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Viewers spend half their time on phones while watching TV

Facebook report found that viewer's eyes were off the TV screen about 47 per cent of the time

Facebook conducted a study on the way TV viewers use smartphones while watching shows to do other things – including social media – and found that people’s eyes were off the TV screen about 47 per cent of the time.

The social network conducted an in-home eye-tracking study to see how TV viewers were using their smartphones to multi-task on multiple screens. The study found that 94 of the 100 people participating kept a smartphone on hand while watching TV.

Facebook found that the biggest reason people stopped looking at their TV sets was to do household chores. But many used their phones as well.

Of those using their phones while watching TV, 70 per cent said they were trying to stay connected with friends, 51 per cent said to avert boredom, 44 per cent said to take a break and 40 per cent said to avoid missing out on other things going on.

In the eye-tracking study, 58 people watched ad-supported TV content, according to a post on the company’s blog. On average, those people “disengaged” during a third of the commercial breaks. Viewers would stop watching breaks about 2.5 seconds into the first ad. And of those who stopped watching commercials, three-quarters started looking at their phones.

The study supports Facebook’s pitch that marketers should reinforce TV campaigns with mobile video ads on Facebook and Instagram. Those digital ads will also extend a campaign’s reach, according to the study.

It also urged marketers to optimise the audio during TV commercials. “Our analysis of Facebook data showed that TV viewers often use Facebook during TV commercial breaks. But even when people aren’t looking at your TV ads, they can still hear them. Ensure your TV ads break through by making the audio engaging and memorable,” the post said.