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It’s not just your kids: Millennials really are second-screen addicts

A new CTA study finds that viewers, especially those under 34 years, are distracted by digital devices while watching another screen.
January 29, 2016

If you’re under the age of 34 years, or know someone who is, you’ve probably already seen first-hand the growing trend of what’s being called “second-screen” behavior — that is, the use of a tablet, laptop or smartphone while watching content on another device.

Now the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has put hard numbers to that phenomenon with a study that shows three quarters of millennials in the U.S. (more than any other demographic) now engage in the behavior.

The CTA’s two-part report, entitled 2015 Video Consumptions Trends, looks at various facets of digital content consumption, including second-screen behavior, cord cutting and TV purchases.

About 50% of Americans of all ages use a second device while consuming video content, the study found.

Half (50%) use a second device while consuming content to gather more information about the content they’re viewing. However, 48% of respondents use devices to watch content during commercials, and 43% use social media to engage in discussions — either related or unrelated to the programming.

Splitting the demographics between millennials (defined as people age 18 to 34) and older respondents, a different picture emerged: Most millennials (71%) are more likely to engage with social media during programming than older viewers (31%).

In addition, 70% of millennials watch content on another device during commercials, compared to 38% of respondents 35 and older.

No surprise, Gen X viewers (indeed, anyone over 35 years) are the least likely to have their eyes on a second screen while watching TV or a streaming device — only 31% of people in this age group reported engaging with social media while watching video content.

Other key findings in the report:

  • Millennials are more likely than older viewers to watch short and long-form content on “non-traditional” devices such as laptops, phones and tablets (42% and 22%, respectively).
  • Most people surveyed still regularly watch television, with 80% of all respondents saying they preferred TV for the screen size, 62% preferred the picture quality and 29% said it was cheaper than other options.
  • Eleven per cent of respondents cancelled their subscriptions in the past year. The most common reason was that alternate options (such as SVOD) were available at a lower cost (27%).
  • Nearly a quarter (21%) of respondents reported that they haven’t had a cable subscription for more than a year, and 32% reported not watching enough television to justify subscription costs.

However, even with cable subscriptions waning slightly, TV sets are still a hot commodity. The CTA projects that revenue

from the sales of TV sets will reach $19 billion in 2016, a figure on par with 2015 sales.

According to the study, about 13 million units of 4K UHD TV sets will be shipped to U.S. home throughout the year. Revenue from 4K televisions is expected to top $10 billion.

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