Before media companies venture too far out into the wild, wild west of second screen apps, they should make sure that there's really gold in those hills.
The apps that major broadcasters keep rolling out to allow viewers to engage digitally with the shows and movies they watch may be nifty, but the majority of consumers still prefer to put down the smartphone and watch a program before taking to Facebook and Twitter, according to a new study by the public relations firm Edelman titled "Value and Engagement in the Era of Social Entertainment and Second Screens."
Edelman's online survey was conducted in the United States and the United Kingdom among consumers 18 to 54 years old. The sample comprised 2,022 respondents, divided roughly evenly between the two countries.
Thirty-four percent of respondents said that the entertainment content they are watching or listening to is over when they comment on social networking sites, while 16 percent of those surveyed said they comment before or during the show or event.
"There's a huge opportunity to engage consumers in a conversation about what they enjoy watching, but this shows that when something like Jennifer Hudson's tribute to Whitney Houston at the Grammy's is taking place, they're busy watching," Gail Becker, Edelman's chairwoman of the U.S. Western Region, Canada and Latin America, told TheWrap. "There's a huge jump in comments afterward, but people still want an immersive entertainment experience."
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Edelman's findings are somewhat different from Nielsen data, which finds that the majority of television viewers use a tablet, smartphone or laptop while they're watching television. And that may be the case, but if Edelman's numbers are to be believed, they're not using the gadgetry to share their opinions on "30 Rock" while Liz Lemon is enduring her latest humiliation.
Also read: 5 Remedies for 2012 and What Ails Hollywood
When they do share their thoughts on programming or movies, they are most likely to tell a friend in person. Sixty-six percent of those surveyed said they would talk about a film or show they liked with a pal, while 53 percent said they would let a buddy know they should skip something.
"As much as social networking is part of the entertainment ecosystem, when we're talking about entertainment, we still prefer that face-to-face communication," Becker said. "The proverbial 'water cooler' is still part of the social experience and is at the core of why people consume content."
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When it came to buzzing in the social-networked world, 34 percent said they would "like" a piece of content on Facebook, while 11 percent said they would Tweet about something they enjoyed.
Those Facebook comments plunge when it concerns a program or film that consumers don't like. Twenty-three percent of those surveyed said they would share a negative opinion about a piece of content on the social network. The same percentage of respondents said they were as likely to Tweet about a film or show they disliked as they were to spend a 140 characters on one they enjoyed.
Moreover, the majority of respondents are unlikely to use automatic notifications to let friends know about the entertainment they’re watching or reading, finding that to be invasive.
The good news for the entertainment sector is that the perceived monetary value of entertainment content is at a three-year high, but the growth is coming from emerging media, not the multiplexes.
In the United States, television and the Internet remain the most utilized sources of entertainment year-over-year, with movie viewership declining for the third year running.
Thirty four percent of respondents said they turn to the internet for entertainment most frequently, up from 32 percent last year. Television is the favored destination for 45 percent down from 47 percent last year.
But pity poor film. The cinema and movies were the most frequent diversion for a mere 3 percent of those Americans surveyed, down from 6 percent last year and 32 percent in 2010.
Given that attendance in 2011 among domestic moviegoers was at its lowest mark in nearly 20 year, this year's findings don't bode well for the future.