Second-screen experiences: The future of media consumption

By Scott Steinberg

Welcome to the digital age, where second-screen experiences are second nature to millennials, now America’s largest generation. Not only are 87 percent of millennials never without their smartphone, but they also use an average of three screens a day and 92 percent of them actively browse on second screens such as smartphones and other mobile devices while watching TV programs, according to Tubular Insights.

However, out of these viewers, just 47 percent are using these second screens to gain more information on the TV shows they’re watching. Even though Gen Y is consuming more information than ever from a growing range of devices, media consumption patterns are clearly changing in ways business leaders should be aware of going forward.


Alternative content

A whopping 88 percent of millennials now engage in second-screen behaviors while watching video content, according to the Consumer Technology Association. When doing so, they’re often using these second-screen devices to watch alternative content during commercial breaks or spend time on social networks. Interestingly, mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones are now the most preferred solution for this generation when it comes to watching streamed content. In addition, millennials are far more likely to watch this content on nontraditional devices (i.e., not TVs) than adults aged 35 and older.

Another behavioral shift to pay attention to is the fact that attention spans have shrunk to eight seconds, according to The New York Times. With millennials spending twice as much time consuming media than older counterparts, the implications are clear. With more and more Gen Y members spending an increasing amount of time of their lives online, being bombarded with thousands of marketing messages a day and increasingly becoming multitaskers, it’s getting harder than ever before to capture and hold young audiences’ attention.

Complementary media consumption

The good news for businesses with a related interest is that second-screen experiences hold the promise to help re-engage and recapture younger audiences’ attention and offer a way for brands to reconnect. When designed to offer a complement or companion to onscreen programming, these types of experiences can provide a powerful draw. This content comes in the form of apps and other programs that allow live onscreen participation or for media consumers to engage in discussion or sharing about the programs they’re watching.

Unsurprisingly, from TV and movie studios to sports broadcasters and news organizations, more and more media providers are turning to these types of engagement tools to help drive interest among millennials. Going forward, these new experiences promise to utterly transform the way in which media may be consumed.

For example, consider the prospect of a live game show in which audience participants can compete and take part right from their living room. Or, a music or pop culture show could source comments and feedback from fans right as segments or music videos are being aired. In the near future, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see talk shows featuring video responses or interviews that guests can submit on the fly. Or, your favorite prime time channel could start to air news reports from field reporters who were technically just average citizens sending in photos and video clips because they just happened to be live on the scene when the news broke.


Second-screen experiences hold the promise to redefine the way in which millennials and other generations consume media and interact with it. Whether providing additional information, ways to connect and socialize or even games and activities based on onscreen content, the word here is “interactivity.” By providing a hands-on experience users can engage with alongside traditional passive media consumption experiences, these apps can provide a more compelling draw for audiences raised on fast-moving, high-touch content.

Image source: iStock

Written By

Scott Steinberg

Keynote Speaker and Bestselling Author

Award-winning professional speaker, Scott Steinberg, is a bestselling expert on leadership and innovation, and the author of Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty. Among today’s top-rated international speakers…

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