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You'll be amazed what people do when the television's on

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They actually watch.

Reports of people multitasking – using smartphones or tablets; working on laptops, desktops or netbooks; or playing mobile computer games – are, like reports of Mark Twain's death, greatly exaggerated.

According to a TiVo online survey of 1,660 households, the main thing most people do while watching television is...watching television [no link available]. In fact,

76% of people surveyed report their primary focus is actually watching what's on TV. In fact, more than 45% of TiVo users and 35% of non-TiVo users said their attention was directed only towards TV, and not to anything else, while watching

a Center for Media Resarch brief noted.

They not only watch the shows, but like to concentrate on them. While 68 percent of viewers who use TiVo said they notice Twitter hashtags encouraging online conversation during the shows, fully 63 percent said they didn't like seeing them.

They don't like spoilers. That's why 25 percent of viewers surveyed said they actively avoided the Internet during certain episodes. And they don't like missing key plot twists or lines of dialogue. That's why 73 percent agreed with the statement that "there are certain shows that are so important to me or so tricky to follow, I make sure not to do other things while I am watching them."

So only after the end credits start to roll do most viewers – 73 percent – turn to other screens to discuss the show or search for related content. Almost half as many (14 percent) go online for related content immediately after watching as wait until later in the week (32 percent). And when they chat about shows online, they don;'t like to chat with total strangers. That's why 61 percent of TiVo users, 55 percent of non-TiVo users and 43 percent of social media users agreed with the statement: "I only want to discuss TV with people I know, not with Internet strangers." That's good news for social networks, bad news for open forums.

The fact that television holds viewers' attention is important news for advertisers. Television may be higher in cost per exposure than online media, but it's also higher in attention per exposure. And, as we noted last November,

To Randall Beard, global head of advertiser solutions at Nielsen, there's another factor at work – a trust factor. In his opinion, the 57 cents of every ad dollar spent on television is "a worthy investment considering that global consumers reportedly trust TV over all other paid media channels."

In other words, it's not just cost per exposure, but trust per exposure and attention per exposure that matter.

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