With the rise of the mobile era, smartphones and tablets have become almost as ubiquitous in the living room among device owners as TV remotes. New research from Forrester confirms the two-screen viewing phenomenon, showing 85% of U.S. tablet owners use their devices while in front of the TV. Moreover, only 12% say they are watching less TV since getting a tablet.
To capitalize on the emerging tablet-TV connection, a host of companies large and small from Comcast to Shazam to Viggle are rolling out new services and applications to keep viewers engaged across the two screens. Among the latest is Aereo, a new venture funded by IAC and other investors offering live streaming broadcast TV via an iPad browser for $12 a month, starting in New York City.
Given the scramble to woo two-screen viewers, the Forrester report by Sara Rotman Epps rates the efforts of five major players in the space so far: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. It identifies Apple as the early tablet-TV leader, courtesy of the iPad. With 55 million of the devices sold worldwide since December, no other tablet has attracted nearly as many developers.
Later this year, the iPad will add its latest TV-related feature, mirroring via AirPlay to Apple TV. While only 4.2 million Apple TVs have been sold, 1.4 million of that total came in the last quarter, suggesting that adoption is accelerating.
At the other extreme, Epps finds that Google has made the least headway in conquering the tablet-TV media tandem. She points out that Google TV has largely flopped, with Logitech announcing in November that it would stop making Google TV devices after losing more than $100 million.
Android-based tablets like Sony’s Tablet S are actually more advanced than the iPad in hardware for TV-related use, but have not approached the sales of the Apple tablet.
For Microsoft, the key is to hook up the Xbox with tablets. With more than 66 million of the gaming units sold to date, the report suggests that Microsoft should use an API (application programming interface) for developers to create cross-platform games and content. “For example, starting a game on your Xbox and continuing to play on your iPad or Windows tablet would be a compelling way for Microsoft to exploit its own tablet-TV connection,” argued Epps.
She describes Facebook as a “passive player” in the mix, with TV ads often inviting viewers to “follow us on Facebook,” and social TV apps like GetGlue making sharing via Facebook and Twitter a key part of its offering. With 62% of tablet users accessing social networks on their devices, bigger opportunities loom for the dominant social media service.
Prior research has suggested that tablets are turning into e-commerce as well as media platforms. In that light, the Forrester report scolds Amazon for missing an opportunity to build up a tablet-TV commerce business via the Kindle Fire, which sold 5.5 million units in the fourth quarter. It points out that because the device does not even have a microphone, TV check-in apps like Viggle and Miso will not create versions compatible with the Amazon tablet.
Among other findings, the study — based on a survey of 5,000 adults — showed that growing tablet adoption has come at the expense of PCs rather than the living room TV. More than a third (35%) of tablet owners say they use their laptops less since getting a tablet, and 45% have no plans to buy an e-reader now, either.
Smaller TVs in other rooms, like the bedroom and kitchen, are also being displaced by tablets. About a third (32%) of tablet users say they will not buy another small TV, while only 7% say the same about large-screen TVs. After the living room, the most popular places in the home to use a tablet are the master bedroom (79%), followed by the kitchen (53%), and the home office (35%).