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The Rise of Second Screens

November 17, 2021

Consumers Are Frequently Using Second Screens While TV Viewing

How many of us are guilty of scrolling through our phones because apparently the television is not entertaining enough? I know that I am certainly guilty of this – which my wife likes to point out to me when we watch TV together. For those of you who can relate, there is good news for us — we are in good company! According to our October Media Pulse survey, in which we dove into the topic of the “second screen,” 84% of US Adults say that they are guilty of frequently hiding behind their “second screens” while watching television.


The Prevalence of Second Screens

While the use of the second screen is highly prevalent among all generations, it is unsurprisingly more prevalent among Gen Z (94%) and Millennials (95%) who said they always, often, or sometimes find themselves multi-tasking and browsing the internet on a separate device (i.e. a smartphone) while watching TV. Use of the second screen is also more frequent among women (89%) than men (80%).

How often do you find yourself multi-tasking and browsing the internet on a separate device (i.e. smartphone) while watching TV?


The Types of Second Screen Devices

So, what sort of screens are we talking about here? Well, unsurprisingly, we are predominately talking about smartphones. Of US Adults that said they use a second screen, 70% said that they use smartphones most often. Smartphone usage was most frequent among Gen Z (81%) and Millennials (81%). Gen X uses smartphones (73%) less than younger generations and laptop/desktops more (15%). Baby Boomers use smartphones the least (55%) and use tablets (20%) and laptop/desktops (22%) much more often than younger generations. Notably, men also show a higher rate of laptop/desktop usage (20%) compared to women (13%).

What type of device do you most often use as a ‘second screen’ while watching TV?


Genres Consumed During Second Screen Use

The next topic that we asked respondents about was during what genres they tend to use a second screen most often. In order to better understand this data, we have also pulled in data from our Audience Intelligence survey from earlier this year. This is necessary to understand general genre consumption. Comparing our ‘second screen’ data to the percentage of US Adults that are heavy users of each genre we can better determine which genres see the highest occurrence of second screen usage. Given that these two metrics are not perfect comparisons we will want to be sure to interpret this data directionally.

The data tells us that Reality Shows, Talk Shows, Game Shows, and Live Sports all see the more frequent second screen usage. Crime/Detective, Drama, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and Sitcom/Comedy see the lowest frequency of “second screen” usage compared to overall genre usage. This is likely due to more active storylines which requires higher engagement from viewers. A key takeaway from this is that second screens are used more frequently during “live” programming and programming with less involved storylines.


Types of Activities Being Done on the Second Screens

“What’s so important?” is the question my wife likes to ask me to get off my phone. Which. makes me wonder, what is so important? US Adults said that Checking email (63%), Social Media (61%) and Text/instant messaging (56%) were the most frequent activities while on their ‘second screens’. This is significant for advertisers who are trying to build their second screen strategies. The data would suggest that sending a consumer an email would be one of the more effective ways to engage with consumers on their second screens.


Social Media Platforms Being Used on Second Screens

Because social media is such a big, varied topic, we dug in a bit more and asked what specific social media platforms US Adults use while on their second screen. Facebook was the leader for US Adults (85%). Gen Z was the only generation that Facebook (60%) was not the most popular, Instagram was at 82%. In fact, Snapchat (65%), TikTok (61%), and YouTube (60%) were all higher than Facebook for Gen Z. This will not come as a surprise for those who follow social media usage trends, where Facebook has increasingly become social media for older generations with Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok being much more popular with younger generations.



Written by Jake Kelley, Director, Reporting at Big Village Insights.


This Online CARAVAN® omnibus survey was conducted on October 11-13, 2021. Approximately 1,000 adults selected from opt-in panels were surveyed. The results are also weighted to U.S. Census data to be demographically representative. Written by the CARAVAN team at Big Village Insights. Learn more about our Online CARAVAN® omnibus surveys here. Contact us at for more information.