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Study: Nearly Half of Americans Tune to Other Devices While Watching TV

Findings from CES and NATPE indicate millennials are most frequent multitaskers, while a majority don't find it makes for an enjoyable viewing experience.

A new study indicates that nearly half of all Americans employ a second screen while watching television.

About 44 percent of Americans utilize another device while watching television -- but among that group, only 13 percent say that it makes the program-viewing experience "much more enjoyable." A significant 67 percent report that it makes their TV viewing "somewhat more enjoyable."

Findings from the sampling of 2,531 people over age 13, revealed by NATPE and Consumer Electronics Association at the CES show in Las Vegas, indicate "there are opportunities to increase [second screens’] appeal."

"This important research study underscores the exciting opportunities for consumer technology device manufacturers to market connected devices and potentially collaborate with content producers to enhance and improve the second-screen experience," said CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro. "Our joint study shows that consumers accessing synchronized content generally find it fun to use and more connected to the shows they are watching. At the same time, the study indicates there is an opportunity to expand consumer engagement with the second screen across a broader variety of programming."

"The findings in this study present new information, challenges and significant opportunities for content producers and advertisers," added NATPE president and CEO Rod Perth. "We know TV viewers are beginning to use the second screen because it has the potential to extend enjoyment of the viewing experience."

The second half of the study will be released during NATPE in Miami Beach, Fla., which takes place Jan. 27-29. It’s part of a recently expanded relationship between CES and NATPE.

During a panel at CES, Scott Schiller, executive vp of digital ad sales for NBCUniversal, said they constantly study the interactions of consumers using NBCU’s more than 50 digital properties to help improve the quality of the content they offer. He cited the Olympics as an event that brings even greater use of second screens.

"We’re not reinventing the second-screen experience; consumers are," Schiller said. "It’s our job to take a total audience approach, to see where our content lives, whether it’s in the program, the social piece [or] the content [itself]."

Additionally, 67 percent of those using a second screen while watching TV are searching for program-related content. And the most commonly used second-screen device is a smart phone. Those most likely to use their phones in this way are millennials (ages 13 to 34). Women are also more likely to be second-screen users than men.

Millennials are more likely to access Twitter for shows they are watching (22 percent) and mostly go to social network sites where they can interact with or track a community of other viewers.

The use of what the study calls "synchronized content" is most often done during reality shows (29 percent) and for participating in contests to win prizes (24 percent). An overwhelming 72 percent said such content is only appropriate for certain shows.

About 91 percent of second-screen users seek out program-related content between episodes of a show and between seasons. About 64 percent access this kind of content at least once a month or more.