April 24, 2014, 11:21 AM

Another mobile milestone: Smartphones trump television

TV, an American institution, has met its match—the smartphone. TV viewers watch 2 hours and 27 minutes of television every day while smartphone owners now use their devices for 2 hours and 31 minutes every day, Millward Brown Digital finds. Tablet owners rack up only 43 minutes a day.

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In recent years, cable television networks have created a television Renaissance with critically acclaimed and wildly popular programs like “Game of Thrones,” “The Walking Dead,” “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.” But even with some of the finest programs the medium has ever aired, TV, an American institution, can’t beat back the smartphone.

Today in the U.S., the average TV viewer spends 2 hours and 27 minutes a day watching television while the average smartphone owner spends 2 hours and 31 minutes using her smartphone, according to new research from Millward Brown Digital, a research and marketing firm. The average tablet owner spends 43 minutes a day using her tablet and the average laptop owner spends 103 minutes a day with her laptop.

The smartphone has become the central device in consumers’ lives, says Joline McGoldrick, research director at Millward Brown Digital.

“There’s a different mindset today compared with the past, a sense of always wanting to be able to do multiple things at the same time, multitasking to be very productive, and people have come to feel the need to have a command center in their lives—that command center is the smartphone,” McGoldrick says. “You can shift anywhere and anytime from entertainment to work to shopping to research more quickly than any other way. The smartphone is the ‘everything device’ for consumers in a way TV never can be.” It’s the smartphone’s ability to serve these needs that’s making use time rise, she says.

But users of mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) and laptops may be missing key scenes in their favorite TV shows. Why? Because they are quite often using their devices while they are watching television. Consumers with TVs and a mobile device or laptop use one device at a time 59% of the time; however, consumers use TVs and a mobile device or laptop at the same time 41% of the time, Millward Brown finds. 30% of simultaneous use involves looking at related content while 70% involves unrelated content.

Television has an advantage here—audio, McGoldrick says.

“The audio component of TV is very important,” she says. “That has the potential to draw a person’s attention away from the second screen (the mobile device or laptop) and back to the first screen (TV). Audio cues, whether commercials or content, from TV drive attention back to the first screen. People have never been as receptive to audio cues on mobile devices or laptops. There used to be pop-up ads that immediately started playing music, and people found those ads shocking and annoying.”

When it comes to advertising, consumers are much more amenable to ads on TV than on computing devices, Millward Brown finds. 33% of consumers have a favorable view of ads on TV, while only 18% of tablet owners, 17% of smartphone owners and 17% of laptop owners view ads favorably, the firm finds.

Millward Brown Digital surveyed 12,000 consumers from across the globe (444 in the U.S.), recruited from its research panel of online and mobile consumers. All respondents own a TV and a smartphone and/or tablet.

Follow Bill Siwicki, Internet Retailer’s managing editor, mobile commerce, at @IRmcommerce.

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