An Exploration of Second-Screen Use by TV Viewers


  • Most TV viewers watch with a second screen in hand, whether that’s a mobile device, tablet, laptop, or e-reader.
  • 65% of those same viewers use their secondary device to look up information and head to an advertiser’s site while they stream.
  • Cross-device campaigns and QR Codes can help capture these audiences on their other devices after they have seen a CTV ad.

Most consumers are watching TV while simultaneously engaging with a secondary device. There are many advantages to this behavior that advertisers can capitalize on.

These days, consumers bring their devices with them everywhere they go: whether to a store, on a hike, or even to their couches while watching television. In fact, 83% of American TV watchers use a second device while watching TV, often referred to as second-screen use. These devices can include anything from a smartphone to a tablet, e-reader, or laptop. Second-screen use while watching TV doesn’t mean that these viewers are disengaged from what they are viewing—many of them use their devices to more actively research what they see on their television screens, or discuss the content through social media. 

Let’s explore both who second-screeners are, and how their device use affects their TV viewing experience. 

So Who Are Second-Screeners?

There are a couple things that we know for sure about second-screen users, thanks to a survey by YouGov with Statista: 

  • The percentage of consumers who use their smartphone while watching TV is evenly split between men (77%) and women (76%).
  • The more a person earns a year, the more likely they are to watch TV with their smartphones in hand. Of those who make $40,000 a year, only 69% engage in this behavior, while 90% of those who make more than $80,000 a year do so. 
  • Younger and middle-age viewers are more likely to watch TV while using their smartphones. YouGov found that 83% of those 18-34 and 85% of those 35-54 were likely to engage in this behavior, while 66% of those ages 55+ would.

Second-Screeners Use a Variety of Apps While Watching TV

So what are these viewers doing on their secondary devices while watching their favorite shows? A study from Advocado found that second-screeners use their devices when they want to learn more about a product or service advertised on TV, whether by exploring the brand’s website or app (34%), via a search engine (30%) or by visiting an ecommerce site (19%). 

What these users do on their secondary screens can sometimes also depend on what they are watching. Sports viewers are one such group that uses second-screens—49% of football watchers use two or more screens when they sit down to watch a game. Also, 69% of TV sports watchers use their second screen after seeing an ad to find more information on a product or service that interests them. Live sports viewers have their own set of behaviors as well, using two (30%) or even three or more (19%) screens to watch football at the same time as checking social media (45%), watching another game (39%), or checking stats (34%)
In terms of what each age group of second-screeners use these devices for, younger TV watchers ages 16 to 24 are most likely to use social media (86.9%), gaming (73.7%) and food delivery (39.4%) apps. Older users like those 35 to 44 are most inclined to use banking (59.7%) and ecommerce (30.9%) apps, while those 55+ are most likely to use travel apps (30.9%).

How Can Advertisers Capitalize on Second-Screen Use?

Second-screen behavior is good news for advertisers, making it easier than ever for TV campaigns to drive consumer action. There are a number of ways that brands can ensure their campaigns encourage these users to seek more information about their products or services on their secondary devices. 

  • Relevant Ads: We already know that consumers want their ads to be more personalized to them—73% think ads are more enjoyable to view when they feel personally relevant, and 68% enjoy seeing ads that relate to the content they are viewing at that moment. Channels like Connected TV allow advertisers to have a lot more control over which audiences are served their ads. Targeted, relevant ads will make it even more likely that users will pull out those second-screens and do more research after seeing the ad on their TV screens.
  • QR Codes: Using QR codes in ads is another way advertisers have been engaging with second-screeners. This feature makes it even easier for viewers to employ their devices as tools while watching an ad on TV, by giving them a straight-shot to any relevant information that they might be interested in. There has also been a jump in QR code users over the last few years due to a resurgence in interest during the pandemic, and eMarketer now projects that there will be 99.2 million QR code users by 2024, an increase of 28 million from 2019. 
  • Cross-Device Campaigns: Sometimes consumers plan to use their secondary devices to look up products they have seen in a TV ad once they are done watching their programming. However, even though ad recall is extremely strong for CTV audiences (72% report they remember a specific ad they were served whilst watching), they might forget once the next episode starts or once they have turned off their TVs. By incorporating cross-device campaigns into their strategies, advertisers can ensure that their ads are being served to these users enough times and in enough places that the message will eventually drive conversions on these second-screens.


Second-screen behavior has already become a common part of everyday life for most consumers, and as more and more devices appear on the market, it looks like this won’t be going away anytime soon. Ultimately, second-screeners are one of the easiest and most valuable groups for TV advertisers to reach, due to their tech-savvy nature and higher income levels. Advertisers looking to make an impact on TV should work to make their campaigns engage with this behavior rather than fighting it, through the use of tools like targeted advertising, QR codes, and cross-device campaigns.

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