Study: Growing Number Watch TV While Surfing Web

Consumers are increasingly likely to watch TV while surfing the Internet, according to findings from Knowledge Networks/SRI.

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company’s bi-annual survey found that during weekday evenings, simultaneous TV and Internet usage among consumers ages 35 to 49 has nearly doubled during the past six months, to 11 percent.

For men between 18 and 34, simultaneous TV/Web use rose 3 percentage points to 13 percent, after remaining at 10 percent for the past 12 months. For women of the same age group, the figure is 8 percent — unchanged for the past year.

Convergence also grew among teens, but more slowly. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the week, 13 percent of consumers ages 12 to 17 were likely to be watching TV while surfing the Web. That’s up from 11 percent six months ago, and 6 percent a year earlier.

As a result of the findings, the media picture becomes even more complicated for media buyers, who increasingly struggle to juggle traditional and online media

“When you enter the land of convergence, you start to see involvement and attention being split, too,” said Ericka Witnauer, vice president and managing director at KN/SRI. “When you’re multi-tasking, you’re not paying 100 percent attention to either task. In terms of evaluating where to spend money, that whole process becomes more difficult.”

Nevertheless, the study is a vindication for supporters of cross-media campaigns. Since the dot-com downturn, that’s been the rallying cry of many online ad players, who are seeking a share of offline media budgets. In response to such efforts, companies like Unicast have unveiled tools that make it easier for offline creative to be reused online.

Additionally, in more good news for online ad sellers, Witnauer said that the company also had found that the Internet tends to hold its own relatively well in cases of joint TV/Web use.

“We’ve found that when it’s simultaneous usage, greater attention is being spent with the online medium,” she said.

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