Analysts and press have paid much attention to the cannibalistic relationship of tablets and PCs — but there’s another screen whose relationship to the TV is worth considering. My colleague Annie Corbett and I published a new report today on the relationship between tablets and TVs. A few key takeaways from the report:
•Tablets complement TV in the living room. Tablets are displacing PCs and smartphones as the “couch computer” of choice: 85% of US tablet owners use their tablets while watching TV, and according to Nielsen, 30% of total tablet time is spent while watching TV. The tablet’s complementary nature to the living room TV gives a raison d’être to “second screen” apps like Miso, GetGlue, and Viggle that engage consumers in conversation and content related to what’s on the big screen.
•Tablets also turn TV into a “dumb” device. A surprisingly high percentage of tablet owners — 18% — say they connect their tablets to their TVs via HDMI or VGA cables (the second- and third-gen iPad can do this, as can many Android tablets, but the Amazon Kindle Fire and Nook Tablets cannot). As much as Samsung and others have promoted “Smart TVs,” the reality is that consumers with tablets think their tablets are even smarter, and at least some of the time prefer to watch the content from their small device on the big screen.
•Tablets displace small TVs, but also introduce “new place” scenarios for TV. Meanwhile, 32% of tablet owners say they won’t buy a small (less than 24”) TV in the future, compared with only 7% who say the same about large TVs. But they also say they watch more online video overall since getting a tablet. Consumers are using tablets as personal TVs where they had none before: the kitchen, bathroom, and airports, for example.
Product strategists in the content and cable industries have begun to exploit the tablet-TV relationship with new products like TV-everywhere apps, social TV apps, and “transmedia storytelling” apps, like the graphic novel that USA Networks produced with DC Comics to complement its TV show Burn Notice. But the TV-tablet relationship matters to product strategists in other industries as well. If your product is something else besides media — a software application, a bank account, or apparel, for example — assume that the living room is the primary place where consumers will engage with you from their tablet, and that the TV will most likely be on.