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Survey: Most TV viewers surf while they watch

Bad news for ad-slingers: 75% are scanning two screens

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A shade under three-quarters of TV viewers with broadband are surfing the web while they watch, with 38 per cent of them discussing what they're watching on social media.

The figures come from Ovum, and are based on 8,000 survey respondents across eight countries. They show that more than half of TV viewers are checking details online while they watch, and the proportion discussing TV shows rises to 53 per cent if only the 16 to 23-year-old demographic is included.

We say "discussing", though it seems most of the TV-related action on social media is more by way of "comment", as "discussion" would indicate a bidirectional exchange of ideas which isn't much in evidence in our (admittedly limited) experience.

The growth of "second screen" media is undeniable, with laptops and tablets becoming part of the living-room furniture these days. Whether viewers are expounding their opinions on the X Factor acts, or checking to see what else that bit-part actor was in, the important thing (to Ovum and its customers) is that viewers aren't watching the adverts like they used to.

It also means is that television shows have to become steadily more repetitive to appeal to an audience whose attention is largely elsewhere, which in turn drives that audience to its second screen even more as the plot is again reiterated, again, for those who missed it last time around. Thus television inevitably tailspins into marginalisation and advertisers have to catch eyeballs elsewhere.

The solution, according to Ovum, is for television shows to create their own social networking environments, rather than letting Twitter or Facebook take the advertising revenue from viewers drawn to the second screen.

Those of us who still prefer to watch one screen at a time will just have to take solace that those multi-taskers will never get the hang of Inception, while accepting that we're dinosaurs who the advertisers probably aren't interested in anyway. ®

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