Remember the days of gathering around the TV to watch your favourite program (shout-out to Magnum PI) when you entered into a riveting and deep discourse with an older sibling? Well I might be stretching a bit. But, the days of actual dialogue during the latest episode of Dexter might be on a downward spiral. To be replaced by the advent of the second screen. No longer is it enough to be continually connected and constantly sharing our thoughts one hundred and forty characters at a time but it must now be brought into sacred Prime Time television viewing. Atlantic Canadians rejoice since “78% (of the population) under the age of 35 often use their smartphone, tablet or laptop to access the Internet while watching TV” according to a 2012 Ipsos survey.
What is social TV providing audiences other than the ability to feel like a multi-tasking mastermind? Is it really improving the relationship between the sender and the receiver? Or is it just expediting tomorrow’s water cooler gossip? According to recent survey shared by mediabistro.com (2012) audiences are interacting with their companion devices in many ways such as traditional internet browsing, accessing social media, internet communications, search activities, shopping and might I add work or even academic pursuits. According to this same survey, audiences are interacting with second screens because they want to connect with other viewers, seek additional information, influence content or further analyze and discuss content.
Not only can’t we get enough of our companion devices at home, but now they have become primary screens when we are on the move providing a never ending stream of content no matter where we are located. When I worked in the food industry one of the mega-trends was “portability” given the rapid increase of what we termed “grazers” being those who snacked throughout the day versus eating at traditional meal occasions. Now that I work in the media industry this same trend applies where we want our media anytime, anyplace and on any device. TV on-the-go is pure genius when it comes to long car rides with small children but one wonders what it adds to our societal relationships when everyone is plugged in yet disconnected from those who immediately surround. Recently, the US content provider Dish Network aired this TV spot that poked fun at the increase in Mobile TV and its new “Hopper” service.
Whether it is using companion devices to increase our content engagement, or taking the content with us as we navigate our daily routines, it is evident that we are certainly much more of a participative audience than in the past. The advent of second screens with various marketing tactics to attract, retain and reward viewership or various apps that make content more portable are simply the latest means by content creators and providers to encourage greater engagement to ultimately drive higher ratings. According to Jackson et al (2011), a comparison could be made to “the introduction of the talk show and, later, through providing a means for receiving telephone and email comments and suggestions on various programs and, finally, through the provision of Internet sites and blogs” (p.63).
Where does this trend seem to be headed? Nowhere but up, given the sheer explosion of multi-device households where now greater bandwidth seems to be a major driver toward family harmony. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for an episode of Modern Family while waiting it out at the airport, but you won’t catch me simultaneously tweeting about it anytime soon!
Dish Network (2013). Hopper Commercial: Tiny Beer [YouTube]. Retrieved March 19, 2013 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmlw9my5aZ0\
Ipsos Reid and Bell Aliant (2012). Infographic: TV with a side of Internet please. Atlantic Consumer Monitor Survey.
Jackson, J. D., Nielsen, G., & Hsu, Y. (2011). Mediated Society: a Critical Sociology of
Media. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mediabistro.com (2012). Retrieved March 19, 2013 from:
Image retrieved March 19, 2013 from: