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The Rise of Second Screens

The Rise of Second Screens


Do you often find yourself using your mobile phone or tablet while watching television? If yes, you are among the many persons now participating in the growing trend of using second screens.

In Jamaica, the use of smartphones and tablets is gaining popularity as both an alternative and complement to watching television or listening to the radio. This was one of the main findings emerging from a nationally representative survey commissioned by the Broadcasting Commission and conducted by the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC).

The survey revealed that some 71% of respondents use their smartphones and tablets while watching television or listening to the radio. Of the persons who did not use those devices while watching television or listening to the radio, a third (30.3%) acknowledged that they used those devices as a substitute for watching television or listening to the radio.

In the United States, a similar situation prevails regarding the use of second screens. A report by Nielsen states that “a growing number of consumers use smartphones and tablets while watching television… checking email is, by far, the most popular second-screen activity while watching TV, followed by social media”. This multitasking is said to give users a feeling of greater efficiency.


The report also revealed differences between gender and age groups as “men tend to look up program information while watching the program, while women tend to look up coupons or deals related to a TV ad they saw. Older tablet and smartphone users tend to only or primarily check email on their second screens and not spend much time on other tablet or smartphone activities, while younger users are more likely to engage in multiple activities while using two screens”.

A great example of the second screen phenomenon is the “Twitter watch parties” that often happen when a popular television show or award show is on TV – where twitter users all tweet about the shows and share their opinions and criticisms. This is sometimes referred to as ‘Social TV’, where persons share TV contents on social media with each other.


‘Social TV’ has become so popular that social networks appear to be upgrading their platforms and developing new apps with a view to making it easier for users to share information. Twitter, in the recent World Cup craze, updated its app to include a World Cup banner at the top of the mobile screen which prompts users to join the football conversation once it is opened.

Facebook has also made updates of its own and has tried to incorporate more features on its site for users to share their thoughts and feelings, especially when it comes to discussing what’s on television. This can be seen in its recent update, which allows users to choose emoticons to accompany their status while they talk about their favourite show or a brand.


What does this mean for companies and small business owners?

Companies, businesses and even television shows have a unique opportunity to engage consumers in new and creative ways. Firstly, they should be social media savvy (if they aren’t already) and at least have a Facebook page, where users can interact with their brand. Secondly, they could explore the possibility of a mobile-optimized website for clients and potential clients that might prefer to engage them online via mobile devices instead of a desktop. This is important as the aforementioned research has indicated that a growing number of persons are using their mobile devices to surf the web, even while watching television. Unique hashtags are also another way to get users to talk about a company or product, or create a buzz around a brand or event. Even better, hashtags also help with consistency and ease of access to everyone who is also talking about a particular topic.

The use of second screens is a trend that will be in play for the foreseeable future and the importance of the internet and social media will continue to grow with time and more innovations. People will always want to log on and see what others are saying about a television show or game, and even breaking news (like the MH370 missing plane incident). In light of this, it is incumbent on businesses and brands to keep pace with the changes of an increasingly dynamic digital space.

Tell us, what are some of your favourite television shows and brands that you love to tweet about and share on social media?


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