Are Tablets the True 'Second Screen'?

There's plenty of data that shows people are on mobile devices while watching TV. Many Superbowl ads assumed and tried to play off this, largely without success earlier this year. But it may turn out that tablets (iPads) become the primary "second screen" during TV viewing.

According to a Q4 multi-country survey from Nielsen, "88% of US of tablet owners and 86% of smartphone owners said they used their device while watching TV at least once during a 30-day period." In addition Nielsen found that 45% of tablet owners used their devices along with TV "on a daily basis and 26% said they did this several times a day."



While checking email during commercials was a primary activity of the second screeners, the survey also found that there was engagement with TV content and products:  

The most frequent tablet or smartphone activity across all countries while also watching TV was checking email — either during a commercial break or during the show. Yet device owners also seem to engage with content related to the TV as well, either by looking up information related to the show or looking for deals and general information on products advertised on TV.

While shows like QVC, American Idol and The Voice are already doing things with simultaneous TV-mobile use, we should see more formal incorporation of mobile devices into shows. (I'm sure there will be lots of interesting and creative implementations to come.) In a more mundane vein, advertisers may start to direct people to e-commerce sites or offer flash sale incentives to mobile users on the couch. It should be a very interesting trend to watch. 

Tablets are much more likely, however, than smartphones to generate e-commerce sales. This is why they will be preferred by marketers. They'll be preferred by consumers because of their larger screens.