Watching TV increasingly means having a remote in one hand and a smartphone in the other

Smartphone apps
A majority of Americans are using smartphones and other connected devices while watching TV. (Getty/marchmeena29)

U.S. adults spend more than 10 hours a day consuming media—about half of that watching TV and other video—but the mix of devices we use continues a steady shift toward digital media, according to a new research report from Nielsen that covers the second quarter of 2018.

Viewers are also multitasking. The report shows that 73% of TV viewers report using a smartphone or tablet while they watch TV, and the devices are a big part of the TV experience for many. Of viewers who use a digital device while watching TV, Nielsen reports:


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  • 71% report looking up information related to what they’re watching
  • 41% report emailing, texting or messaging about what they’re watching
  • 35% report researching or shopping for something in a TV ad
  • 28% report reading or writing on social media about what they’re watching.

“These days, smartphones, wireless headphones and other portable digital devices act almost as extensions of our appendages for many of us,” Peter Katsingris, Nielsen’s senior vice president for audience insights, wrote in the report. “Consumers are getting comfortable talking to a machine and those machines are not just listening, but responding with their own voices, actions, and information.”

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Overall video consumption on TVs, computers and other devices was down slightly from the first quarter of 2018—from five hours and 57 minutes a day down to five hours and 24 minutes a day—with high-profile sporting events like the Super Bowl, Winter Olympics and March Madness giving viewers more can’t-miss TV to watch in the first quarter.

The Nielsen report also echoed the steady drip of corporate earnings reports over the last year that have shown households leaving traditional MVPD services. From June 2017 to June 2018, traditional MVPD penetration dropped from 81.3% to 77.4% of U.S. households, while SVOD services like Netflix and Hulu surged from 59% to 66% of U.S. households. Streaming-bundle services like DirecTV Now and YouTube TV more than doubled from 1.4% to 3.4% of U.S. households over the last year.

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