It’s no big surprise that more and more people are surfing the web while watching TV than ever. About 40 percent of people use TV and the web at the same time each week, and those users spend about four percent of their TV time surfing the web, according to research from Nielsen.
But contrary to popular opinion, what they’re surfing online often has nothing to do with what’s on the TV. That is, people watching the Oscars with their laptops open aren’t necessarily on the Oscars.com website. In fact, very few of them are. Nielsen estimates that about 20 percent of Oscars viewers were online during the awards show, but only about 12 percent of those simultaneously surfing and watching the show were visiting Oscar-related sites. Similarly, during the Olympics only about 14 percent of simultaneous viewers were on sports sites, and during the Haiti earthquake coverage only about 18 percent of simultaneous viewers were tuned in to news sites.
So what were those viewers doing with their laptops while watching TV? The same stuff they usually do, even when the TV set is off: check email, chat with their friends and shop online, according to Nielsen. The one thing they don’t like to do when the TV is on is watch video sites like YouTube (s GOOG), because they could be a “distraction” to the TV viewing experience.
The key takeaway here is that marketers who want to cash in on this simultaneous viewing phenomenon, by trying to attract TV viewers who are also online, might have their energy better spent on other things, as there’s little evidence to suggest that the vast majority of simultaneous viewers are interested in Internet sites related to the programs they’re watching.
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