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Goodbye Couch Potato, Hello Second Screen Surfer

by Joni Blecher on October 9, 2012

Let’s face it, we love being entertained in the comfort of our own homes whether it’s watching funny cat videos online, streaming the NFL live, watching the MLB playoffs, or viewing our favorite television shows. Although we have had more control over when we watch TV with the introduction of the Digital Video Recorder (DVR) and plenty of shows now available to view online, social media and mobile technology are changing the way we watch shows. Interaction with our favorite shows or with what we see on television is making the passive couch potato a thing of the past.

In August, Real officially launched the RealPlayer Android app. As part of the development process for the free video app research revealed interesting times and ways that people were using their cell phone. In addition to more people viewing TV shows or news on their mobile device, cell phones and tablets are becoming an integral part of the TV watching experiencevideo trends

video trends
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According to a report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project entitled The Rise of the “Connected Viewer” 52% of all cell phone owners are “connected viewers.” In the report, this means they use their phones while watching television to stay occupied during commercials, check the validity of something they heard, visit a website mentioned on TV, exchange texts, post or view comments, or vote for a realty TV contestant. That’s engagement. The integration of social media features such as Twitter and Facebook into popular television shows is helping to drive second screen activity and the cell phone/smartphone is one of the most popular tools being used while people are watching TV.

Increasingly people are turning to social media to stay connected with the world during major events. For example, February sparked closed to 80 million conversations on social media platforms about TV. It’s typically a pretty star filled month when it comes to what’s being shown on television. The Super Bowl, Grammy Awards, and Oscars are all aired in February. These are all social shows – people often gather with friends to view them and still there is plenty of conversation happening online. Discussions on social media outlets about TV shows began to rise again in June, which is when many shows aired season finales and people were able to watch the Olympics and all the activity surrounding the big event.


It’s clear that social media definitely plays a role in how people watch TV these days, but it’s not the only thing bringing viewers attention to the second screen. According to Nielsen U.S. Media Trends by Demographic Report, male tablet users who were also watching TV were more likely to look up information related to a television program while females were more likely to look up info related to a TV ad.

The report also looked at other online activities and found that checking email during a program was the most popular thing people did on their tablets. This is particularly the case for those 36 and older. Additionally, men were more likely to check sports scores while women were more likely to visit social networking sites. Regardless of what mobile device people have nearby while watching a show, people are turning to the second screen to make the most of their viewing time.


The popularity of second screen activities will likely only grow as mobile devices become more powerful and wireless networks (Wi-Fi or data) become more widely available. The mobile screens have become larger and more vibrant making them an enticing alternative to the big screens in the living room. In fact, according to RealPlayer user survey, the frequency of people watching TV shows or news programs on mobile devices is on the rise. In 2010, only 7 percent of RealPlayer watched TV shows or news programs on their mobile device daily. Just two years later that percentage has gone up more than tripled to 23 percent in 2012.

How do you use your phone while watching TV? What are your favorite shows to tweet about? Do you think the TV will become extinct like the couch potato? Let us know in the comments below.

video trends

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Scott Christopher Locke September 27, 2013 at 1:20 am

This trend will increase over time, especially as mobile apps become more and more integrated with television programming…

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