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Millennials Favor Smartphones for Second-Screening

Other age groups, not so much

Despite TV's widespread reach, the attention of its US audience is something that's increasingly fractured across several devices.

That development is reflected in the growing trend of second-screening. eMarketer estimates that 185.8 million adults in the US will regularly use the internet on a second-screen device while watching TV this year, an increase of 4.5% from last year's figure.

New research from YuMe and Nielsen found that there are some generational differences in the device most used for second-screening.

In the firms' January survey of US internet users, the same percentage of millennials—defined as ages 20 to 36—used smartphones to second-screen as used PCs, at 68%.

Among both Gen Xers and baby boomers, the use of smartphones as a second screen was significantly less prevalent. Only 52% of Gen Xers and 39% of baby boomers fired up their smartphones while watching TV. Instead, desktop/laptop remained the device of choice for second-screening among these groups.

Tablets were used by about the same proportion of respondents from all three cohorts, at roughly one-quarter.

Despite these figures, eMarketer predicts that smartphones will be much more widely used as a second-screen device than desktops/laptops in the the coming year.

We project US adults using smartphone internet and TV simultaneously will number 176.1 million in 2018. Meanwhile, the number of desktop/laptop internet and TV users will reach just 110.0 million.

In addition, data from PwC reveals that US internet users are engaged in a wide variety of behaviors on their second screens. The company's October 2017 survey found that looking up actors or players in a show or sports game was the most popular activity, but people were also communicating with friends and using social media in ways completely unrelated to TV programming.