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Viewers Go Online While Watching TV

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NEW YORK The number of prime-time viewers who simultaneously go online while they watch TV more than doubles from Monday to Thursday night, leading a new study to conclude that marketers with the objective of driving Web traffic can benefit by boosting their TV ad spending later in the week.

That's according to San Mateo, Calif.-based research firm Integrated Media Measurement Inc.

The study, conducted from September 2008 through January, showed that viewers were also online during roughly 9.3 percent of their prime-time viewing.

The breakdown between cable and broadcast television was 8.2 percent and 11 percent, respectively, IMMI reported. That finding was somewhat surprising, said Matt Reid, director of strategic initiatives for the firm. "Cable programming tends to be more niche oriented," he said, and lends itself more readily to multitasking. The fact that the broadcast networks aggressively promote their online presence with on-air bugs probably explains much of the difference, he said.

The time spent watching broadcast television while surfing the Web more than doubles as the week progresses, according to the survey, rising from a low of 5.8 percent on Monday to a high of 15.9 percent on Thursday. Reid surmised that an "easing in effect" is at work, meaning that viewers want a complete break from the real world earlier in the week while going online to prepare for weekend activities later in the week.

"This trend of going online while watching prime-time television represents a significant opportunity for advertisers who want to target viewers with a message to visit content online," said Reid. Thus, messages with a direct call to action may be more effective later in the week while "warm and fuzzy" awareness ads might achieve greater recall earlier in the week. "The landscape is moving at a steady pace from multiplatform advertising to simultaneous multiplatform advertising," he said.  

The data also showed that women spend more time surfing the Web while watching prime-time TV -- 13 percent compared to 9 percent for men. By age group, twentysomethings did it the most (20 percent) while thirtysomethings did it the least (6 percent).
 
The study was implemented through a research panel built by IMMI to capture Internet as well as TV and radio consumption. IMMI provides panel members with a mobile phone equipped with a technology that creates digital signatures of all the audio media (TV, radio and movies) to which it has been exposed. IMMI can determine viewing audiences as well as certain types of consumer behavior based on a time line of when the media was viewed or heard.

A major TV programmer and a large TV advertiser sponsored the study. IMMI declined to disclose their identities at this time.