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To Tweet or Not to Tweet: How Do People Watch TV in the Multiscreen Era?

by User Not Found | Sep 04, 2014

It’s not news that television is changing, but much of the reporting and analysis, even in the industry press, ignores the fact that different people’s behaviour and attitudes evolve in different ways. Not everyone is Tweeting; not everyone is using OTT TV. Television is more important to some people than to others.

We have just published a major new research report which identifies how different user groups (segments in the jargon) are responding to new television-related applications and technologies like multiscreen viewing and social media interaction. We used latent class analysis, a sophisticated, statistics-based segmentation methodology, to identify the critical attitudinal and behavioural characteristics which help define market segments related to new television technologies and services.

(We are offering a free webinar on Tuesday Sept 9th to introduce this research: Register here.

The results highlight the speed with which television behaviour has changed over recent years. Couch Potatoes, a term used to describe traditional TV watching habits, are alive and well. They account for the biggest single segment, 33% of all TV viewers. But of course that’s a significant decline when we consider that this was the commonest mode of TV viewing some years ago. Today’s Couch Potatoes are focused on watching TV on the big TV screen. They have little engagement around TV content, whether online or by talking to friends on the phone, and tend not to use online/OTT TV services.

We have also identifed a related segment, Couch Chatterers, who like TV more than average but are particularly prone to chatting with friends about what’s on TV using voice or texting. Apart from this Couch Chatterers don’t engage in any “emerging” activities like social networking related to TV shows or watching TV online. They account for 12% of the audience.

The second biggest group are TV OTTers, accounting for 26% of viewers. This group tends to be less interested in television generally, but will go online to watch specific shows, including using “new” TV devices like PCs, tablets and smartphones to watch them. But like Couch Potatoes, this group tends not to engage in communications around TV shows, whether using traditional phones or newer means like social media.

The remaining groups are all multiscreeners, but our analysis indicates that there are three distinct types. Moderate Multiscreeners, accounting for 11% of the total, engage in most online TV and social media behaviours around TV to a reasonable degree, with one notable exception: they do not follow TV shows using Twitter.

Indifferent Multiscreeners also account for 11% of the total and are the group which is least interested in television overall; for example, they are most likely to go 24 hours without watching TV, and they are least concerned about missing shows. But when they do watch, they engage with and around the content using social media, voice communications and texting. They are also highly likely to follow TV shows using Twitter, and more likely to use smartphones, tablets and PCs to watch TV content.

Finally we come to Manic Multiscreeners. This is the smallest segment, accounting for 7% of viewers, but is the most active on all emerging behaviour metrics. They are most likely to use service provider VOD and OTT online TV and video services. Every Manic Multiscreener claims to follow TV shows using Twitter.


It is interesting to note that this group is most likely to consider TV as a primary source of entertainment, at the same time as thinking of it as a “huge waste of time”. They also agree most strongly that TV is background to other activities – “the TV is on but I am not really watching it”. One explanation for this apparent discrepancy could be that they feel unable to control their, and their household’s, behaviour. It is also worth noting that these households are most likely to include children, for whose benefit the TV is often switched on.

 When we map traditional demographics onto these segments the weaknesses of traditional segmentation approaches become clear. If television companies and advertisers target “millennials”, for example, on the basis that they are reaching a group which exhibits a common set of new, emerging or advanced behaviours, this is clearly a false assumption. Our research shows beyond doubt that a significant proportion (30%) of millennials are members of the Couch Potato and Couch Chatterer segments. So companies which assume that using social media or online video services, for example, will reach this part of the audience are missing out on 30% of the under 35 population.


In conclusion across the US and European viewer base we found a slight weighting in favour of “emerging” (55%) relative to “traditional” (45%) behaviours. The emerging behaviours as classified here all feature some relatively strong element of multiscreen or online video activity related to consumption of, interaction with and communications around television. These are key elements which will help to define the future of television over the coming years.

David Mercer


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