Facebook Says Users Turn to the Platform During Commercial Breaks When They’re Watching TV

The company pointed to mobile useage

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Headshot of Marty Swant

When it comes to consumers, Facebook has a message to marketers buying ads on television: they’re just not that into you.

According to research released today, people watching the season premiere of an unnamed but popular TV show chose to ignore the commercials and instead turn their attention to—you guessed it—Facebook.

The social network surveyed 537 people who watched the show to observe how their activity on the platform varied over the course of the premiere and found that activity spiked whenever there was a commercial break. For example, while between 7 and 11 percent of people were active when the show was on, between 13 and 25 percent were active during commercial breaks. (Between 9 and 13 percent were also active in the minutes before the show and in the minutes after.)

To gauge how that activity was different for those not watching the premiere, Facebook also analyzed data of people who said they weren’t watching the show and found that activity on the platform remained a fairly flat 8 to 10 percent.

In a blog post today, Facebook core ads vp Mark Rabkin said that while television is still a “powerful medium” in every house, it’s tougher to compete with the one in every hand.

“The most important thing to remember about video advertising in the mobile era is this: smartphones are not tiny televisions,” Rabkin wrote. “Just as TV wasn’t visual radio, and radio wasn’t an audible newspaper, mobile must be recognized for what it is: a new medium that demands new content grounded in experiences that are native to the platform like speed, choice and relevance.”

Along with where they were looking, Facebook also gathered data in how long people were looking at videos within Facebook itself. For example, the company found that users watch autoplay videos three times as long as they do autoplay video ads, with an average 16.7 seconds for all autoplay videos compared with an average of just 5.7 seconds for autoplay ads.

While this is the latest research about how people watch TV and use Facebook, it’s likely not the last. This month, Facebook is opening its own marketing science lab in New York that will let the social network and brands, agencies and media partners better understand how people use mobile devices and larger screens.

@martyswant martin.swant@adweek.com Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.