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Fighting for Attention

The Web is drawing viewers' eyes away from TV, yet it's far from the only distraction
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If there wasn’t already enough proof that the old boob tube is under assault from the home computer: Three-quarters of respondents to the most recent Adweek/Harris Interactive poll confirmed that they have watched a TV show online, and nearly 70 percent have watched a show online before watching it on an actual television.

Yet the threat to television watching is coming from old media, too. Of those people still tuning in, many say they aren’t necessarily paying attention while they have it on. Some 44 percent of the respondents said they’re reading a book, magazine, or paperback while watching TV. (Reading, in fact, was the second most popular activity after surfing the Web.) Thirty-seven percent are texting while watching, and 40 percent are connecting with friends via Facebook and other sites. (No wonder Lost fans didn’t understand the show’s ending last year!)

The good news for TV (and the advertisers who love its reach)? Only 3 percent of the respondents said they don’t watch TV at all. We’d say 97 percent means it’s a medium that isn’t going anywhere—not yet, anyway.

Who's watching where? (% of respondents) Total Age 18-34 Age 35-44 Age 45-54 Age 55+
Ever watch a TV show on the Internet?          
Yes 77 88 84 75 64
No 23 12 16 25 36
If "yes," ever watched a show online before you watched on TV?          
Yes 66 82 67 61 50
No 34 18 33 40 50
           
SOURCE: Adweek/Harris Interactive, May 2011          
While watching TV, I also... Total Age 18-34 Age 35-44 Age 45-54 Age 55+
Surf the Web on a computer 56 68 59 55 45
Read a book, magazine, newspaper 44 42 41 44 47
Use a social networking site 40 57 47 36 21
Send text messages on my phone 37 57 46 38 14
Shop online 29 40 33 27 19
Surf the Web on my phone 18 30 23 15 6
Read a book on an e-reader 7 6 8 9 7
Surf the Web on a tablet computer 7 7 13 4 5
Do nothing else 14 8 12 16 20
I do not watch TV 3 5 3 2 2
           
Source: Adweek/Harris Interactive, May 2011