Thoughts on Social TV and the Second Screen

Second Screen interactions increase engagement with TV

New research reveals social media interaction can boost viewers’ engagement levels by 9%.

The study, funded by Australian broadcaster Seven Network and media agency MEC revealed:

  • Interacting with social media while watching TV drives a 9% increase in program engagement
  • Average social media interaction during a TV program: 4 times
  • These interactions serve as “reset moments” after which viewers return to an engagement level higher than before
  • Throughout the program, cumulative increase in engagement is 26%
  • Second-screen interaction positively impacts Detailed Memory Encoding – the ability to remember specific elements of the broadcast.

The research was undertaken by market research specialists, Neuro Insight, who use brain-imaging technology called Steady State Topography to measure reactions to various forms of communication. For the study, viewers who are typical social TV participants were recruited and monitored watching a live broadcast of the Seven Network’s reality show X-Factor. The objective was to allow natural interactions with social media to occur during viewing.

“Never before has a study been done that measures neurological responses to live TV viewing, at such a granular level, with such a robust number of interactions” said Peter Pynta Director of Marketing at Neuro Insight.

Chief Strategy Officer for MEC, James Hier said, “Engagement is impossible for people to articulate through crude measures of recall, attitudinal research or even eye-tracking. The only way to measure engagement is neurologically.”

This raises an age-old challenge associated with research around television viewing behaviours: how do you study behaviour normally conducted in the privacy of the home without the intrusion skewing the data? For example, it could equally be argued that wiring people up in a laboratory is not going to simulate the naturalistic behaviours encountered in the comfort of respondents own living rooms. This is one of the reasons that the naturalistic data generated by people’s Twitter utterances is generating so much excitement amongst researchers.

Nevertheless, an important finding of the study is the suggestion that  second screen interactions actually lead to heightened television engagement. This goes some way to countering advertisers concerns that second-screen usage detracts from audience engagement with TV content. However, second-screen use was also found to generate far higher levels of sustained neural engagement than television, so may still give rise to periods of intense distraction. Could it be that viewers appear to return to the main screen more engaged than before because their brain is working harder to catch up with what they’ve missed? This would certainly support the finding that the use of detailed memory also increases following each interaction.

Click here for a slick video providing and overview of their findings.

 “This study teaches us that advertising messages should capitalise on viewers’ heightened receptivity to details, and that we should optimise the type and timing of advertising messages within a TV program,” James Hier.

Seven Network intends to use the insights generated by the study to improve clients’ communications effectiveness. “Sponsors that are fully integrated in a TV show can capitalise on the higher intensity of engagement and enjoy better results,” said Kurt Burnette Chief Sales & Digital Officer.

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