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The 4 categories of cross-screen TV viewing behaviour

Technology & Data

The 4 categories of cross-screen TV viewing behaviour


Three-quarters of people reach for a smartphone or tablet as well as the remote control when sitting down to watch TV, a global study by Microsoft has found. The pathways taken vary from viewer to viewer, but fall into several distinct categories, providing key learnings for advertisers wishing to engage with them.

The ‘Connected Experiences’ study reveals that cross-screening (distinct from multi-screening as the activities relate to what’s on the main screen) across your TV, mobile, laptop and other devices is now the default viewing mode for many Australians.

According to the research, 87% of people enjoy being able to check out their favourite products or brands when combining devices in tandem to carry out tasks, while three-quarters (74%) said they find advertising helpful to identify new products of interest.

Gabbi Stubbs, head of research and insights for Mi9, Microsoft’s local venture with the Nine Network, says advertisers should be asking questions of publishers to delve deeper into how their content will be rolled out across different channels and devices and what this cross-screening trend means for their brand: “From a marketing perspective, the conversation on multi-device use may eventually become redundant. What we’ve heard marketers say is the greatest value to a brand, is understanding how audiences shift between devices and channels based on context, environment or convenience and how they can tailor experiences to the individual user – not just that consumers are multi-tasking,” Stubbs says.

The study also categorised four common ‘pathways’ that Australians take as they engage in activities across multiple devices:

  1. Content Grazing: the most common type of cross-screening behaviour for 68% Australian consumers occurs when two screens are used simultaneously to access unrelated content such as checking Facebook, email or news while watching TV. Content Grazing is driven by a need for control (67%) and enjoyment (45%) and activities are usually multi-tasking or distraction based, with users typically searching for information to entertain (69%) and half are keen online shoppers (49%),
  2. Investigative Spider-Webbing: 57% of cross-screeners fall into this pathway. Users crave enjoyment (50%) and turn to another device – such as a mobile or tablet – to view related content enhance that complements their primary screen (32%). For example, using a TV companion app to view extra show content and access to other features. Investigative Spider-Webbers are entertainment fans (64%), enjoy online shopping (55%) and connecting with others on social networks (41%).
  3. Social Spider-Webbing: the least common multi-screening pathway covering 39% of consumers. Social Spider-Webbers are extroverted and crave recognition (37%) and security (35%). Activity is focused on sharing and connecting on social networks (70%) and television usually acts as the catalyst to seek out new information, driving them to a second screen to access new content, whether it’s to relax and entertain (65%) or shop (50%).
  4. Quantum: the third most common pathway with almost half (46%) of consumers in this category. Activities are focused on efficiency (36%) with Quantum screeners the most likely to conduct work or admin based tasks on two screens (37%), such as assessing an advert for an upcoming movie on a mobile phone during the day, but postponing booking tickets until the evening when a laptop or tablet is handy as the task is quicker and easier on a larger screen. Quantum screeners also engage in social activities (43%) and half (50%) seek out information on multiple screens to keep themselves entertained.


And here’s a graphical summary of the research findings and some tips from Mi9 for marketers. Click it to zoom in.

Mi9 crossscreen engagement





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