It turns out that two-thirds of in-program social TV use happens during the commercial breaks, according to a study by research group The Pool (a division within VivaKi).
Per the study, viewer attention to the TV screen dropped to 23.1 percent during the ad breaks for users who have their iPads or smartphones out. In other words, as social TV use increases, attention on traditional commercial pods plummets—which is probably not the effect many TV networks had in mind when hailing the DVR-proof power of social TV. Kraft, Viacom, Zeebox and ComScore all participated in the study.
“As multitasking grows more prevalent, the second screen is emerging as a solution for TV advertisers to adapt to changing viewing behavior and extend the engagement around their on-air presence,” said Deborah Brett, vp of mobile advertising at Viacom. Interestingly, one of the apps that appears to be immune from this kind of up-and-down usage is Twitter—a study by Nielsen last week found that, with respect to the microblogging service, the converse was true: only 30 percent of Tweets about TV happened during commercials, while 70 percent happened during the program.
VivaKi took pains to stress the potential for new technology as a positive development, citing a 39 percent clickthrough rate for second-screen ads that appear at the same time as corresponding commercials on the TV. How much of that clickthrough rate is based on the novelty of the idea remains to be seen, but expect networks putting out social apps to take heed—cross-platform integration is already a large part of the advertising strategy for networks heavily into social TV, such as USA.
"Contextual, show-related ads and ads with greater interactivity performed best," wrote researchers. 68.8 percent of viewer attention was focused on the Zeebox app during the testing phase.
Ultimately, it's a big open question as to how much multitasking will include second-screen social apps, though: several of the highest-profile applications from the last year or so have gone the way of the dodo, though NBCU advertisers are bullish on buys that include integrations across Zeebox. Twitter is definitely on the rise, and apps like Shazam and Nextguide are evolving. As smartphone penetration increases, though, advertisers will clearly need solutions that include handy devices that can show viewers something they'd rather see than a preset pod of commercials.