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Tablets Are Clear Go-To Alternative To TV: Study

Tablets have quickly become the preferred second-screen alternative to TVs for viewing full-length episodes -- ahead of computers -- with tablet owners reporting that 15% of their TV show viewing happens on the devices, according to a new study commissioned by Viacom.

Viacom's "Tapping into Tabletomics" study found that the devices did not decrease time spent watching TV, but did reduce time spent with PCs and smartphones. The survey polled about 2,500 consumers who own tablets or have use of one in their household.

"It's really increasing their overall consumption of TV," said Stu Schneiderman, senior director of Viacom Media Networks Digital Research.

Among tablet owners who subscribe to a cable company that offers streaming apps -- including Comcast and Time Warner Cable -- about half reported downloading the apps. Those MSO app users spend 20% more time on their tablet than non-MSO app users.

About 22% of MSO app users watch full-length TV shows on their tablets, and 24% of Apple Airplay users and 19% of Netflix users also use the devices to watch full episodes.

Tablets have become a raging success since Apple debuted the iPad in mid 2010 and spawned numerous copycats. About 68.7 million tablets shipped worldwide in 2011, according to IDC, which forecasts 106.1 million units to ship this year.

"We're bullish on tablets -- we expect more of these devices in people's hands," Schneiderman said. "We are already seeing households with multiple tablets. We expect those numbers to only increase."

According to "Tapping Into Tabletomics," 62% of tablets users use them daily and spend an average of 2.4 hours per day on them. About 85% of tablet use is personal (versus work related) and 77% of tablet use is alone. Most media activities on the tablet, such as playing games and watching TV shows, were highest among users 18 to 24.

For Viacom, the research "tells us we need to be as sophisticated as our audience," Schneiderman said, by creating video experiences tailored to tablets and companion apps that augment the TV experience.

Top genres of full-length shows viewed on tablets -- comedy and music -- are similar to those on computers. Reality is the top genre viewed on TV, followed by drama, science fiction and sports.

Viacom's "Tapping into Tabletomics" study identified four segments of tablet users: "power trippers" (18%), younger users, often male, who love their tablets and use them for everything; "cool & efficient" users (23%), who rely on tablets to be useful above anything else; "happy-go-lucky" (28%) light users who view tablets as a friendly source of enjoyment and entertainment; and "proceeding with caution" users (31%), who are the lightest and often least tech-savvy users that stick to basic activities.

Tablet owners have a deep emotional connection to the devices, Viacom found. More than 50% of respondents said their tablet makes them feel "happier" and "more relaxed"; 49% said tablets make them more effective at managing life; and 40% said "my tablet brings out the best in me."

Viacom enlisted research firm Kelton to conduct the national online survey in December 2011 and January 2012 of 2,500 people 8 to 54 who own or have access to a tablet, as well as qualitative interviews with dedicated tablet users in New York and Los Angeles.