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Tivo survey indicates second screen still playing second fiddle

TiVo unveiled the results of its recent Social Media and Multitasking Survey this morning, which focused on how users engage in social media, Internet searches, and other distractions while watching TV. Among the results were some surprises, like the fact that the majority of those polled don’t multitask much while watching TV. Others came as little or no surprise, like the revelation that, at least in the TiVo universe, almost no one likes TV show hashtags popping up while they watch.

The survey was conducted over a three week period in 2013, from Oct 16th to November 7th, sampling 1,660 households, 40 percent of which were TiVo viewers, 48 percent were non-subscribers, and 12 percent were wrangled in from social media. And for those who think technology is turning us all into smartphone obsessed A.D.D. monsters, the results offer some rays of hope.


Sure, Americans watch way too much TV, but 76 percent of those polled actually pay attention to the show they’re watching, making it their primary focus. Further, 45 percent of TiVo users, and 35 percent of the non-subscribers reported that their attention was directed only towards the TV, “and not on anything else.”

Of course, that does leave a decent portion of at least occasional multitaskers – apparently not everyone has the stamina for a full 22 minutes of focused TV time after all. Of those who reported multitasking at least once while watching, a whopping 94 percent said they had gone online to browse or chat (69 and 23 percent respectively), while cooking and watching came in second, at 48 percent.

Online distractions

The distraction unit of choice while watching TV was predictably the smartphone, used 61 percent of the time. And almost a quarter (24 percent) of those who reported ever having multitasked while viewing said they used their smartphone “every time, or almost every time” they sat down to watch, which is starting to sound more like what we imagined.

Much to the chagrin of those spearheading the new “second screen” marketing campaigns that were so prevalent at CES 2012, only 27 percent of users reported looking up show information during the actual program. Most Internet searching about show info was actually done after the show finished, often later in the week. And perhaps most telling, while program related hashtags that popped up during the show were noticed by the majority of the TiVo users polled (68 percent), 63 percent of those that did notice said they didn’t like them, and a hilariously low 3 percent said they did. #fail.

Outside the family

The survey also showed that people don’t really like engaging in forums or sponsored program discussions with people they don’t know. The majority of users were loathe to engage in conversation about TV programming outside of their own social media networks. 61 percent of TiVo watchers and 55 percent of non-subscribers agreed with the statement “I only want to discuss TV with people I know, not with Internet strangers.” Perhaps too many undistracted “Catch a Predator” viewings could be the issue there.

The Game of Thrones factor

Finally, there were those that actually avoided the Internet altogether for fear of program spoilers, which amounted to 25 percent of all polled. And nearly three quarters of the sample segment agreed that some shows were too complex or important to engage in other activities while watching.

If anything, TiVo’s survey showed that people are actually pretty serious about their TV these days. Of course, since almost half of those polled ponied up for a TiVo box and subscription, that’s not all that surprising. Still, while our devices seem to offer more distractions than ever, TiVo’s poll shows that most people just want to watch TV without a whole lot of other activities going on. It should be interesting to see how the growing prevalence of on-demand viewing affects those numbers in the future.

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