The TV may still be the king of the living room, but it's certainly no longer all alone. More and more, consumers are making use of multiple screens. But all is not exactly peaceful in the kingdom; the small screen wants to dethrone the TV and reign supreme over the viewer's attention.
In fact, by the numbers, computer use and smartphones are quite nearly as popular as TV. Of course, television publishers have no intention of going down without a fight. In any case, it seems that multi-screen is the new standard - seemingly destined to reign supreme in 2013 and beyond.
How consumers use multiple screens
Most of the time, viewers are using more than one screen at a time to split their attention to disparate purposes. 90% of all media interactions are screen-based, with 38% occurring on smartphones. So it is apparent that the various screens in play in the average living room should improve at working together over the coming years.
Viewers are watching TV while clutching smartphones, using laptops, and browsing on tablets concurrently, creating the need for advertisers to adequately address the multi-screen dynamic. With all this simultaneous usage going on, we are really faced with three primary uses for the smaller devices while watch TV: sequential usage, complementary operation or true multitasking.
Sequential usage is probably the most interesting multi-screen use, from a business perspective. The 'sequence' refers to product discovery. We search for things at home, on our desktops, check back on those things with our tablets, and carry our smartphones with us we go to the store to buy - or we buy online. In any case, this multi-device sequence is happening a lot.
Think of complementary usage as searching for a car driven in a movie while watching it on TV. Meanwhile, true multitasking encompasses things like posting to Facebook while watching TV and periodically checking email all the while.
We recently discussed perceptive media, and multi-screen features heavily in that niche. Since consumers are stretching the research process over multiple devices it stands to reason that each person will be identifiable across all their various devices (when logged into Apple or Google, we all already are). But with refinement, this technology has some interesting potential benefits.
For example, consumers will be able to save shopping carts and any other sales funnel processes - right where they leave off - across devices. This will not only offer a new level of convenience to consumers, but it will also present businesses with an always-on opportunity for engagement. This is the digital space we've been promised, at long last.
Beyond the living room
Secondary screens are making their way to the cinema, too. Filmmakers are looking at ways to integrate the small screen into the theater experience, potentially signaling the end of those "please put away your cellphone" blips before the start of every film.
Using localized, event-based technology, there is also the possibility of supplementing onscreen content that is targeted to individual groups of theater-goers. While obvious, purely creative ideas emerge around the concept of complementary content on a large scale, it is easy to see the potential for branding and consumer engagement using the technology.
Multi-screen viewing of media and content is here to stay. Consumers have multiple devices and they move with relative ease between them all. Already, the consumers have embraced the multi-screen idea, and the potential for widespread engagement through multiple devices is impressive. So the smart money is on multi-screen technology becoming a bigger deal over the next couple of years. The TV may still be the king, but its rule is being challenged, or at the very least shared.