The age of families gathering around a TV to simply sit and watch programmes together seems to be a thing of the past. Second screen usage is now part of everyday life, especially amongst millennials (those aged between 16 and 34). No longer is all viewer attention directed at TV content; now it is shared with other digital related activity.
According to recent research conducted by the Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB), 87% of 16-34-year-olds use a connected device at the same time as they are watching TV. Surprisingly, the same research found that use of other devices is slightly higher during programme time than it is during commercials.
Not so long ago watching the TV involved the whole family gathering and paying full attention to the programme on offer; minus any time spent having a conversation. As technology has developed, so these viewing habits have changed. There are many digital distractions around, such as laptops, smartphones and tablets. It is probably not surprising that the people who spend most time using second screen are those who have grown up being used to using online technology. The changes are certainly having a significant impact on traditional TV viewing, with only 50% of people questioned during the IAB survey saying that the TV was the focal point of their living room.
What does this mean for the way we view content?
Millennials are not going to change their viewing habits as they age; the habits are not formed by age but by environment. Gradually there will no longer be a generation that is used to merely having a TV screen to concentrate on. This makes things harder for producers of content and advertisers. They need to find ways to keep the attention of viewers. This could mean providing supplementary second screen content to support regular programming. It is all about looking at ways to compete with the distractions of texting, emailing and social media. It’s possible that for future generations more bitesize content is the way to go, with attention spans likely to decrease further as second screen use becomes the norm.
The younger generation of today is not going to remain the younger generation forever. As they grow older they will take their penchant for second screen use along on the journey. This means that living rooms will become not just a place of joint entertainment but also a place where a family will spend plenty of individual time, participating in second screen activity.