Video entertainment executives in the 1980s were touting the power of "interactive TV" as a new dimension of the TV experience. Not too much came of the effort. But as it turns out, "interactive TV" now has become mainstream, but using smart phones, and to some growing extent tablets, rather than the TV remote, a cable box or other appliance.
Half of all adult cell phone owners now incorporate their mobile devices into their television watching experiences, according to the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.
Such “connected viewers” used their cell phones for a wide range of activities during the 30 days preceding our April 2012 survey:
Some 38 percent of cell owners used their phone to keep themselves occupied during commercials or breaks in something they were watching. Another 23 percent used their phone to exchange text messages with someone else who was watching the same program in a different location.
About 22 percent used their phone to check whether something they heard on television was true, while 20 percent used their phone to visit a website that was mentioned on television.
Also, 11 percent used their phone to see what other people were saying online about a program they were watching and 11 percent posted their own comments online about a program they were watching using their mobile phone.
Taken together, 52 percent of all cell owners are “connected viewers," meaning they use their phones while watching television for at least one of these reasons.
So the "interactive TV" revolution finally has arrived. It's just that it turns out the mobile phone and tablet are the vehicles people are choosing to provide their own interactivity.
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