From one screen to five

From One Screen to 5: The New Way We Watch TV

Once upon a time, families gathered around giant wood-paneled television sets that they switched on with the turn of a dial. As shows flickered across bulging screens, people talked, read the newspaper or did chores.

Flash forward to the present. The TV is now a flat screen on the wall. It is still an integral part of our lives, but as modern families watch their shows of choice many of them engage with another screen — a laptop, a desktop, a tablet, or a smartphone — that provides access to a stream of content and conversation.

Why are people looking at these other screens while watching TV and what are they looking at? These are some of the questions we sought to answer in a study we recently commissioned of more than 500 people from global market research agency Millward Brown. The study explored people’s changing behavior while watching live primetime TV in the US and the resulting implications for marketers.1

Productive and connected

Oftentimes, people access their devices while watching TV in order to complete tasks and feel connected: 75% of respondents liked to multi-task while watching a show because it made them feel productive, and 33% said they did so to continue to be entertained or to communicate with friends and family.

As one respondent said, “I love to watch TV. Sometimes it feels like I am not being so productive when doing so, so most of the time when I am watching TV, I am multi-tasking.”



The preferred platform

During a commercial or show, the number one thing people do is check email: 82% did so during commercial breaks, and 70% did so during the TV show itself.

This was followed by visiting a social media platform, with 71% reporting that they did so during a commercial and 64% during a show. Facebook was by far the preferred platform; 85% of people who reported visiting a social network while watching TV said they visited Facebook, and 65% reported spending more than 15 minutes on our site.

Of those who use Facebook, 94% said it was their preferred digital platform. Facebook was used by more people, more frequently, for longer periods of time compared to other social media platforms, email and search engines.



Key takeaways

  • Brands have an opportunity to be part of the new way we watch TV across multiple screens. Forty-one percent of respondents said that seeing an ad on TV led them to interact with that same brand or product on their devices.
  • As multi-screening becomes the norm, marketers can turn what could be perceived as a distraction into an integrated and enhanced brand experience that extends from TV across multiple device screens.
  • Facebook — viewed as one of the main online destinations while watching live primetime TV — can help augment and maximize the reach of TV in the living room and beyond.


Note 1: Source: “Primetime Live TV and Facebook Usage”, Millward Brown Digital and Firefly Millward Brown, (commissioned by Facebook). Study was US only, sample size (n-500) and qualitative respondents (n=31).