $100m company.

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