Study: 63 percent of tablet owners multitask with TV

By Cory Bergman 

The consumer research house GfK MRI has released one of the best second-screen studies we’ve seen about tablet usage, breaking down the multitasking phenomenon in some detail. The study concluded that 63% of tablet owners multitask in front of TV at least once a week, and 41% of total tablet time is spent in front of TV — the most popular multitasking activity. Millennials top the list of the most active TV multitaskers, but the activity is rather pervasive across all demographics:

But how much time is spent actually paying attention to TV? The study found 36% of respondents say they pay equal attention to both, another 36% say they’re more engrossed in their tablet activity, and 28% say the TV is their focal point. So in other words, tablets distract from television in some degree 72% of the time. Checking email continues to be the top activity while watching TV (78%) as well as visiting unrelated websites (55%), playing games (40%), using an unrelated app (36%) or reading a magazine or book (34%).

But at the same time, tablets enhance the TV experience (above): 34% said they’ve posted comments about a show they’re watching (presumably this includes social media), 25% visited a site or app related to the show, 21% looked up more info related to the show, 11% voted in a show contest, 11% used the tablet as a remote control, and 9% “live-chatted” along with the broadcast (unclear if that includes Twitter.)

On the advertising front, 28% said they looked up more information related to a TV ad they watched, and 12% purchased a product during a show they were watching. And most people don’t mind ads in their apps:

For anyone who still thinks tablet multitasking is bad for television, well, there’s no stopping it: 81% of those in the study say they enjoy it. Of course, we believe tablet (and smartphone) multitasking makes television truly interactive at scale for the first time ever: it’s just a matter of creating compelling second-screen experiences that engage viewers at scale.

Here’s the full study (.pdf) with lots of great infographics ripe for posting in your presentations.